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Russia sees no threat of nuclear accident from wildfires

08-07-2010 08:36 BJT Special Report:Forest Fires Ravage Russia |

by Igor Serebryany

MOSCOW, Aug. 6 (Xinhua) -- On the 65th anniversary of the U.S. nuclear bombing of Japanese Hiroshima, the fear of another nuclear disaster, although one of far more local scale, is wafting over the Russian town of Sarov.

Sarov, a small town 300 km east of Moscow, hosts the Russian Nuclear Research Center and has an atomic reactor in its heart. The reactor's compound, supposedly filled with high-enriched uranium, has been surrounded by wildfires for a few days, local media reported.

Blaze consuming the woods in direct proximity to the reactor have triggered fears that the devastation caused by a "conventional" fire might cause a sort of Chernobyl-like nuclear disaster.

The fears have been based on a presumption that if outside temperatures climb high enough they could trigger an uncontrolled reaction in Sarov's atomic reactor.

Experts and officials say, however, that such an event was impossible because of technical and scientific reasons.

"Nuclear fuel just cannot detonate because of heat, however high. The nature of nuclear explosives has nothing to do with the nature of chemical explosives. This is absolutely clear for anybody with elementary knowledge of physics," Edward Boos of Moscow's Nuclear Physics Institute told Xinhua.

Sergei Kirienko, the head of Russia's Atomic Agency Rosatom, assured the National Security Council on Wednesday that there was no danger of radiation contamination because all nuclear fuel has been removed from the Sarov research center.

Still, 1,800 troops have been deployed in Sarov to counter the fires that have caused local residents to feel unsafe.

Mayor Petr Shulzhenko had to urge residents "not to spread panic." He dismissed rumors that an evacuation of the town was being prepared despite the fact that more than 100 wildfires were burning in the Sarov vicinity, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Fires in close proximity to the nuclear center were extinguished by four unmanned robots, media reported.

Also on Friday, Col. Vadim Koval of the Defense Ministry assured the media that wildfires do not threat the nuclear facilities of Russia's strategic missiles forces.

"The missiles shafts are capable of withstanding even a direct nuclear strike, let alone natural forces," Koval said.

Still, fears of radioactive contamination caused by the wildfires cannot be completely dismissed, the World Wildlife Fund's Nikolai Shmatkov told Interfax news agency.

"If the forest and peat fires would start in the regions previously affected by Chernobyl's nuclear disaster, the smoke can carry radioactive micro-particles and bring them far enough," he said.

The radioactive trail left by the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion in 1986 heavily affected Bryansk oblast in western Russia as well as several regions in Ukraine and Belarus. The contaminated zone has remained strictly closed since.


Editor:Zhang Pengfei |Source: Xinhua

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