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Russian Atomic Regulator's Foray into Meme-Making Fails to Quench Rumors of Nuclear Leaks

Categories: Eastern & Central Europe, Russia, Disaster, Environment, Humor, Technology, RuNet Echo

Satellite image/map of the Mayak nuclear facility, the closed town of Ozyorsk/Ozersk (Chelyabinsk-65), various lakes and reservoirs, and the South Urals nuclear power plant. Based on a screenshot from NASA World Wind (Landsat Global Mosaic visual layer), color corrected // Credit: NASA, Jan Rieke

After weeks of denial, Russian authorities finally admitted that September’s radiation cloud detected across Europe was centered around the Mayak Manufacturing Group in Russia, which has a history [1] of contaminating the surrounding areas and populations with radioactive waste.

However, they stopped short of naming this facility as the origin of the cloud [2], which was notable for containing Ruthenium-106, an isotope [3] that does not occur in nature. To further dispel the notion that Ruthenium-10 6 came from Mayak, while at the same time emphasizing its harmlessness, Rosatom (the Russian state atomic regulator) posted a meme on its Facebook page, [4] having the isotope itself play the role of conciliator.

The post reads:

Маленького любой может обидеть!

Столько глупостей и истерики вокруг рутения-106. Узнали, что он сам думает об этой ситуации ;-)

“Я не простой металл, из платиновой группы. В природе не встречаюсь. Я настолько полезный, что меня специально делают очень умные люди по всему миру. Говорят, я появляюсь, если происходят аварии на АЭС или на заводах по переработке ядерного топлива, но это неправда ?

В чистом виде в России меня производят только в г. Димитровград Ульяновской области в научном центре “ГНЦ НИИАР”. Это очень непростой процесс. Получить меня сложно, потому что я не являюсь побочным продуктом при наработке других изотопов или при любом другом технологическом процессе. После производства меня в виде раствора в безопасной упаковке отправляют в Германию, США или г. Обнинск Калужской области в научный центр “ГНЦ РФ-ФЭИ”. Пока еще никто не жаловался, чтобы меня плохо доставили или что-то произошло с упаковкой ?

Я не жалуюсь, просто не понимаю, почему обо мне так плохо все говорят. В Обнинске и за границей другие умные люди из меня делают офтальмологические аппликаторы. Я возвращаю людям зрение! Меня очень ждут, например, в Москве в МНТК “Микрохирургия глаза”.

Говорят, недавно я появлялся одновременно в разных местах от Нормандии до Урала… Пока меня в Обнинске делают штучно, под заказ. Меня очень мало, в год не больше 10 штук. Может, это мои близнецы?! ? Их у меня много. Есть и заграничные родственники, есть и очень известные личности – летают в космосе подолгу. Некоторых из них я даже не знаю, они секретные. Но, поверьте, все они очень полезные и никогда не приносили людям вреда”.

Anyone can pick on someone small!
There’s been so much stupidity and hysterics around Ruthenium-106. We found out what it thinks about this situation ;-)
“I’m no simple metal, I’m from the platinum family. I don’t occur in nature. I’m so useful that smart people all over the world create me on purpose. They say that I appear if there’s an accident at a nuclear power plant or at a spent fuel processing facility, but this isn’t true ?
I’m only produced in my pure form at the GNTs NIIAR research facility in Dmitrovgrad in the Ulyanovsk oblast. It’s quite a complicated process. It’s difficult to obtain me because I’m not a by-product of isotope production or any other technological process. After production, they send me as a chemical solution in safe packing to Germany, the USA or to the GNTs RF-FEI research center in the city of Obninsk in the Kaluga Oblast.  So far no one has complained about problems with delivery or packing ?
I’m not complaining, I just don’t understand why they’re saying such bad things about me. In Obinsk and abroad, smart people use me to make ophthalmological applicators. I give people their sight back!  People depend on me, for example, in the “Eye Microsurgery” scientific complex in Moscow.
They say that I recently appeared in various places from Normandy to the Urals all at the same time…For now, I’m made to order in Obnisnk. There’s not a lot of me, maybe ten units a year. Maybe these are my twins?! I have a lot.  I have relatives abroad, even some very famous ones, who’ve been flying around in space for a long time. ? I don’t even know some of them because they’re secret. Believe me, though, they are all really useful and haven’t caused anyone harm.”

The meme seemed to fall flat. A popular Facebook reply [5] states:

“No one is chastising Ruthenium, or even Ruthenium-106. They’re chastising Rosatom for contradictory information and for jokes like this instead of a serious investigation into the accident.”

Rosatom then directed the user to their “serious” answer [6] stating that all Russian nuclear facilities were and are working nominally.

A few days earlier, Rosatom announced [7] a tour of the Mayak facility, inviting journalists and bloggers to apply to visit the site and learn about the existence of alleged Ruthenium leaks. By 28 November, Rosatom announced [8] that it had accepted only 17 applicants, a mix of Russian and foreign journalists, due to space limitations at the plant.

One user pointed out [9] that since no specialists had been invited, verification would be impossible. Rosatom replied saying their goal was to explain nuclear science to those who don’t have a background in it. Nevertheless, many began to doubt that the tour would even take place.

On 29 November, the press tour was indeed canceled, [10] yet Rosatom refuted these claims:

However, so far the promised press tour hasn't materialized, and Rosatom's forays into meme-making did little to quench the rumors.