Russia’s national nuclear operator has denied that any of its sites were the source of a radioactive cloud that Moscow detected in September but only acknowledged this week. French officials said this month they had detected a cloud containing the radioactive isotope ruthenium-106, suggesting that it had likely originated in Russia’s southeastern Urals region or Kazakhstan before drifting west. Russia’s meteorological agency Rosgidromet finally confirmed the report on Monday, admitting that “extremely high” levels of ruthenium were detected in late September. The long delay in admitting the radioactivity has raised concerns of a potential attempt to cover up the findings by Russian officials, sparking memories of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, where Soviet denials meant many people were not able to evacuate before a vast leak of radiation reached them. According to Russian authorities, the highest levels of ruthenium from the activity detected in September were found in Argayash, a village close to the Mayak nuclear fuel reprocessing plant. Mayak was the site of one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters in 1957. Rosatom, the Russian state-owned monopoly that operates the Mayak plant, said the facility was not the source of the ruthenium. “We maintain that there have been no reportable events on Rosatom’s civil nuclear applications and sites,” the company said in a statement. Russian officials did not speculate on a potential source.
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