US ‘nuclear sniffer’ plane is sent to Britain after wave of deadly radioactive particles spreads across Europe as Russia tests nuclear weapons

A US Air Force plane used to detect nuclear explosions has been sent to Britain amid concerns over a spike in the levels of radioactivity found in Europe.

The WC-135 Constant Phoenix, which is known as a nuclear ‘sniffer’ plane, was deployed to RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk last week on an undisclosed mission.

News of the deployment comes amid claims Russia may be testing nuclear weapons, either to the east or in the arctic, after a spike in radioactivity was reported.

Air quality stations across the continent detected traces of radioactive Iodine-131 in January and February, which seem to have come from eastern Europe.

The high levels of Iodine-131 has led some to suggest Putin is testing nuclear weapons in Novaya Zemlya near the Arctic.

However, the CTBTO (Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation) ruled out a nuclear test had recently taken place.

In a statement on Monday, the CTBTO said: ‘If a nuclear test were to take place that releases I-131 it would also be expected to release many other radioactive isotopes.

‘Thus the CTBTO measures isotopes. No other nuclear fission isotopes have been measured at elevated levels in conjunction with I-131 in Europe so far.’

The organisation, which operates a worldwide monitoring system, said that it was not concerned about the reports of Iodine-131 in Europe.

‘No detections above typical local historical levels have been observed,’ the CTBTO said.

The deployment of the WC-135 aircraft, which detects and identifies explosions from the air and was used after the Chernobyl disaster in the Soviet Ukraine in 1986, adds weight to the argument.

It’s arrival comes amid tense times between Russia and the West, with America’s highest ranking military officer General Joe Dunford comparing the political climate to that during the Cold War.

He said that his meeting with General Valeriy Gerasimov, his counterpart in the Kremlin, is ‘absolutely critical’ as the tension between the two nations verges on breaking point.

It comes after two Russian jets flew low over a Royal Navy destroyer docked off the coast of Romania in a show of force branded ‘unsafe and unprofessional’ by Navy officers.

And a Russian spy ship armed with surface-to-air missiles with a crew of 200 sailed within 30 miles of a key US submarine base on the Connecticut coastline.

Scores of people filmed a mysterious light travelling through the sky at the weekend and the US Navy released a statement saying its testing of two Trident missiles was ‘not in response to any world events’

The US Navy have been contacted for comment on the WC-135 but it has not yet released any official comment on the purpose of its mission.

And while it is not unheard of for the planes to fly to Europe, missions are rare and its arrival coincides with the detection of Iodine-131.

It was first recorded in Norway and have now been found in Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, France and Spain.
The isotope has a half-life of only eight days, which suggests the particles must have entered the atmosphere after a recent event.

The pattern of movement of the particles suggests they may have originated in Eastern Europe, according to the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA).

‘It was rough weather in the period when the measurements were made, so we can’t trace the release back to a particular location,’ Astrid Liland, head of emergency preparedness at the NRPA, told the Barents Observer.

‘Measurements from several places in Europe might indicate it comes from Eastern Europe.

‘Increased levels of radioactive iodine in air were made in northern-Norway, northern-Finland and Poland in week two, and in other European countries the following two weeks.’

She said it is difficult to pinpoint where the radioactive material came from.

It’s possible that the particles could have come from an incident at a nuclear reactor.

An explosion at a plant run by French firm EDF – just 75 miles across the Channel – added to concerns over nuclear safety earlier this month.

The company, which is planning Britain’s first nuclear power station in a generation, was forced to shut down its nuclear reactor at the Flamanville plant in Normandy after the blast caused a fire that left five people suffering from smoke inhalation.

But the compounds may also have also come from an Iodine plant. The isotope Iodine-131 is used in medicine to treat to thyroid problems and is produced commercially across Europe.

Iodine-131 can cause harm because it has a very short half life of just eight days, making it very radioactive.

When it is present in high levels in the environment, it can contaminate food and after it is swallowed it accumulates in the thyroid.

As it decays, it damages body tissue and can cause thyroid cancer.

However levels present in the atmosphere today are too low to be damaging, according to Ms Liland.

She said: ‘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.

‘The levels raise no concern for humans or the environment.’

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Source: The Independent Barents Observer, DailyMail and AfricaMetro.Com

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