Iodine-131 detected in Europe, source unknown

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Main Question or Discussion Point

This news alarms me. They say its not from Fukushima, so I guess some other nuclear facility has had a problem?

11 November 2011 | The IAEA has received information from the State Office for Nuclear Safety of the Czech Republic that very low levels of iodine-131 have been measured in the atmosphere over the Czech Republic in recent days.

The IAEA has learned about similar measurements in other locations across Europe.
http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/pressreleases/2011/prn201124.html
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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Quite a bit more info here:

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hpy3bIs158xIF3jQV6Z0EvCXxghg?docId=CNG.af9bf1282db3c9d34412aa1ada59f782.231 [Broken]
 
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  • #3
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Fascinating, that's similar to how western europe found out about Chernobyl.

Those rumors about an accident at a Pakistani plant are interesting. But since it's said that levels after Fukushima were 100 times higher, and since Fukushima is twice as far away as Pakistan, may it be safe to say that whatever happened, it probably won't be in the same league as Chernobyl and Fukushima?
 
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  • #4
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Most other reports I've found so far suggests its not from a power plant, since they haven't detected other substances. Its quite depressing that it seems like several weeks have passed without this news being made public or the source being detected.
 
  • #5
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If not from a plant, then what else could it come from? Is there a way to generate I131 in such quantities without fission? (I don't think so, but I better ask since I'm no physicist)
Or is there something else which produces I131 as a byproduct, besides a nuclear plant? There is one thing which comes to my mind, one thing which's currently providing for political tremor in a region not far away from Pakistan.
Writing more would probably offend the "no speculation" board rule, but I think this possibility should be mentioned anyway.
 
  • #6
Bandit127
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From the http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15689555" [Broken]:
Czech nuclear safety chief Dana Drabova said the iodine could have leaked during production of radiopharmaceuticals.
 
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  • #7
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From the http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15689555" [Broken]:
Could the CNS chief find one man so credulous as to believe this:

the iodine could have leaked during production of radiopharmaceuticals
 
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  • #8
D H
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Could the CNS chief find one man so credulous as to believe this:
More to the point, what justifies your incredulity? Do even know how little Iodine-131 is of concern here?
 
  • #9
tsutsuji
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The French IRSN is issuing a press release : http://www.irsn.fr/FR/Actualites_presse/Actualites/Pages/20111115-Detection_France_traces_iode131_rejets_radioactifs_pays_etranger.aspx

The iodine levels are "close to detection levels" but "unusual at such a scale" on the French territory. They are 100 times lower than those observed immediately after the Fukushima accident, and considering that high iodine levels were not observed in Japan recently, it is unlikely that this iodine is Fukushima-related.

The IRSN has started calculating retro-trajectories in order to understand where the iodine is coming from.

Measured values (in μBq/m³) are available on page 2 of attachment http://www.irsn.fr/FR/Actualites_presse/Actualites/Documents/IRSN-NI_Detection_Iode_131_15112011.pdf
 
  • #10
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Thanks very much, the IRSN document is far more detailed and useful than anything else I've seen on this matter so far. I note that they do not rule out nuclear power/research reactors as a possible cause, because as the iodine is detected at such low concentrations,it is possible that other substances we'd expect to see if the release was from a reactor are there but at levels below the detection threshold.
 
  • #11
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[STRIKE]
Can anyone make sense of those values:

http://eurdepweb.jrc.ec.europa.eu/PublicEurdepMap/NetworkDataTypesSummary.aspx [Broken]

Let's take the first measurement, for example. "AT" is most likely short for Austria. Now it says:

Nuclide Sample Type Unit Measurements / 30 days Sample Type (description)
T-GAMMA A5 nSv/h 250870

I'd say that it's most likely reporting total gamma radiation values. But 250k nSv/h as a value is VERY fishy. That's 250 uSv/h, you don't even get that sort of radiation in Okuma, right in front of the Fukushima plant.

So I had the idea that those values probably represent the total gamma radiation dosis for one month. Which's still extremely high. 250 uSv/m are ~0.35 uSv/h...
[/STRIKE]

Okay, nevermind. That wasn't one of my brightest hours. The value does only describe how many measurements were described during that time period.
 
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  • #12
tsutsuji
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"Source of Iodine-131 in Europe Identified":

17 November 2011 | The IAEA has received information from the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority (HAEA) that the source of the iodine-131 (I-131) detected in Europe was most probably a release to the atmosphere from the Institute of Isotopes Ltd., Budapest. The Institute of Isotopes Ltd. produces radioisotopes for healthcare, research and industrial applications. According to the HAEA, the release occurred from September 8 to November 16, 2011. The cause of the release is under investigation.
http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/pressreleases/2011/prn201127.html
http://www.haea.gov.hu/web/v2/portal.nsf/hirek_hu/192B87A50B67A20EC125794B00269FD0 [Broken] (in Hungarian) 300 GBq were emitted from January to May and 324 GBq were emitted from September to November, which amounts to 39% of the 1600 GBq yearly limit.

