Russian Ruthenium “cloud”; much ado about next-to-nothing
December 3, 2017
For about a month, the internet has been awash in articles about a cloud of detectible radioactivity wafting over Europe. A week ago, Russia admitted a radioactive release of “extremely high contamination” had occurred in the southern Urals. There was but one radioisotope in the cloud – Ruthenium-106. It could only have come from the production of either nuclear fuel or specific radioactive material.
While expert agencies in Europe the cloud posed no environmental or human health risks, the wealth of internet activity made it seem worthy of public concern. Had there been another nuclear accident? Was it being covered up by Moscow per Chernobyl? Greenpeace seemed to think so. They wanted a full investigation, including a check on whether or not public health had been adequately protected!
Here’s the rub!
Ruthenium-106 is one of the most radioactively innocuous isotopes known to man. The element is part of the Platinum group of elements, of which all compounds are regarded has highly toxic and carcinogenic. 1 While Ru-106 is generally alleged to be a carcinogenic radionuclide, it is because of its biological and chemical properties, and not because of its emitted radiation. It is one of the weakest and least biologically disruptive radioactive emissions known to man.
Ru-106 is a Beta particle emitter, the same as Tritium. Its Beta energy level is .0394 Million Electron Volts (MEV). 2 This may sound like a lot, but it is actually trivial and essentially harmless. It dissipates completely in about a half inch of air, and can’t penetrate something as flimsy as tissue paper. By comparison, Tritium has a Beta that registers at a mere .01861 MEV, and dissipates in less than a quarter-inch of air. In either case, the radioactive emissions are essentially harmless. In concentrated form, however, Ru-106 is quite beneficial. It is used to treat some forms of eye cancer! 3 But, it is in no way a carcinogen; not even in the most ridiculously high concentrations imaginable.
Here’s the bottom line…
The media hoopla over the barely detectible radioactive cloud of Ru-106 over Europe is merely an exercise in fear-mongering! The radioactive emissions of potato chips are more than 15 times more energetic than with Ru-106, and at a much higher level of activity. Potato-chips contain naturally-occurring Potassium-40, with a beta energy level of more than 1.31 MEV! That is almost 100 times more energetic than the Ru-106 Beta. If radiation from Ru-106 is really a carcinogen, then the radiation from potato chips is nearly times more carcinogenic! If Ru-106 radiation is “toxic”, as claimed by nearly all the scare-mongering web reporters, then potato chips are far more toxic and should be banned from our supermarket shelves!
So, why is the essentially harmless radioactive cloud of Ru-106 over Europe being exploited to the extreme by the web circuit? Because it is radiation! Because it could only come from some sort of nuclear technology! The web pundits are playing on the radiophobic, antinuclear demographic of the internet audience to boost ratings, and experience a concomitant rise in advertising income.