Mystery Brief Uptick in Gamma Radiation in parts of Western Europe this past week…

March 12, 2012 – California – The 2-year anniversary of the great Tohoku quake, tsunami and nuclear meltdowns came and went…

Sometimes my blog stats serve as some type of alert system: when interest in nuclear issues goes up, it shows in my blog stats.   For instance, today I see 17 views from Belgium (where I was born and raised), significantly higher than the usual 0 to 10, and probably not from the usual family or friends who like my travel photos, since today included 7 click-throughs on radiation data for Belgium.  Why are people checking radiation data in Belgium all of a sudden?   Sometimes, such an anomaly will prompt me to go have a peek.  Sometimes it’s nothing, sometimes it’s probably a tiny whiff of fallout from Fukushima apparently blowing through some part of the world.

Let’s see…   Blog Stats of today, March 11, 2013.  (technically yesterday, when I took the screenshot).

An oddity prompting a look at radiation data in Belgium...

An oddity prompting a look at radiation data in Belgium…

So I go to my own page (hold the pointer over the ‘Radioactivity’ tab in the top banner) and so I visit the public site of the Federal Agency for Nuclear Monitoring, FANC, where I continue in Dutch…

CLick image to access

(Note:  Huy is the town near the nuclear plant of ‘Tihange’)  Click image to access to

I added the site names of the 4 main nuclear centra: Doel, Mol, Huy (Tihange) and Fleurus (they do show up on the map when you zoom in).  Unlike the US or Canada, many European countries actually have a monitoring network (an actual network, not just a couple loose EPA monitors in a vastness of ‘we-don’t-care’).  Each nuclear site can be zoomed in on to give access to the individual monitors surrounding the nuclear facility.

I start checking the monitors surrounding the nuclear plants of Doel, near Antwerp, one of the most insane locations for putting reactors.  (If something were to go terribly wrong, one of the most populated areas of Europe would be toast.)  Anyhow, you get the latest data by holding your mouse pointer over a monitor dot.  If you click you can see it graphed for up to 5 days prior to a chosen date.  Hang in there, I’ll show you in a sec anyway.   I’ve been here often and am familiar with the measurements and radiation units (= still my most-viewed page, with over 13,000 views so far).

At first all looks normal as normal can be (including the monitor just south of Doel having a value slightly higher, which is typical of being more inland, mainly due to difference in soils).  Some data for late March 11, early Mach 12 (2013!):

Gamma Ray data for around the Belgian nuclear facility of DOEL (near Antwerp).  Data:  (click image for access in DUtch or French)

Gamma Ray data (all normal) for around the Belgian nuclear facility of DOEL (near Antwerp).
Data: (click image for access in Dutch or French)

But when I pick random monitors, I see little bumps.  I’ll show the past 5 days on the monitor that currently reads 0.102 µSv/hr.  Huh, interesting: the mini-spike goes as high as 0.138 µSv/h.  That’s… unlikely to be natural.  Past 5 days for that (south in this image below) monitor just north of Antwerp (most other ones show similar bumps too):

Very minor disturbances in gamma radiation at ground level...

Very minor disturbances in gamma radiation at ground level…
DATA: with my annotations. – mvb

In the half year after the Fukushima meltdowns, similar whiffs were detected all the way in Europe, after crossing the Pacific, North America and the Atlantic.  0.126 µSv/h on June 29, 2011, for example.  Otherwise it rarely goes over 0.113 µSv/h in that spot.

A sudden additional 0.025 µSv/hr may not sound like much, and as far as a radiation dose goes, it really isn’t (on a transatlantic flight I’ve measured over 6 µSv/h), but if it’s probably fallout, not normal background radiation from distant sources, so it poses a health hazard (DISCLAIMER), even at minuscule levels.  (The ‘dose’ measurement has been promoted by the nuclear oversight agencies because it’s really handy to downplay fallout dangers.   In any case, it means there are enough particles in the air to affect the monitor, particles you may breath in and which could -in time- give your or your kids leukemia, for instance.)

To see if this is isolated to the Antwerp region, I start checking on the coast in the west.  It isn’t.   On March 9, 2013, earlier this week, Oostende (on the Belgian North Sea coast, where you can catch a ferry to England) had a spike up to 0.185 µSv/hr at sea level, where it’s otherwise a steady 0.095 µSv/hr, rarely going over 0.1 microsievert per hour.   Very odd.  That’s ALMOST DOUBLE NORMAL.   Now my curiosity is peeked…  What is this?

A spike of 0.090 µSv/hr gamma radiation from apparent fallout from somewhere… on March 9, 2013 in Ostend, Belgium… DATA:

Okay, so this cloud of sorts passed over Ostend on March 9, 2013 around 3 in the morning GMT, 4am local time.  Where is it coming from?

Fleuris?  The bump is there, but much less pronounced, more like o.o20 extra, a fifth of what showed up in Ostend.  Tihange?  Nope, the bumps are even less pronounced there.

In Mol… Something significant happened in Mol, enough to get “an explanation”: routine dumping, but it was localized and not time-aligned.  (The research facility stores waste too.  May have been some transfer that -‘routinely’- isn’t done very cleanly…).   Strangely enough, it seems that the spike was most pronounced on the coast…

... ...

I changed the date to show more prior to March 8, 2013. The blue dot comes with an explanation: some kind of ‘routine’ movement of wastes?
Monitor IMR/M10/MOL

The monitor closest to the handling of nuclear waste in Mol goes up to around 0.200 µSv/h every now and then, but it rarely even affects other monitors in Mol, or not much.  In this case it looks like “fallout”, aka the release of radioactive particles, occurred at about 9am GMT on March 7 (just before the blue dot in the above image) at the nuclear site in Mol.  My impression after hours of data-sampling is that this was NOT the cause of the higher measurements elsewhere.  For instance, the monitors between Mol and Ostend are not as pronounced in radiation increase at all, and the one closer to France, in Koksijde, went from its usual 0.085 µSv/h to a 0.153 µSv/h on March 9, 2013 at 3am GMT as well.   Hmmm…Looking all over Western Europe’s monitors in the EURDEP site, there’s a couple things that raise questions…

First, a quick look at the AVERAGE – PAST MONTH – T-Gamma, in the region of Northern France, England, The Netherlands, Western Germany, Luxumburg and Belgium in the middle of that:

(Meanwhile it is after 2am on Tuesday March 12, 2013 Pacific STandard Time.  I wasted a lot of time searching for news on this odd radiation spike.  In vain.)

So, the MINIMUM VALUE seen over the past 2 days:


And here’s the Standard Deviation of the past WEEK:


Luxumburg… I don’t know… I’ve seen this before, I think their monitors need to be re-callibrated.  But do you see the two green dots on the Belgian coast, as well as one further south-west on the French Coast.  Those spots have seen an average deviation of 0.040 µSv/hr this past week, notably more than inland.  This gives me the impression it may be something that happened on water.

Here’s the EURDEP T-Gamma data graphed for Ostend’s past month:


It’s the most pronounced spike I’ve found.  The disturbance was observed near Amsterdam to the North, but LATER:


In Ireland to the far north-west, EARLIER:


To the west in the UK, also EARLIER:


Well…  I guess if I keep looking for the earliest spike, maybe something could be figured out.  Knock yourself out.   Maybe a nuclear submarine problem somewhere or so?  I really have no idea what that was and I’m not going to speculate any further.  Could be anything…  But I haven’t even found it mentioned in the mainstream or alternative news yet.

But I need to sleep.  If you know, a clue in Comments would be very much appreciated.  Thanks.  ‘nite!

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