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Odds of Meltdown ‘One in 10,000 Years,’ Soviet Official Says

April 29, 1986

Undated (AP) _ Safety precautions at Soviet nuclear power plants are so strict that ″the odds of a meltdown are one in 10,000 years,″ according to the minister of power and electrification in the Ukraine.

Vitali Sklyarov made the comment recently in Soviet Life, an English- language magazine published by the Soviet Embassy and circulated in the United States under a reciprocal agreement between the two countries.

The February issue’s 10-page color spread on the nuclear power industry emphasized the safety of the country’s nuclear plants.

Noting that ″nuclear plants are being built close to big cities and resort areas,″ Soviet Life correspondent Maxim Rylsky asked Sklyarov: ″How safe are they?″

Sklyarov replied: ″The odds of a meltdown are one in 10,000 years. The plants have safe and reliable controls that are protected from any breakdown with three safety lines. The lines operate independently without duplicating one another. New equipment with higher reliability is being developed...

″The environment is also securely protected. Hermetically sealed buildings, closed cycles for technological processes with radioactive agents and systems for purification and harmless waste disposal preclude any discharge into the external environment.″

Sklyarov said several institutes and universities in the Ukraine train personnel for the republic’s nuclear power plants, but he did not mention how many people are employed by the plants.

″Young people come to us willingly,″ he said.

An article reprinted from the USSR Academy of Sciences’ magazine Priroda (Nature), claimed there has been no serious threat to personnel or nearby residents since the first Soviet nuclear power plant opened 30 years ago.

It also said that ″not a single disruption in normal operation occurred that would have resulted in the contamination of the air, water or soil.″

A short feature titled ″Born of the Atom″ described life in the town of Pripyat, which grew up around the nine-year-old Chernobyl nuclear power plant, site of this week’s accident.

The article did not specify the population of Pripyat, but noted that it is ″made up mostly of young people″ with an average age of 26.

Soviet Life said Pripyat residents can see its nuclear power units from their apartment windows.

″The units resemble a ship with white superstructures on deck,″ it said. ″Radiating from the ship are the openwork pylons of power transmission lines.″

The magazine said Pyotr Bondarenko, a shift superintendent in the plant’s department of labor protection and safety review, considers working at Chernobyl safer than driving a car.

″Robots and computers have taken over a lot of operations,″ Bondarenko was quoted as saying. ″In order to hold a job here, you have to know industrial safety rules to perfection and pass an exam in them every year.″

Chernobyl’s reactor is housed in a concrete silo and has ″environmental protection systems,″ the magazine said.

″Even if the incredible should happen,″ it said, ″the automatic control and safety systems would shut down the reactor in a matter of seconds. The plant has emergency core cooling systems and many other technological safety designs and systems.″

The magazine said warm water of the plant’s cooling pond ″is the domain of a large-scale fishery that supplies fresh fish to stores in Pripyat all year round, while its banks have been taken over by anglers.″

Pripyat Mayor Vladimir Voloshko said the town’s streets ″abound in flowers. The blocks of apartments stand in pine groves. Each residential area has a school, a library, shops, sports facilities and playgrounds close by.″

Voloshko expressed no concerns about Chernobyl, instead describing traffic, day-care and a lack of job opportunities for women as Pripyat’s chief problems.

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