Soviets have shaken up nuclear power industry since disaster

A fundamental shake-up is under way in the the Soviet nuclear power industry. The Soviets so far have laid the blame for the Chernobyl disaster firmly on the shoulders of the operating personnel, and not on the reactor design.

The latest death toll from the accident is reported to be 30, with radiation sickness found in another 201 people, of whom 28 are being treated in hospitals.

The Politburo recently put the direct losses as a result of the accident at 2 billion rubles ($2.8 billion). In addition to the cessation of electricity production at Chernobyl, farmland has been lost, local factories shut down, and construction projects halted.

Senior members of staff at Chernobyl have been dismissed (the former Chernobyl plant manager, V. Bryukhanov, has also been banished from the Communist Party), and it is likely that they will face criminal proceedings.

In addition, some of the most senior figures in the Soviet nuclear industry have been sacked and discredited. These include Yevgeny Kulov, the head of the State Committee for Safety in the Atomic Power Industry; Gennadi Shasharin, a deputy minister in the Ministry of Electric Power; Alexander Meshkov, a first deputy minister of medium machine building and at one time a deputy chairman of the State Committee for the Utilization of Atomic Energy; and Ivan Yemelyanov, a deputy director of the Energotechnika Institute, which designed the reactor. Anatoly Mayorets, the recently appointed minister of electric power, was allowed to keep his job after being strictly reprimanded and warned about his future conduct.

In addition, a new government ministry has been formed: the Ministry of Atomic Power Engineering (also called the Ministry of Nuclear Power). The body has been set up, according to the Soviets, to clarify lines of responsibility and to improve reactor safety and the training of operators.

Previously, overall responsibility for the nuclear power industry had rested with Mr. Shasharin in the Ministry of Electric Power. Now it lies with Nikolai Lukonin, former manager of the Ignalinsk power station, who has been appointed head of the new ministry.

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