Radioactive Leak Reported on Aging Tanker off Russian Far East
Jul. 27, 1995
VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (AP) _ About 45 gallons of radioactive waste leaked from a storage drum aboard an aging tanker in far eastern Russia, releasing dangerous levels of radiation, regional officials said today.
Sailors cleaned up the spill from the tanker, which occurred last winter in the Bay of Pavlovsk just south of Vladivostok, and no one was injured, said Sergei Lishavsky, and environmental official in the Primorsky region.
``This was just a minor nuclear accident,'' he said. ``The spill was mainly on the deck of the tanker. It was cleaned up and the radioactivity level of the bay is considered normal.''
The leak was first reported Monday by Japanese news services. Russian navy officials denied there had been a leak. But Lishavsky today showed The Associated Press copies of navy reports on the spill and cleanup.
Before the cleanup, Lishavsky said, radioactivity on the deck was about 50 times the level considered safe for humans.
The tanker, known as TNT-27, and another aging barge called TNT-5 have been moored in the bay for more than a year holding liquid radioactive waste from scrapped nuclear submarines.
Freezing temperatures made the liquid waste expand, popping the lid off one of the eight tanks in the hull of the TNT-27, authorities said.
The ships reportedly are partially flooded with sea water. Lishavsky said the TNT-5 is in such bad shape that sailors won't set foot on it, and have partially grounded it to prevent it from sinking.
``This winter, TNT-5 could easily fall apart,'' Lishavsky said. ``But if it sinks, I don't think anybody will stop it.''
Yevgeny Stomatyuk, chairman of the regional environmental committee, has repeatedly warned that the tankers pose a major hazard unless the waste can be treated soon.
But plans to build a treatment facility nearby in Bolshoi Kamen, about 30 miles east of Vladivostok, have been delayed because of a political feud between local officials and Moscow. Japan has agreed to pay for the $20 million facility, but Stomatyuk said Moscow has rejected the companies that regional officials have selected to build it.
On Monday, a small amount of radioactive material leaked out of a container at a nuclear plant near the Ural Mountains town of Ozersk, a plant spokesman said. The leak posed no contamination danger, Alexander Suslov told the Interfax news agency.