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Rosbalt, April 28, 2003

Minister for Nuclear Power Warns About Collapse of Shield over Chernobyl

MOSCOW, April 28. Minister for Nuclear Power Alexander Rumyantsev has warned about a possible collapse in the shield over the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. "The consequences would be devastating. The sarcophagus was built to last five years, but has been there for 17 years. Nobody has inspected these walls in detail. We do not know what is happening under the shield," Rumyantsev told the Izvestia newspaper in an interview published on April 26.

A new shield should have been built over the sarcophagus. "Projects were proposed, but they were not implemented. I am rather pessimistic about the shield," he said. About $150 million is needed.

However, the possible collapse will not trigger a global catastrophe. "In the worst case scenario, radioactive dust would escape from under the roof. However, a response to the probable collapse poses a threat. Doctors have demonstrated that fear and "radio-phobia" cause more harm than actual radioactive contamination," he added.

Asked about Russia's nuclear power plant construction programme in other countries, Rumyantsev pointed out: "Russia is not building RBMK-type reactors similar to those in Chernobyl in any country. The VVER reactors are different. Their physics rule out accidents similar to Chernobyl. If the temperature rises in the active zone, the chain reaction stops," he said.

The VVER reactors will be installed at the plants in Balakovo, Volgodonsk and Kalinin. "Only one project includes a RBMK- reactor. It is the fifth unit of the Kursk nuclear power plant. However, it was modernized and any acceleration in the chain reaction there is ruled out," he said.

There are no plans to build a nuclear power plant in Moscow region.



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Rosbalt, April 28, 2003

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