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Fighter Jet Crashes, Narrowly Misses Nuclear Plant

March 30, 1988

LANDSHUT, West Germany (AP) _ A French jet fighter crashed and exploded Wednesday near a nuclear power plant, but officials said the facility could have withstood the force of the impact if the plane had hit it.

The pilot of the Mirage jet fighter was killed when his plane went down at 9:20 a.m. about a mile from the Isar plant at the Bavarian village of Ohu.

Federal and state officials said the concrete domes covering West German nuclear plants are strong enough to withstand a direct hit from a plummeting airliner, so there was no risk of a nuclear accident.

″There was no danger at the power plant,″ said Edith Volz, a spokeswoman for the state-run Bavarian Utilities in Munich. ″The complex is protected by heavy concrete walls and the reactors are safe from plane crashes.″

The Mirage burst into flames and exploded on impact, spreading debris over a wide area, police said.

The fighter took off from the Strasbourg-Entzheim Air Base outside of Strasbourg, France, and was on a ″totally routine, low-altitude mission,″ according to a French air force spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with Defense Ministry regulations.

The French Defense Ministry identified the pilot as Lt. Thierry Millet, 26, and said he was not flying unusually low or close to a nuclear facility.

France has military forces based in West Germany, and its military aircraft frequently fly training missions over West German territory.

Anti-nuclear activists used the incident to renew criticism of atomic power plants and of low-level military flights that are common over Bavaria.

Opposition Social Democrats in Bavaria said they would bring the matter up for debate in the state’s parliament.

″This is proof that the authorities have underestimated the dangers posed″ by military training flights, said Dietmar Franzke, a Social Democratic state delegate.

The plant at Ohu is an 870-megawatt Isar I reactor, which began producing electricity in 1977. Isar II, a 1,300-megawatt reactor that is also located in the area, is not yet on line, officials said.

Military aircraft are barred from flying over nuclear power plants, according to Alfons Metzger, a spokesman for the Bavarian Interior Ministry.

In Bonn, defense ministry officials said there were no signs indicating the French pilot had failed to adhere to those regulations.

Update hourly