Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 70

Responding to accusations leveled in a secret U.S. Energy Department study on nuclear safety around the world, Russian experts denied April 8 that ten Soviet-era nuclear reactors located in the former East Bloc are in a "critical state" and could cause a Chernobyl-style nuclear catastrophe. According to the Japanese Kyodo Tsushin news agency, the U.S. report said that reactors at Chernobyl in Ukraine, the Kola plant in northern Russia, the Ignalina plant in Lithuania, the Bulgarian plant in Kozlodui, and the Bohunica plant in Slovakia were dangerous because of defects in the design of their emergency water-cooling systems. The report follows on the heels of assessments made by Greenpeace and other international agencies that characterized 15 RBMK Chernobyl-style nuclear reactors operating in the former East Bloc as serious safety risks.

But a spokesman for Rosenergoatom, the Russian agency that oversees nuclear safety, rejected the U.S. report as "absolutely groundless," arguing that modernization had lifted Russian nuclear plants to world-class safety standards for 1995 and 1996. (UPI, Itar-Tass, April 8) According to a Russian newspaper report published yesterday, moreover, Russian officials have been poring over reports of safety and security problems at U.S. nuclear facilities in order to launch a counterattack in the event that the West attempts to use the April 19-21 nuclear safety summit in Moscow to criticize Russia’s own nuclear safety record. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, April 9)