US radiation detection plane airborne over Barents Sea / News / The Foreigner

US radiation detection plane airborne over Barents Sea. An American WC-135 Constant Phoenix is currently flying near Norway amongst recent reports of an Iodine-131 spike measured in Europe. The US Air Force aircraft took off this week in the direction of the Barents Sea in the Arctic Circle north of Russia, publication The Aviationist reports. It was deployed toRAF Mildenhall in East Anglia last week after the radioactive spike of unknown origin was detected, and is currently flying outside Norwegian airspace.

nuclear, iodine-131, russia, us, airplanes, defence, radioactive, paywall



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US radiation detection plane airborne over Barents Sea

Published on Thursday, 23rd February, 2017 at 13:16 under the news category, by Michael Sandelson   .
Last Updated on 23rd February 2017 at 15:18.

An American WC-135 Constant Phoenix is currently flying near Norway amongst recent reports of an Iodine-131 spike measured in Europe.

A WC-135W Constant Phoenix aircraft
The aircraft performing touch 'n go landing exercises at Offutt Air Force Base, NebraskaA WC-135W Constant Phoenix aircraft
Photo: USGOV-PD


The US Air Force aircraft took off this week in the direction of the Barents Sea in the Arctic Circle north of Russia, publication The Aviationist reports.

It was deployed toRAF Mildenhall in East Anglia last week after the radioactive spike of unknown origin was detected, and is currently flying outside Norwegian airspace.

The emission of radioactive particles, news of which authorities had kept undisclosed, was first detected in Northern Norway’s Finnmark County in the second week in January.

The Barents Observer also reports that it was Finland and France that first went public with the information.

Norwegian authorities did not deem the matter as being newsworthy as the levels did not raise any health concerns.

“We do measure small amounts of radioactivity in air from time to time because we have very sensitive measuring equipment. The measurements at Svanhovd in January were very, very low. So were the measurements made in neighbouring countries, like Finland,” says Astrid Liland, head of section for emergency preparedness at the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA).

Not a health hazard

“The levels raise no concern for humans or the environment.  Therefore, we believe this had no news value,” she also tells the publication.

On their website, the NRPA writes that levels recorded were “half a microbecquerel per cubic metre of air (0.0000005 Bq per cubic meter of air),” which are “tiny, barely-measurable values”.

Particulate Iodine-131 map
Particulate Iodine-131 map
©IRSN
“The level of radioactive iodine would have to have been 2 billion times higher before implementing protective measures for the population would have been necessary,” explain officials.

These include providing people with iodine tablets, which prevent radioactive iodine being absorbed into the thyroid gland. They would be given out in the event of a serious nuclear power plant accident, for example.

French public authority the IRSN (L'Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire) stated that the detected tiny amounts of Iodine-131in the ground-level atmosphere were also found in Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Spain.

“The detection of this radionuclide is proof of a rather recent release,” officials say in a statement, also underlining that the levels detected “raise no health concerns”.

Norway’s Radiation Protection Authority states that that winds in Europe did not allow direct pinpointing of the source of the emission.

Moreover, Iodine-131, a man-made radioactive material used in atomic bombs and for treating certain cancers, has a half-life of eight days.

“We assume that it came from a company which produces radiopharmaceuticals containing radioactive iodine, as no other radioactive substances were measured [as being present] in the filters.”

Not the first time

January’s Iodine-131 (I-131) emission is not the first time low levels have been measured in Norway. The NRPA reports on radioactivity found in the environment every year.

2011 saw I-131 and other nuclides being detected following the Fukushima disaster. Traces of it were also found later the same year, with the source being traced to a pharmaceutical company in Hungary.

Iodine-131 decay scheme (simplified)
Iodine-131 decay scheme (simplified)
Kays666/Wikimedia Commons
It was found at three stations in January the following year, with emissions found to have come from the same pharmaceutical company.

I-131 was detected in January 2013, though the source is unknown. Later that year, Norway and other countries found traces of Caesium-137 (Cs-137), which was attributed mainly to fallout from the Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986.

Another source was found to be fallout due to atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons at Russia’s Novaya Zemlya in the 1950s and ‘60s.

Iodine-131 (and Cs-137 due to Chernobyl) was detected twice in 2015, in March and May. The NRPA says that their sources are unknown.

The autumn of 2016 saw one incident of detection in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Estonia.

Its source is also unknown, but both Norwegian and Finnish radiation protection authorities’ have calculated that air masses came from the East.

“Both the timing and wind direction indicate that the iodine’s origin probably lies in Eastern Europe,” state NRPA officials, who also point out that this has no connection with the incident at the IFE’s (Institute for Energy Technology) research reactor in Halden, eastern Norway.

Leak

On 24th October, 2016, small amounts of radioactive iodine (I-131 and I-132) were released into the environment during an incident while test fuel was being handled in the reactor hall.

The IFE said that none of the workers, who immediately left the reactor hall when the alarm sounded, was found to have received any significant dose of radiation.

A WC-135 as it refuels in flight
A WC-135 as it refuels in flight
Public Domain
According to the US Department of Defense, the WC-135 Constant Phoenix, a so-termed nuclear sniffer aircraft.

This type of plane was also used to track radiation activity as it happened at Chernobyl. The one flying now is not involved in detecting anything nuclear regarding Russia.

A US Air Force spokesperson has told website military.com that the aircraft is on a “pre-planned rotational deployment scheduled in advance.”

“The WC-135 routinely conducts worldwide missions and we are not going to get into further details,” they declared.

Facts about the WC-135 Constant Phoenix:

  • Manufacturer: Boeing
  • Power Plant:WC-135C, Four Pratt & Whitney TF33-P9 turbofans without thrust reversers; WC-135W, Four Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-5 turbofans with thrust reversers
  • Speed: 403 miles per hour (350 knots)
  • Ceiling: 40,000 feet  (12,192 feet)
  • Range: 4,000 nautical miles
  • Thrust: 16,050 pounds each engine
  • Wingspan: 130 feet, 10 inches  (39.8 meters)
  • Length: 139 feet, 11 inches  (42.5 meter)
  • Height: 42 feet (12.8 meters)
  • Weight: 120,170 pounds (54,508 kilograms)
  • Maximum Takeoff Weight: 300,500 pounds (136,304 kilograms)
  • Fuel Capacity: 130,000 pounds (58,967 kilograms)
  • Primary function: Air sampling and collection operations
  • First in service: December 1965

(Source: US Air Force)




Published on Thursday, 23rd February, 2017 at 13:16 under the news category, by Michael Sandelson   .
Last updated on 23rd February 2017 at 15:18.

This post has the following tags: nuclear, iodine-131, russia, us, airplanes, defence, radioactive, paywall.





  
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