1964-11-10 - Mysterious Nuclear Cloud in USSR
Summary: An unusual cloud doesn't go without notice. What are the consequences?
Related: Project Virgo
Theme Song: None

New York (AP) — European authorities are releasing details about a cloud of mysterious radioactive material that appeared last week. Monitors in Italy were among the first to detect the radioactive isotope ruthenium-106 on November 3, according to a UN report.

A French agency dedicated to nuclear safety also confirmed it detected the cloud.

Based on the detection from monitoring stations and meteorological data, the mysterious cloud — which appears to be dissipating — has been traced to the southern Soviet Union. It appears to lie along the Volga River and the Ural Mountains, according to the French director of health, Gabriel Montreau.

Modeling suggests that any people within a few kilometers of the release — wherever it occurred — would have needed to seek shelter to protect themselves from possible radiation exposure. The amount poses no problems for health or the environment in Europe.

Ruthenium-106 is a radioactive isotope not found in nature. It likely does not come from a nuclear weapon or reactor accident. It may be sourced from a chemical reprocessing of old nuclear fuel or production of isotopes for alternative purposes. Based on the size of the release, whatever happened had to be accidental.

"It is not an authorized release, of that we are sure," said a UN official. The USSR refuses to comment.

The region the ruthenium originated from is largely off-limits to western observers and Soviet representatives to the UN said nothing happened in the vicinity.

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