Washington Post
April 24, 1990

Wider Chernobyl Evacuation Ordered

Pravda Says Spread of Radioactivity Was Underestimated


Moscow , April 23--Soviet authorities, realizing they underestimated the extent of the Chernobvl accident, will evacuate 14,000 more people this year from the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster, Pravda said today.

The Communist Party daily indicated more work was needed to limit the damage from the April 26, 1986, explosion and fire at the nuclear power reactor that according to official figures killed 31 people.

Pravda said 90,000 people had been moved from their homes in the years following the accident, apparently in addition to the 100,000 taken out of the 20-mile zone a few days after the disaster.

It said radioactive dust that has piled up in the 20-mile danger zone around the plant will take decades to remove and will have to be processed by a special, as yet unbuilt, complex.

Also, a new, more secure shelter for the damaged reactor must be built at a cost of tens of millions of dollars, Pravda said. It will replace the concrete case that was built around the crippled reactor after the accident.

The continued evacuations are the result of belated recognition by authorities that the accident spread more radioactivity over a wider area than was first thought.

"In 1986, and three, two and even a year ago we did not know these numbers, but now they trouble the soul of everyone," Pravda said.

"Thirty-two districts of six regions of the [Ukraine] republic are affected by radiation to varying degrees; nearly 60,000 people live in the area that is strictly monitored," it said.

"And on the territory with more than 5 curies [a measure of radioactivity] live more than 200,0()0 people," it said. This area included districts over 30 miles from Chernobyl from which 14,00() people would be moved this year.

The accident contaminated 12.4 million acres of land hi the Ukraine, of which 8.6 million were agricultural land, Pravda said.

It said this did not include areas of neighboring Byelorussia, where an estimated 20 percent of the republic was radiated.

The official Tass news agency said the Ukrainian parliament was working out a program for closing the station, which has three undamaged reactors, by 1995. But it said it would take 10 more years to dismantle the complex.

Amid charges that authorities covered up the extent of the disaster, the Soviet legislature is due Wednesday to consider a proposed $26 billion emergency program to help people in affected areas.