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Today in History

From the AP archive:
April 28, 1986

Editor's Note: First word about the disaster at Chernobyl came two days after the event from Sweden, where sensors had detected elevated radiation levels. This first story was written after after the announcement by Swedish officials.

Increased radiation from Soviet Union,
Swedish official says


Associated Press Writer

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) - Slight increases in radiation levels detected near a nuclear power plant in eastern Sweden apparently were caused by a radiation leak in the Soviet Union, a Swedish official said today.

Bo Holmquist, a senior official in the regional government in Uppsala, north of Stockholm, which supervises Sweden's Forsmark nuclear power plant, said increased radiation was discovered around the plant this morning.

"But the source of the leak is somewhere to the east of us and to the east of Finland, if you know what I mean," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview after the Swedish news agency TT reported increased radiation was detected outside the Forsmark plant.

Holmquist, whose remarks clearly referred to the Soviet Union, said radiation from a leak there had probably been carried by the wind to large parts of the Swedish coast.

It is about 120 miles from the Soviet Union to the Swedish mainland at its closest point across the Baltic sea.

"The radiation level was very weak, but it showed on Forsmark's sensitive equipment," Holmquist said. He added that the levels presented no danger.

In accordance with an alert procedure that goes into effect if a leak is suspected at Forsmark, some of the station's employees were sent home, Holmquist said.

He said authorities began to suspect another source of radiation when similar radioactive recordings were made at a monitoring station in Nykoping, south of Stockholm.

Holmquist said Swedish officials have been in contact with authorities in Finland, and that increased radiation levels also have been found there. He said the source of the radiation was not Finland.

The news agency TT, Tidningarnas Telegrambyra, said the increased radiation levels at Forsmark, 90 miles north of Stockholm, were discovered when employees arrived this morning.

When they enter and leave the Forsmark plant, the workers' radiation levels are routinely checked, officials said.

What was detected was radiation of "a few millirem an hour, a dosage which is harmless to people but illegally high for discharges," Olle Blomqvist, an information officer at the State Power Board was quoted as telling TT.

Almost the entire Baltic coast of the Soviet Union is closed to foreigners. It was not known if there are nuclear facilities there.

There was no report in the Soviet media today of any radiation leak. Soviet nuclear accidents never have been reported in the Soviet Union, nor confirmed by Soviet officials.

However, exiled Soviet scientists have said there was a major nuclear accident in the Chelyabinsk region of the Ural Mountains in 1958 that killed hundreds of people and contaminated a large area. The region has since been off limits to everyone.

Editor's Note: Hours after Swedish officials reported increased radiation levels, Soviet officials acknowledged the Chernobyl accident in a terse statement released by Tass, the official news agency.

Soviets Report Nuclear Accident, Say Reactor Damaged


Associated Press Writer

MOSCOW (AP) - The Soviet Union said Monday that a nuclear accident damaged an atomic reactor at the Chernobyl power plant in the Ukraine. Radiation reported up to 10 times above normal swept across Finland, Denmark and Sweden, more than 750 miles away.

Budapest Radio in Hungary reported early Tuesday that there were injuries from the accident, and noted that the power plant was located at the conjunction of two rivers, near the reservoir that supplies Kiev, a city of 2.4 million people and the capital of the Ukraine.

The official Soviet news agency, Tass, said only that people "affected" were being aided, but did not say whether there were injuries or deaths, when the accident occurred, nor the exact location of the plant.

Tass said it was the first nuclear accident in the Soviet Union and a government commission was appointed, an indication that it was serious.

"It must have been a relatively big accident, since we have received such high levels of radiation from so far away," said Lars Erik de Geer of Sweden's Defense Research Agency.

He said the radiation levels corresponded to those recorded after Chinese nuclear weapons' tests in the atmosphere during the 1970s. "I know of no earlier nuclear power plant accident which has lead to such high radiation levels in this area," he said.

Neither Hungary nor any other Eastern European country, much closer to the plant site than Scandinavia, made public reports of radiation level increases.

"The increased Swedish levels were between three and four times the normal," information director Lennart Franzon at the Forsmark nuclear plant north of Stockholm told the AP.

In Finland the increased radiation, first noticed Sunday night, were 10 times higher than normal, said Gunnar Bengtsson, head of Sweden's Radiation and Nuclear Safety Board. Danish and Norwegian officials reported more modest increases.

Franzon said an analysis of the radioactive emission will take a few days to conclude, but that a preliminary report indicated graphite and cesium 137 were present.

The Soviet acknowledgement of the accident came many hours after Swedish officials had started hunting for the source of the increased radiation levels, which were first discovered in Monday morning at a routine check of a worker at the Forsmark plant, 750 miles northwest of Kiev.

Birgitta Dahl, Sweden's energy minister, said the Soviets were asked for an extensive report and added: "They should immediately have warned us."

She said initial inquiries drew the response that Soviet officials were not aware of a radiation leak.

"We must demand higher safety standards in the Soviet Union," she said, and Sweden may insist that the Soviet civil nuclear program be overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency, a U.N. agency.

White House spokesman Edward Djerejian said: "It must be very serious if the Soviets talk about it."

Soviet media seldom report natural disasters or accidents unless injuries and damage are widespread.

The first, brief Tass announcement did not give details beyond saying, "Measures are being undertaken to eliminate the consequences of the accident."

A subsequent Tass report called it the first such accident in the Soviet Union, "although in other countries similar incidents have occurred more than once."

Tass mentioned the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, the worst accident at a U.S. commercial nuclear plant. No deaths resulted there.

In Washington, Jim McKenzie of the the Union of Concerned Scientists, an anti-nuclear group, said the information he had "indicates probably a core meltdown."

McKenzie said he drew the conclusion from being told by Swedish reporters that radioactive iodine and cesium were present and radiating at five to 10 times the natural levels. "There must have been quite a release of radioactivity," he said.

 

 

 

 

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