A few days ago, a commenter linked to an alarmist and Russophobic article in The Sun about the radioactive iodine-131 over Europe. I happen to think that the Czech journalists are doing a better job than the the world media in most of these stories combining science and politics which is why I decided to translate a Czech report in Novinky.cz, a mainstream left-wing server.
Our high school physics teacher was playing songs by this excellent band for us instead of one lecture. He was a fun guy – and he has also faced some sanctions for romantic relationships with his female student. ;-)
A part of Europe including Czechia informs about the radioactive iodine-131 in the air, the source is unclear
In Czecha and six other European countries, measuring stations have detected a tiny amount of the radioactive isotope of iodine, iodine-131. Its concentration is, according to the French IRSN Institute for Defense Against Radiation, negligible and doesn't pose a threat for human health. The source of the isotope must be linked to the human activities but its location is unclear.
Today 12:30 pm, updated 12:48 pm.
The first report about the isotope came from Northern Norwegian Svanhovd which is just hundreds of meters away from the Russian border. Shortly afterwards, the presence of the isotope in the air was confirmed by a station in Rovaniemi in Finnish Laponia. During the two weeks that followed, tiny increases were also measured in Poland, Germany, France, Spain, and also the Czech Republic.
"Iodine-131 is a radionuclide with a short half-life (eight days). The detection of this radionuclide is therefore evidence of a recent leak," IRSN stated. The institute added that the values recorded in France which are about equal to those in the Czech Republic don't represent a threat for the human health.
Britain has deployed an aircraft to measure radioactivity
Iodine-131 could have gotten into the air after an incident in a nuclear reactor, The Independent Barents Observer (a server) commented. This isotope has been released e.g. during accidents both in then Soviet Chernobyl and the Japanese Fukushima nuclear power plants. Iodine-131 is also frequently exploited in medicine and numerous countries are producing it for that purpose.
There is probably a causal relationship between the iodine reports and the arrival of a special Boeing WC-135 of the U.S. Air Force to Britain which was revealed by the British aeronautics bloggers in the last weekend. The machine is equipped by apparatuses to measure the radioactivity and extract some information about its origin.
There's no reason for concerns
There's no reason to be worried about the human health according to the chairwoman of the State Office for Nuclear Safety (SÚJB) Dr Dana Drábová. The values measured in Czechia at the end of January are very low.
"The State Office for Nuclear Safety warns the people that the information about the elevated activity of iodine measured in the atmosphere above several European countries are dubiously interpreted by certain sources and they are unjustifiably overstated," she declared.
"Similar situations have occurred in the past and a leak of radioactive iodine used for radioisotopes exploited in the healthcare industry was an example of a later identified source." Chairwoman of SÚJB Dr Dana DrábováThe office nevertheless spends some energy by efforts to obtain as much information as possible about the amount of the radioactivity in the air and to locate the cause. Two positively detected trace amounts [at most several µBq/m3] identified by the State Office for Radiation Defense in Prague have a character that may be better described as an indication.
"It may be assumed that we're seeing an atmospheric transport across Europe. The source of radioactivity hasn't been identified yet but we may be certain that it is not located on the Czech territory. Similar situations have occurred in the past and a leak of radioactive iodine used for radioisotopes exploited in the healthcare industry was an example of a later identified source," she added.
"At the time of the measurement, Europe was going through some bad weather which is why we cannot pinpoint to any exact location. The measurements from several places in Europe may suggest that it came from Eastern Europe," the Independent Barents Observer portal was quoting Ms Astrid Lindblad from the Norwegian Office for Protection Against Radiation.
The statement of the Czech State Office for Nuclear Safety about the trace amounts of radioactive iodine-131 detected above Europe
Our Czech nationwide monitoring network has found trace amounts of radioactive iodine in the air, the threat for the human health may be ruled out.
The State Office for Nuclear Safety warns the citizens that the information about the elevated activity of iodine measured in the atmosphere in several countries of Europe are dubiously interpreted and unjustifiably exaggerated by certain sources of information. Laboratories operating within the Nationwide radiation monitoring grid are quantifying the elevated values and performing more detailed measurements. The measured values are oscillating around the threshold of detectability and there's definitely no reason for any concerns about the possible consequences for the health of humans. The driver of more accurate and more sensitive measurements is obviously the effort to find as much information as possible about the amount of radioactivity in the air and the search for its source.
Concerning the results of the measurements, we may say the following at this moment:
In the context of the monitoring of the radionuclides in the atmosphere, trace amounts of 131I were found in the lab of SÚRO (The State Office for Radiation Protection) in Prague. Two positively found values are very low and their character may better be described as an indicative one. In the first ten days of February, the reports have emerged that several places of Europe have measured traces of radiation at most reaching several units of µBq/m3.
It may therefore be assumed that we're most likely facing an atmospheric transport through Europe. The source of the activity hasn't been detected yet, however. Similar situations have occurred in the past and in one case, the leak of radioactive iodine used during the production of radionuclides was identified as the source. Speculations about the accident in a nuclear reactor or the explosion of a nuclear weapon are nonsensical because if those explanations were valid, many other radionuclides that are produced in the chain reaction would have to be found.