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Russia Defends Nuclear Sites From Wildfires

August 10, 2010

Russian firefighters and emergency workers continued efforts today to prevent wildfires from engulfing key nuclear sites.

One soldier was killed on August 9 as he tried to put out a fire close to Russia's main nuclear research center in Sarov.

Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu said heat from fires in the Bryansk region, which already has nuclear contamination from the Chornobyl disaster more than 20 years ago, could release harmful radioactive particles into the atmosphere.

"In the event of a fire there, radionuclides could rise [into the air] together with combustion particles, resulting in a new pollution zone," he said on state television.

Meanwhile, officials said fires close to the town of Snezhinsk in the Urals and home to one of Russia's top nuclear research centers had been contained.

Almost two weeks of fires have claimed more than 50 lives.

The military prosecutor for the Moscow region gave orders to protect military sites after there were widespread reports that a communications center belonging to the country's General Staff was burned down in the Moscow region.

The Ministry of Defense denied the reports. However, it also denied last week that fire had ravaged a naval base. President Dmitry Medvedev sacked several senior naval officers after it was revealed that the blaze had indeed occurred.

The smog in Moscow lightened today but forecasters warn it could return. Air quality is still at dangerous levels.

Authorities have rejected criticism that they were poorly prepared for the heat wave and the subsequent wildfires.

"Putting out fires in Luxembourg is presumably easier than in Russia," Medvedev said.

compiled from agency reports

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/Russia_Defends_Nuclear_Sites_From_Wildfires/2123643.html

Copyright (c) 2010. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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