22 May 2007

Factory fire in Russia sparks scare, rumors of atomic plant explosion

In an area of the world where memories of Chernobyl are not a dim/receding thing of the past, it doesn't take much to invoke immediate concern, if not panic:

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — A fire broke out Monday at a Russian factory that makes equipment for atomic power plants, but there was no risk of radioactive contamination because the plant does not work with nuclear materials, officials said.
The fire erupted under the roof of one of the buildings at the Atommash plant in Volgodonsk, about 600 miles south of Moscow, said Oleg Ugnivenko, a spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry in southern Russia.
It was extinguished a few hours later, he said. No injuries were reported.
Atommash's products include turbine and other equipment for nuclear and other types of power plants, but it does not work with radioactive materials, Ugnivenko said.
Reports of the fire sparked some panic and widespread concern in the region near the plant, Russian news media said, with some parents removing their children from schools and buying iodine tablets from pharmacies.
Russian atomic energy agency spokesman Sergei Novikov said the rumors were spread maliciously.
Evidently it was a little more than angst as regional emergency offices were flooded with over 300,000 phone calls (4,000 /day is the norm) and other reports note that local stocks of iodine have been completely depleted.

Russia's emergency ministry rejects rumors of blasts at
20/05/2007 17:17 KRASNODAR (southern Russia), May 20 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's emergencies ministry on Sunday rejected the rumors of blasts at nuclear power plants in the south of the country.
The ministry's department for the Krasnodar Territory has been receiving a growing number of phone calls from local residents about the alleged blasts since Saturday, the spokeswoman for the regional branch said.
Residents are making phone calls to ask about explosions at the nuclear power plants in Volgodonsk, Belorechensk, Slavyansk-on-Kuban and other cities of the southern federal district. The information about the blasts is false," Tatyana Kobzarenko said.
According to Kobzarenko, the rumors about the blasts appeared after scheduled exercises held by the emergency ministry at the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant in Ukraine May 18.
"On May 18, a planned reactor shutdown took place at the Zaporozhye NPP. After that, rumors started to spread about blasts at Russian nuclear power plants," Kobzarenko said.