ANALYSIS: European radiation safety agencies detect traces of iodine-131 in air, source of leak unknown, Bellona, Nov. 17, 2011 (Emphasis Added):
[T]hose with knowledge of the field who have lent their views to Bellona were not so quick to discard the possibility that an event at a reactor, commercial or otherwise, could be the potential cause of contamination.
“If even the IAEA has acknowledged elevated levels of iodine-131 not only over the Czech Republic but over other European countries as well, then it means something very unpleasant, and uncommon has happened,” the renowned Russian environmentalist and a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Professor Alexei Yablokov told Bellona in an interview. [...]
Other experts that Bellona has talked to agreed that either a serious accident has taken place or an emergency situation at a research or power-generating reactor that necessitated “venting” radioactive substances in the course of an “emergency discharge” into the atmosphere.
The Nuclear Industry’s Pharmaceutical Hypothesis
[W]hat would remain most likely is that the source of the radioactive iodine is either a commercial or research reactor. [...]
For iodine-131 to appear in measurable quantities, it has to result from a chain reaction of uranium fission – something that takes place in nuclear reactors run at commercial nuclear power plants or research organisations.
And despite suggestions made that the concentrations detected in the atmosphere above Europe could have come from medical sources, a health institution that routinely uses radioactive iodine for medical or pharmaceutical purposes would hardly have enough of the substance for the leak to spread as wide as was recorded in measurements taken in countries that are thousands of kilometres apart.
From Sweden to Austria
The very fact that radioactive iodine has been detected in the air above countries that lie as far apart as Sweden and Austria prompts one to suspect that the leak is of a rather substantial scope – meaning that the actual concentrations near the source, which is as yet to be established, would also be significantly higher and present a much graver health risk.
Where’s the Iodine-132?
[A] November 11 report by RIA Novosti (in Russian), which said that “iodine-131 is considered to be the most dangerous nuclide produced as a result of nuclear fission. This isotope triggers mutations and destruction of cells that it penetrates, as well as of surrounding tissues, to a depth of several millimetres.”
Published: November 17th, 2011 at 11:40 am ET