Lebanon News

No radiation risk to Lebanon from Russian blast

BEIRUT: Lebanese monitoring stations have detected no rise in radiation levels after a mysterious explosion in northern Russia, the director of the Lebanese Atomic Energy Commission said Monday.

“Until now, we have normal readings for all 26 stations in Lebanon,” Bilal Nsouli told The Daily Star. “There is no risk at all.”

The news comes after a computer-generated dispersion model showed that the potential plume of particles from the blast had reached Lebanon Sunday.

The animated model, constructed by the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization and released over Twitter, shows the plume originating at the Nyonoksa missile test center, approximately 1,000 kilometers north of Moscow. It spreads over Russia, moving south into the Caucasus, Iran and the Gulf. A side plume sweeps over the Black Sea, before looping back around into the Levant.

The Aug. 8 explosion killed five and injured three others, Russian state nuclear company Rosatom said. It referred to the event as a “tragic accident” involving the test of a “liquid propulsion system involving isotopes.”

A brief spike in radiation was detected after the event, and researchers have speculated that the explosion involved Russia’s new nuclear-powered cruise missile, the Burevestnik. Monitors in northern Norway picked up “tiny” amounts of radioactive iodine after the explosion, but the Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority said it was not possible to determine if the events were linked.

“The level detected is very low and poses no harm to people nor the environment,” the agency stated.

Likewise, Lebanese have no reason to worry. Ali Ahmad, a nuclear expert at American University of Beirut’s Issam Fares Institute, pointed out that those who were killed in Russia reportedly died from the explosion itself, not radiation.

Since a relatively small amount of radioactivity was released and has now been dispersed over so large an area, Ahmad said, “I would be surprised if any countries in our region detect anything.

“The bigger lesson is that we should stop using these materials, particularly in military applications, because the repercussions can be catastrophic and widespread.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 20, 2019, on page 2.

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