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Chernobyl Victim to Be Entombed Along With Reactor, Pravda Says

May 23, 1986

MOSCOW (AP) _ The body of one of the two workers killed during the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear plant will be entombed in the concrete ″coffin″ being built around the ruined reactor, the Communist Party newspaper Pravda said today.

A party official, meanwhile, was quoted as confirming that many of the 92,000 people evacuated from around the Ukrainian power station will not return home ″as soon as we had wanted,″ and will be resettled.

Ivan Plyushch, a senior official of the Communist Party in the Kiev region, told Nedelya, a weekly supplement to the government newspaper Izvestia, that ″evidently, we will gradually be settling them in other places. We’ll probably be building additional homes, using houses that become empty.″

Soviet media reported earlier this week that 10,000 winter homes and barns are already under construction for people evacuated from around the power plant 80 miles north of Kiev.

On Thursday, A. Kokhlenkov, an officer of the Ukrainian branch of Komsomol, the Communist youth league, had told the Moscow newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets that the situation near the plant was becoming normal, and added, ″the fact that many Chernobyl residents are already going to their apartments serves as proof of that.″

But it was not clear from Kokhlenkov’s comments how many people had come back, and whether they had returned for good or merely to seek belongings.

A Soviet representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Boris Semyonov, reported Thursday that the death toll in the disaster stood at 15. An American official of the Vienna-based agency, Morris Rosen, said the figure included the two workers killed during the accident.

Pravda today reported that the body of Valery Khodemchuk, an operator at Chernobyl, was never recovered after an explosion ripped through the No. 4 reactor building, igniting a fire that engulfed the structure.

Vladimir Shashenok, the other man killed immediately in the accident, was brought out of the blaze and was able to mutter only ″there, Valery,″ before he lost consciousness and died, Pravda said.

Workers are now toiling to encase the reactor in concrete where it will remain for centuries to prevent any radiation leakage. Pravda suggested that the casing bear an inscription to Khodemchuk.

Although Khodemchuk’s mother has been told her son is dead, she is still waiting for him to visit her, Pravda’s correspondent wrote after meeting her. As a villager, the newspaper said, she could not believe her son was dead unless he was buried by all the villagers.

″The fourth (reactor) block will also become his coffin,″ Pravda said. ″And, perhaps, someone will write on those concrete walls, that it is not the reactor which is buried here, but Valery Khodemchuk. But will that calm his mother down?″

Pravda today also disclosed the first reported instance of residents in nearby villages refusing to take in evacuees from the 18-mile zone that was cleared around the Chernobyl plant.

Most Soviet accounts have emphasized the communal spirit of evacuees and their hosts, but Pravda said a man in the village of Blidzha, Pyotr Artemenko, had refused to take evacuees into his large house because he feared they would ruin the newly polished floors.

Pravda also lauded heroes among the ″tens of thousands of residents″ of Pripyat, the settlement adjoining the plant.

Valery Belokon, a doctor, and Anatoly Gumarov, a driver, pulled several people from the flames on the night of the accident, although ″they understood what had happened and how they were endangering their own lives,″ Pravda said.

There has been no official word to date on Soviet crop losses resulting from the Chernobyl disaster, which occurred in an agricultural area of the northern Ukraine.

Jan Vanous, a U.S.-based expert on the Soviet economy, estimated in a May 16 report for Planecon Inc., a group of economic analysts in Washington, that agricultural losses from the disaster will reach the equivalent of $970 million to $1.94 billion.

Vanous has estimated the total cost of the disaster, including the loss of the reactor and the costs of health care and evacuation, the equivalent of $2.7 billion to $4.3 billion.

This estimate does not take into account the potential loss of hard- currency export earnings and possible fall in industrial output due to any eventual energy shortages.

Nedelya interviewed an agricultural expert who indicated that farmers will be urged to harvest their crops, but that all crops will be carefully checked for radioactivity.

The expert, identified only as N.A. Korneyev, a member of the National Agricultural Academy, said he had heard that agricultural produce in the Netherlands was being destroyed and milk poured down sewers.

He insisted this was unnecessary, but recommended that green vegetables should be washed as many as three times if there were fears that they had come from a zone affected by radiation from the Chernobyl accident.

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