There are no abnormal radiation levels after missile strikes on weapons depot in Ukraine

  • No increased levels of radiation are observed in Ukraine, in Bulgaria or in other European countries;
  • Reports from Russian sources of a “sudden radioactive release” around the Ukrainian city of Khmelnytskyi were not confirmed by measuring tools in Ukraine or neighboring countries;
  • Claims of a “radioactive cloud” in the region are intended to cause panic among the population and provoke resentment against Western countries that provide military aid to Ukraine.

On May 19, Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, told the media that a “radioactive cloud” coming from Ukraine was moving towards Europe. According to his statement, this was the result of Russian shelling hitting Ukrainian military warehouses in the area of the city of Khmelnytskyi on the night of May 13. Russian sources claim that the warehouses contained depleted uranium munitions from the UK.

The information about a “sudden radioactive release” in the Khmelnytskyi region has been spread by Russian profiles on social networks since the first days after the attack on the weapons warehouses, and last week many Russian media outlets, as well as several Bulgarian information sites, joined in its dissemination.

According to publications in “Pogled Info”, “Blitz” and “News247”, the radiation background in the Khmelnytskyi region is elevated, which is a sign that the exploded military warehouses there stored depleted uranium ammunition, such as it is known that the UK provided to Ukraine . The materials in “Pogled Info” and “News247” are marked as translated from Russian, but their source is not indicated. “Blitz” quoted a Russian military expert, but also did not indicate a source.

The Russian media, which spread these claims last week, also did not cite data from a specific source that spoke of increased radiation in the area.

According to the Center for Strategic Communication of Ukraine, the claims are not based on real measurements and were distributed in a coordinated manner by known Russian propagandist profiles on social networks on May 14, when 200 messages with similar content were released on public Telegram channels, and about 50 were distributed from Russian Twitter accounts.

Measurements by the Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Center show a slight increase in background radiation in the Khmelnytskyi region after May 12, with values reaching around 150 nanosieverts (nSv) per hour, which is not an unusual level and does not exceed permissible norms. For comparison, the figures in the area of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant that crashed 37 years ago, which is located under a metal sarcophagus, currently reach values of over 5600 nSv per hour. At the same time, the radiation in a single chest x-ray is about 100,000 nSv.

The European radiation monitoring system does not confirm the information about increased radiation background in Ukraine or the neighboring countries – according to the data of measuring instruments, the gamma background in Kyiv has been moving between 80 and 90 nanosieverts (nSv) in the last month. These levels are significantly lower than the natural radiation background at many other points in Europe. There is no change in the figures of the measuring stations in Ukraine’s neighboring countries.

Last week, Bulgarian profiles on social networks also spread false information about dangerous levels of radiation in Ukraine. There were also panic-inducing claims that dangerously high levels of radiation had already moved to Bulgaria, and some publications even called for prevention with iodine to be started.

The data of the Executive Environment Agency (ExEA) show that there is no change in the radiation situation in Bulgaria in the period after May 12. The ExEA publishes a daily bulletin with the radiation levels in different points of the country and maintains an archive with the data of all measurements for the last 20 years. They show that there is nothing unusual in the radiation situation in Bulgaria at the moment. On May 22, figures for Sofia were 128 nSv, and on May 11 they were also 128 nSv – these are their usual values.

It is not known whether there were depleted uranium ammunition in the military warehouses in Khmelnytskyi that were blown up on May 13. In March of this year, the British Ministry of Defense announced that the country would send depleted uranium projectiles to Ukraine, which are designed to penetrate the armor of Russian tanks.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), depleted uranium is significantly less radioactive than natural uranium. It is used in ammunition because of its high density and penetration. Despite its lower radioactivity, depleted uranium is toxic to humans if inhaled or ingested and carries a risk of internal radioactive exposure if it gets inside the body. In the case of an explosion of munitions containing depleted uranium, the particles of the substance do not remain in the air for long because they are heavy – according to the IAEA, the smallest of them can be carried by the wind at most several hundred meters from the place of detonation. Therefore, the risks of health consequences primarily affect people in the immediate vicinity of the munitions explosion.

Fact checked:

The radiation background in Ukraine, Bulgaria and other European countries is normal. Reports from Russian sources of a “sudden radioactive release” around the Ukrainian city of Khmelnytskyi were not confirmed by measuring instruments in Ukraine and neighboring countries, nor by the European radiation monitoring system. Claims of a “radioactive cloud” in the region are intended to cause panic among the population and provoke resentment against Western countries that provide military aid to Ukraine.

Translated by Vanessa Nikolova


Патрушев сообщил о продвижении радиоактивного облака с Украины в Европу: https://www.interfax.ru/russia/902246

Росіяни запустили ІПСО, що на Хмельниччині зріс радіаційний фон через детонацію боєприпасів зі збідненим ураном: https://spravdi.gov.ua/rosiyany-zapustyly-ipso-shho-na-hmelnychchyni-zris-radiaczijnyj-fon-cherez-detonacziyu-boyeprypasiv-zi-zbidnenym-uranom/

Показания на станциите за радиационен мониторинг в Украйна: https://www.saveecobot.com/en/radiation-maps#12/49.3802/26.9862/gamma

Radiation Dose: https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info/safety-xray

Radioactivity Environmental Monitoring: https://remap.jrc.ec.europa.eu/Simple.aspx

Ежедневен бюлетин на ИАОС за радиационната обстановка: https://eea.government.bg/bg/output/daily/rad/2023-05-22.html

Архив на ежедневните бюлетини: https://eea.government.bg/bg/output/daily/archive.html

Putin blasts UK move to send ammo with depleted uranium to Ukraine: https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/russia-blasts-uk-move-send-ammo-with-depleted-uranium-ukraine-2023-03-21/

Depleted uranium: https://www.iaea.org/topics/spent-fuel-management/depleted-uranium

This publication has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. The responsibility for the content lies entirely with Factcheck.bg.

Публикацията е създадена с подкрепата на Европейския съюз. Отговорността за съдържанието е изцяло на Factcheck.bg.

Vassilena Dotkova
Vassilena Dotkova
Vassilena Dotkova is a graduate of Sofia University with a degree in English. She has worked in print and online media. As editor at the printed daily Dnevnik and the news website dnevnik.bg she was part of a team covering environmental issues and the green transition. Her other interests include diverse areas such as literature, sociolinguistics, social sciences and international relations. She has translated fiction and philosophical works from English into Bulgarian. She spent years of her life in the UK and Scandinavia and also has a working knowledge of Norwegian, Swedish and Danish.

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