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No cause for concern over nuclear explosion in 'closed city', say officials

By The Siberian Times reporter
09 February 2015

One worker seriously injured and panic among nearby residents in secretive community, but public being reassured about incident.

Officials are reassuring the public there has been no radiation leak into the surrounding area in Seversk, Tomsk Oblast. Picture: Artemyi Lebedev

A small explosion at nuclear facility in a Siberian ‘closed city’ is being downplayed by the authorities, despite panic spreading among the population.

Operators of the Siberian Chemical Industrial Complex say a container housing depleted uranium lost pressure and ignited, seriously injuring a nearby worker.

Officials are reassuring the public there has been no radiation leak into the surrounding area in Seversk, Tomsk region, with the situation being monitored using special equipment.

But concerned local residents have called news channels and taken to social media sites to express their anxiety over the emergency at the sprawling site. Some fear being able to open their windows.

The city, which was not even marked on maps during Soviet times and is still closed off to visitors, is no stranger to major incidents. In 1993 an accident at the Tomsk-7 Reprocessing Complex released a cloud of radioactive gas into the air, in what became one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters.

Giving a briefing on the situation, factory general director Sergei Tochilin said: 'Panic is being spread in the city. But I can assure you there are no problems with radiation at the factory. I was there myself with other people. The level of radiation did not go up, it did not change.

'Our filters which control the environmental situation did not measure any changes to normal data. We also asked sanitary workers to drive around the city to measure the level of radiation but nothing was registered.'

Explosion in Seversk

The city, home to 108,000 residents, is still important as a nuclear facility, although it is thought all the plants are now at least 40 years old. Picture: Rosatom

The incident took place shortly after 3.30pm on Sunday afternoon at the Chemical-Metallurgy Plant within the complex.

Officials say there was a 'loss of pressurisation' to a container, causing an explosion when the substance inside reacted with oxygen.

As a result the clothes of a man standing nearby caught fire, and he suffered burns. He was at first taken to the burns unit of the regional clinic before being transferred by plane to Moscow. Mr Tochilin added: 'It was decided to move him to a better place for treating his burns.'

In the hours after the accident concerned residents contacted news agency TV2 and posted messages on the Vkontakte social network site.

Blogger Ivan Khomeev wrote about 'a small emergency'. He added: 'A drum was turned over. One worker got serious burns, minor emission of chemical took place.

'Liquidators and workers insist [it is] nothing serious but just to be on the safe side it is not recommended to open doors and windows and to stay outside for long.'

Formerly called Tomsk-7 and located on the Tom River, Seversk was established in 1949 to produce and process materials for the Soviet nuclear weapons programme.

It was a secret city and did not appear on any maps until 1992 when then Russian President Boris Yeltsin said that these communities could revert back to their original historical names.

Despite also removing the official secret status, it remains a closed city to non-residents today and there are six checkpoints at which visitors must show necessary entry documents.

Explosion in Seversk


Explosion in Seversk

The Siberian Chemical Industrial Complex brings together four plants dealing with nuclear substances, and one of its main tasks is to provide uranium to fuel nuclear stations. Pictures: Rosatom

The city, home to 108,000 residents, is still important as a nuclear facility, although it is thought all the plants are now at least 40 years old.

The Siberian Chemical Industrial Complex brings together four plants dealing with nuclear substances, and one of its main tasks is to provide uranium to fuel nuclear stations.

In a statement following the weekend's incident, officials said a probe is now under way to work out what happened. It added: 'The factory does not have any technological problems. It is working normally.

'The level of radiation is normal, and the situation is not dangerous for citizens. A commission has been set up to investigate the reasons for this incident.'

Comments (1)

When they say "don't worry" that means you must be worried.
Karlo, Split
30/08/2019 17:46
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