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Chernobyl Reactor Shut Down, Possibly Forever

KIEV, Nov 27, 2000 -- (Reuters) Power line failures forced the shutdown of the Chernobyl nuclear power station on Monday, and a top atomic energy official said there may be no point in turning it back on less than three weeks before its final closure.

A cold snap brought havoc to Ukraine's creaking national power grid, leaving millions without electricity.

A spokeswoman for atomic energy agency Enerhoatom said a sudden drop in demand due to a power line fault caused the shutdown of the last functioning reactor at Chernobyl, site of the worst civilian nuclear disaster in 1986.

Another reactor at the South Ukraine power station was also forced out of action after engineers found a leak in a steam generator, officials said.

There was no increase in radiation levels around either power station.

Chernobyl is due to be shut down for good on December 15, and Vadim Hryshchenko, the acting director of Ukraine's atomic energy regulator told Reuters it might not be turned back on.

He said there was a preliminary plan to restart the reactor on December 2, but added: "It's a completely reasonable question -- is it worth our while restarting the reactor if it will only work for a few days before being turned off forever?"

Enerhoatom spokeswoman Nadiya Shumak said the Chernobyl reactor was shut down at 6 a.m. (0400 GMT) following a fault in overhead electricity lines running from the western city of Vynnytsya to the plant.


The Emergencies Ministry said heavy wind, snow falls and ice in the Vynnytsya and neighboring Khmelnitsky regions had left nearly half of all homes without electricity.

Temperatures in Ukraine plummeted to minus 14 Celsius (seven degrees Fahrenheit) overnight.

The fault in the power lines leading to Chernobyl caused a reduction in power demand from the reactor, triggering the shutdown. The reactor is designed for constant electricity output which cannot be quickly adjusted to sudden changes in power demand.

A spokesman for South Ukraine nuclear power station, Anatoly Nenko, said by telephone that engineers had shut down the third of three reactors at that plant.

"They shut the reactor down at 9:20 a.m. (0720 GMT) after a leak from a steam generator got worse," he said. "But no increase in radiation was measured at the plant or around it."

The reactors there are of the VVER-1,000 type, considered safer by Western experts than the RMBK reactors installed at Chernobyl.

Chernobyl's number four reactor exploded in April 1986, killing at least 30 people immediately and sending a radioactive cloud over Ukraine and much of Europe. Thousands are thought to have died since of radiation-related illnesses.

Its last working reactor has been providing about five percent of Ukraine's electricity, but is due to be scrapped after Western states pledged to fund other sources of power.

(C)2000 Copyright Reuters Limited

-- Martin Thompson (, November 28, 2000


No Nukes!

-- spider (, November 28, 2000.

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