The Institute of Isotopes Co., Ltd. (Izotop) is dealing with the research, development and production of a wide variety of radioactive isotopes and other products for a broad range of application areas, especially healthcare, research and industry.
http://www.izotop.hu/?page_id=7
 
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  • #13
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Now I'm confused. Those guys are officially allowed to release nuclear waste (I131) into the atmosphere? You kidding me?

I knew that La Hague and Sellafield were releasing radioactive noble gases in the Petabecquerel range every year, but seriously, IODINE?
 
  • #14
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I-131 used for radiopharmaceuticals is not waste, its just byproduct of a nuclear reaction. In reality, very little is actual waste until you designate it as waste since you don't want to use.

But I see your point.

Yes, licensees are allowed to release radioactive effluents (well in most Western Countries), but they are limited in the concentration of effluents they can release (it's nuclide specific). In the US, effluents cannot be released such that the maximally exposed member of the public could receive greater than 10mrem per year from said effluents (this is called the "Constraint Rule" in 10 CFR 20.1101(d)).
 
  • #15
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Thanks for the insight. How does that rule affect the actual number of licensees?

For example, is every licensee allowed to release, let's say, "500 GBq I131", so when there are one licensee, 500 GBq overall are released every year, and if there are two it's 1000 GBq overall?

Or is it a fixed number for the whole country, and the more licensees are there, the less everyone is allowed to release? So if the number may be "500 GBq I131", if there's only one licensee, he's allowed to release 500 GBq every year, but if there are two, both are only allowed to release 250 GBq each?
 
  • #16
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It's each licensee, so, yes, in aggregate it's more. However, in the US, it's not actual activity which is regulated (except in some states like New York which requires licensees to also stay below a minimum activity level), it's the concentration in activity per unit volume of air. Once the iodine is exhausted from a facility, it gets diluted into the atmosphere, so that if the maximally exposed individual was in a building next door, someone down the street would have much less exposure. In this way, licensees scattered around the country aren't apt to increase any other licensee's maximally exposed individual. On the other hand, licensees in close proximity (e.g., in neighboring buildings) could potentially increase the maximally exposed individual's exposure to greater than 10mrem per year. If that were to happen, I'm not sure how the regulators would handle it (I've never run into that situation before).

Typically what happens is that licensees monitor both the flow rate of air through their effluent stack and the actual activity that flows out the stack (they sample a small portion of the effluent, which correlates to the true activity exhausted). This is plugged into one of several possible programs that calculates the dose to the maximally exposed individual, and this must be < 10mrem.
 
  • #17
tsutsuji
Gold Member
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Within the European Union, it [Iodine isotope 131] is only produced in Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Hungary.
http://www.caboodle.hu/nc/news/news_archive/single_page/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=9520 [Broken]
It would be interesting to know how much the yearly limit is for each plant in the other countries.

I found some data about the Belgian Institut National des Radioéléments producing medical Iodine 131 among other activities. According to regulations enacted in 1980, their limits were 49 GBq/year and 9.8 GBq/month and for reopening (after the 2008 INES 3 incident, I guess - a 45 GBq release "over a weekend") they had to ensure 48.8 GBq/year, 8.4 GBq/month, 3.7 GBq/7days maxima for gazeous iodine 131 ( http://ec.europa.eu/energy/nuclear/radiation_protection/article35/doc/tech_report_belgium_2009.pdf [Broken] p. 19/67).

Compared to the Belgian one, the Hungarian 1600 GBq/year limit looks high.

The Belgian nuclear authority, AFCN, releases the following IAEA Incident and Emergency Centre document (undated, but from the contents one can guess it was probably written on 17 or 18 November) :
The range of results vary from a few microBq/m3 to levels of 27 microBq/m3 in Czech Republic, 65 microBq/m3 in Eastern part of Austria, 14 microBq/m3 in Eastern part of Germany, 13 microBq/m3 in Poland, 16 microBq/m3 in Slovakia, 5 microBq/m3 in Sweden, 87 microBq/m3 in Hungary and 7 microBq/m3 in Ukraine.

Turkey, Greece, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Belgium and the Netherlands have reported that their measurements were not showing any concentrations above the detection limits of their air monitoring equipment.
http://www.fanc.fgov.be/GED/00000000/2900/2963.pdf
 
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