Radioactivity found in Swiss lake near nuclear plant

Jul 14, 2013
The Muehleberg nuclear power plant in Switzerland, on May 25, 2011. Scientists have discovered a radioactive substance in sediment under a Swiss lake used for drinking water and situated near a nuclear plant, according to the Le Matin Dimanche weekly.

Scientists have discovered a radioactive substance in sediment under a Swiss lake used for drinking water and situated near a nuclear plant, the Le Matin Dimanche weekly reported Sunday.

While scientists cited in the report stressed there was no danger to human health, the discovery raises concerns about and a lack of transparency at the Muehleberg in northwestern Switzerland.

The plant is believed to have caused a spike in cesium 137 found in the sediment of Lake Biel and dating back to 2000 through the discharge of water into the Aar river that feeds into the lake, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) downstream, the weekly reported.

Geologists from Geneva University happened upon the spike while working on an unrelated research project in 2010, and chemists in the northern canton of Basel recently verified the findings, it said.

The Muehleberg plant is permitted to discharge water with very low levels of radioactivity subject to strict controls several times a year, according to Le Matin Dimanche.

Politicians and environmentalists however expressed outrage Sunday that the plant and nuclear inspectors had provided no information about the higher levels of released more than a decade ago into a lake that provides 68 percent of the drinking water to the nearby town of Biel.

"No one ever told me that there were abnormally high concentrations in the lake," Hans Stoekli, who served as Biel mayor from 1990 to 2010, told the paper, insisting that in light of the use of the lake for drinking water "the plant should have alerted us even in the case of minimal risk."

Environmental group Greenpeace voiced dismay at the news, urging the in the canton of Bern, where Biel and the Muehleberg plant are located, to investigate.

The group, which has long called for the plant's closure, also questioned in a statement how the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate could have either missed the higher radioactive levels or decided not to inform decision makers or the public about them.

The Muehleberg plant, which came online in 1972, is 17 kilometres (11 miles) west of the Swiss capital Bern.

In the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan, the Swiss parliament approved a phase-out for the country's five atomic power plants by 2034.

Explore further: Research could help save billions of dollars as sea levels rise

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

High cesium level found in fish by Fukushima plant

Mar 17, 2013

The Japanese utility that owns the tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant says it has detected a record 740,000 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium in a fish caught close to the plant.

Radiation detected 400 miles off Japanese coast

Feb 21, 2012

(AP) -- Radioactive contamination from the Fukushima power plant disaster has been detected as far as almost 400 miles off Japan in the Pacific Ocean, with water showing readings of up to 1,000 times more ...

Fukushima plant springs another radioactive leak

Apr 11, 2013

Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant has sprung yet another leak of radioactive water, its operator said on Thursday, the latest in an increasingly long line of mishaps to rattle public confidence.

Radioactive water leaked at second Japan plant

Dec 11, 2011

A Japanese nuclear plant leaked 1.8 tonnes of radioactive water from its cooling system, the government said, heightening safety worries as an atomic crisis continues at another plant.

Recommended for you

Climate change affecting species

24 minutes ago

The Global Change and Sustainability Research Institute (GCSRI) and the Wits Rural Facility (WRF) hosted a top climate change scientist, Professor Camille Parmesan, who delivered a talk to staff, students ...

User comments : 0