Chernobyl Malfunction; fires raise radiation levels : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

HOME: US: WIRE STORY Malfunction at 1986 nuclear disaster site; fires raise radiation levels 3.52 p.m. ET (2003 GMT) May 17, 2000 By Barry Schweid, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP)  A malfunction in a steam pipeline has forced officials at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine to cut power back 50 percent, even as forest fires spread the remnants of radiation from a 1986 disaster at the plant, a U.S. official said Wednesday.

The new malfunction caused a turbo generator in the reactor to switch off. Only one reactor was in operation. Repairs are expected to take until Saturday to complete, the official said.

Officials in Kiev denied there were any problems at the plant.

The U.S. official said there is no evidence of radiation as a result of the malfunction.

But, at the same time, the official said, forest fires in the area had caused the circulation into the air of remnants of radiation in roots and stems of plants, with the result that the radiation level in Kiev was elevated slightly,

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, called the malfunction a glitch that disabled the sixth turbo generator in the reactor. As a result, the reactor was powered down to about 50 percent, the official said.

In Kiev, officials denied that the power had been cut back by half. Plant duty officer Andriy Bilyk said "this is complete nonsense. There are no problems. The reactor is working in a normal regime.''

President Clinton is due to visit Kiev June 6 after summit talks in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A White House official said there were no radiation concerns at this point.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was no reason for Clinton to change plans.

It's not a big crisis, the official said, adding: It does not appear to be serious.

Last week, after meeting here with Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said funds would be raised in Germany in July for the construction of a new cover for the plant.

Albright said the minister had reaffirmed a promise by President Leonid Kuchma to close the last Chernobyl reactor by the end of the year.

A cover for the plant was built after the disaster, but it is considered unstable. Some $360 million, in addition to 400 million already raised, is needed for the new cover.

The Chernobyl disaster caused an estimated 4,000 deaths among those who took part in the cleanup and 70,000 people were disabled by radiation, according to Ukrainian government data.

Malfunctions are frequent at nuclear power plants in the former Soviet Union, including the one at Chernobyl, and that forced a temporary halt or reduction of output. Most do not release radiation and are quickly repaired.

There were four completed reactors at Chernobyl. One was destroyed in the 1986 explosion, one was damaged in a fire in 1991 and one was closed subsequently, leaving only one in operation

-- Martin Thompson (, May 17, 2000

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