Wider Spread of Radiation in Soviet Admitted
The Soviet government today acknowledged for the first time that radioactivity from the Chernobyl nuclear plant accident has spread beyond the evacuated 18-mile zone around the devastated facility.
The April 26 accident--which the Soviets say killed two people, but U.S. officials claim caused many more fatalities--sent a cloud of radiation over much of Europe.
In a four-paragraph statement distributed by the official press agency Tass, the Council of Ministers said a cleanup operation is under way at the No. 4 reactor and that there is radiation in both the Ukrainian and Byelorussian republics.
“The emission of radioactive substances continues to decrease,” the statement said, adding that workers were building up the banks of the adjacent Pripyat River “to prevent its possible contamination.”
Near Two Rivers
The plant is near the confluence of the Pripyat and Uzh rivers, which flow together with two other rivers into a reservoir that empties into the Dnieper River just north of the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. The city is about 80 miles south of the plant.
“The radiation situation on the territory of the Ukraine and Byelorussia is stabilizing with a tendency toward its improvement,” the statement said.
The government report did not provide any statistics on the radiation levels or say what it meant by saying the situation was “stabilizing.”
The statement was the government’s most wide-ranging description of the area affected by the disaster.
Earlier reports talked only of the area immediately around the plant, which Moscow Communist Party chief Boris Yeltsin described in an interview in West Germany as a “danger area” from which 49,000 residents were evacuated.
The Chernobyl plant is near the border of Byelorussia, a republic to the north of the Urkaine. The statement did not say how much of the two republics’ territories were affected by the accident.
The statement said that in the two republics, “the necessary sanitation, hygienic, treatment and preventive measures are being carried out.”