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Russian nuclear centre still under threat

Russia's main nuclear centre in the town of Sarov in central Russia is still threatened by forest fires after two weeks of desperate efforts to bring the situation under control.

“Wildfires have surrounded the nuclear centre from all sides,” said Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia's state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, on Sunday. “Two weeks ago we fought off a fire assault from the west, but the fire approached again from the east a few days ago.”

The Emergency Ministry confirmed that forest fires raging in the Mordovia nature preserve still posed a threat to the secret nuclear centre even as firefighters managed to reduce the forest area overwhelmed by fire.

Mr. Kiriyenko, who inspected the nuclear centre in the past few days, said more than 3,000 people and 281 pieces of equipment, including three helicopters and two planes, were involved in putting out the wildfires, felling trees and digging canals along the 75-km perimeter of Sarov.

The nuclear chief said there was a risk wildfires could once again break into the territory of the nuclear centre, as it happened two weeks ago when fire came within 4,000 metres of the premises. However, he claimed there was no danger of nuclear explosions or contamination because all nuclear material had been removed to “safety storage”.

The nuclear centre, where the first Soviet atomic bomb was made, was tucked deep into the woods for greater secrecy and is now threatened on all sides by forest fires triggered by the most ferocious heatwave in Russia's history.

Mr. Kiriyenko said the threat of fire to the nuclear centre would remain till heavy rains set in.

“Till then, we'll have to be on high alert,” he added.

Across Russia authorities said 498 fires were still burning on an area of 53,500 hectares, just over one-fourth of the territory engulfed by fires at the peak of the crisis.


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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 6:44:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/Russian-nuclear-centre-still-under-threat/article16133124.ece

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