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URGENT Politburo Blames Human Error, Says 28 Now Dead in Chernobyl Accident

July 19, 1986

MOSCOW (AP) _ The ruling Politburo said Saturday that the Chernobyl nuclear accident was caused by ″gross breaches″ of operating regulations by plant workers and said the death toll now stands at 28.

In a report by the official news agency Tass, the Politburo said three national government officials were fired in connection with the disaster and warned that people responsible for the accident will be brought to trial.

The Politburo said 203 people suffered radiation disease from the accident and 30 of them remain hospitalized.

The previous official death toll, issued early last month, said 26 people had died in the April 26 accident.

The disaster, the worst in the history of civilian nuclear power, caused a 2 billion rubles worth of damage - $2.8 billion at the official exchange rate - and contaminated 400 square miles, the Politburo said.

Tass said the Politburo met in special session to discuss the results of a government inquiry into the accident at the power station 80 miles north of Kiev, which released a radioactive cloud that spread around the world.

″It was established that the accident had been caused by a series of gross breaches of the reactor operational regulations by workers of the atomic power station,″ the Politburo statement said.

It said the accident in the No. 4 reactor of the four-reactor complex occurred during ″experiments with the turbogenerator operation.″

The reactor had been shut for planned repairs, the Politburo said.

Earlier reports said the accident began when the reactor surged out of control and the cooling system failed to handle the heat.

Radioactive steam was released and reacted with the graphite reactor core to produce a hydrogen pocket that exploded, the reports said.

The Politburo said the reactor is now ″under dependable control and causes no worry. The site of the power station is being cleaned of radiation and the surrounding territory, buildings, structures and equipment decontaminated on a large scale.″

The Politburo said the prosecutor general’s office had started criminal cases against ″persons guilty of the accident.″

Among those fired over the accident, the report said, was Yevgeny V. Kulov, the head of the state atomic power safety committee; G.A. Shasharin, deputy minister of power and electrification; and Ivan Y. Yemelyanov, deputy director of the institute that designed the Chernobyl reactor.

Update hourly