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Soviets Building Reactors On Cuba With AM-Nuclear Disaster Bjt

April 29, 1986

MIAMI (AP) _ Fidel Castro is staking Cuba’s energy future to nuclear reactors designed by Soviet specialists, and experts said Tuesday the Soviet disaster is likely to raise concerns about the project less than 200 miles from Florida.

″If there were an accident of major variety (in Cuba), we would be in bad shape around here,″ said Baehram Kursunoglu, who heads the University of Miami’s Center for Theoretical Research.

Castro has emphasized the safety features of the four reactors under construction near the southern city of Cienfuegos. Dave Joliffe, a spokesman for the American Nuclear Society, said available information indicates that retaining walls are being built around the reactors and that pressurized water will be used to moderate chain reactions.

Water is used in U.S. plants, while the Chernobyl plant in the Soviet Union used graphite and apparently had no protective containing walls such as those that surround U.S. plants.

Kursunoglu, a Turkish-born physicist, has been invited to a forum planning committee in Moscow in September to set an agenda for a 1987 forum of 20 international experts on nuclear energy. He said a major priority of such groups now will be improving nuclear safety.

He added that he will call for international inspections of all nuclear power plants.

″I’m sure the people in Florida are going to be upset (about the Cuban project), but I’m not sure there’s much they can do about it,″ said Bob Jefferson, a New Mexico-based consultant on nuclear energy.

Jefferson, who said current Soviet nuclear designs are much safer than those used in the Chernobyl reactors, said East Bloc countries have allowed some international inspections but for the most part haven’t been as cooperative as Western nuclear nations.

Designed by Soviet specialists and being built by Cuban and Bulgarian workers, the reactors in Cuba are to begin operations in 1989.

Last month, a Cuban television interview with Vladimir Roche, identified as the head of the 300 Soviet specialists working on the project, said the reactor construction was on schedule. Roche said the Soviets involved had extensive experience in building nuclear power plants at home.

U.S. interest in the project since it was announced in 1980 has centered around the possibility of a military use, but the State Department has said there is no evidence that the reactors could be used to produce weapons.

″In the future, our development must be fundamentally nuclear,″ Castro said in a speech 1 1/2 years ago. ″Our energy must be based on nuclear plants.″

He said the four new reactors each will save Cuba the cost of importing 600,000 barrels of oil annually.

While praising the economic benefits of nuclear reactors, Castro and the state-run news media have stressed their safety.

In a July 26, 1984, speech at Cienfuegos celebrating his revolution’s anniversary, Castro said thick concrete retaining walls would prevent any danger to the population and keep the reactors safe from crashing airplanes, hurricanes or earthquakes.

A pro-nuclear campaign in the media preceded the December 1984 showing on Cuban television of ″Silkwood,″ the American movie based on the story of Karen Silkwood, a worker exposed to radiation at a nuclear-fuel producing plant. She died in a mysterious auto accident as she was working to expose alleged safety violations at the U.S. plant.

A Dec. 19, 1984, editorial in the Communist Party organ ″Granma″ said the public, before viewing the movie, should be aware that its ″anti-scientific content″ should be ″related to North American reality.″

″What we see in ‘Silkwood’ is that the deficiencies are not inherent in the technology but in class interests (not found) in the socialist system,″ Granma said.

Cuba-watchers speculate that the government decided to broadcast the movie because videocassettes of the movie were being shown in Cuban homes.

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