No nuclear risk from fire at Russia's Sarov centre: agency

14th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

A forest fire raging close to Russia's top nuclear research centre does not risk causing a nuclear disaster, the national atomic agency chief said Saturday, adding the situation was no longer critical.

The Sarov nuclear centre, 500 kilometres (310 miles) east of Moscow, has been menaced for two weeks by fires raging in a neighbouring nature park in Russia's Mordovia republic, Rosatom nuclear agency boss Sergei Kiryenko said.

However, "We can say today for sure that there is no nuclear risk, no radioactive threat and that there is not even an ecological threat on Sarov territory," he told Russian media.

"We pushed back an attack from the west side two weeks ago. Now the fire is coming from the east... and it continues to burn. Nevertheless, the situation on the eastern side has ceased to be critical," he said.

The Rosatom boss added however that the centre would only be out of danger after a long rain properly extinguished the fire in the park.

"As long as the (the fire) is not ended, the risk for Sarov remains," he said.

Russian authorities announced early August that they had removed all radioactive and explosive material from the Sarov centre. Days later they said the danger had passed and the facility was functioning normally.

The Mordovia emergencies ministry said the fire that threatens Sarov covered 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) and was not under control.

The town, home to about 80,000 people, is still closed to foreigners as it was during Soviet times.

Russia has been battling hundreds of wildfires this summer as it endures a heatwave described as the most severe in centuries.

© 2010 AFP

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