Putin: no threat of global nuclear disaster

Updated: 2011-03-14 22:05


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TOMSK, Russia  - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Monday that there was little threat of a global nuclear disaster as Russia's neighbour Japan scrambled to avert a meltdown at a nuclear energy plant.

Putin said experts from Russia believed there was a low chance that the stricken reactor would explode, potentially spewing toxic radioactive dust into the atmosphere.

"Our experts think that a nuclear explosion which could lead to the destruction of the reactor itself should not take place," Putin told reporters in the Siberian city of Tomsk.

Japan is under global scrutiny over the handling of its nuclear crisis after a huge earthquake crippled three reactors at the nuclear power complex in Fukushima, 800 km (500 miles) southeast of Russia's Pacific port city of Vladivostok.

Putin, who is widely viewed as Russia's paramount leader, said that he had spoken to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan about the situation.

"I repeat: our information, based on the data we have, is that we do not see a global threat," Putin said. "Nevertheless, we are continuing to fully monitor the situation."

Radiation levels in Russia's Far East are so far within normal levels, according to local monitoring stations, and Putin said he did not see a threat to Russian territory. But some panic was stirred in Russia's Far East city of Vladivostok.

Comparisons to the Chernobyl disaster in Soviet Ukraine -- which will honour its 25th anniversary next month -- were splashed across Russian papers on Monday. Chernobyl, the world's worst nuclear catastrophe, still haunts many Russians.

Putin said Russia would not change ambitious plans to build dozens of nuclear power stations in coming decades.

"No, we do not plan to change our plans," Putin said, though he added: "We of course will draw conclusions from what is happening in Japan."


Residents in Russia's Pacific Ocean port city of Vladivostok were rushing to buy radiation-checking devices and food was being checked on Monday, media reported.

"There is an unprecedented demand (for Geiger Counters)," a spokeswoman for radiation-checking firm Primtechnopolis told the state-run RIA news agency in Vladivostok.

"We are getting so many calls. Customers say they want the Geiger Counters considering what is happening in Japan," she said, adding that the simplest device goes for 3,600 roubles ($125.6).

Specialists will examine food in Russia's Far East for possible contamination, media quoted Russia's top doctor Gennady Onishchenko as saying on Monday.

"We will evaluate the longer consquences of the accident and its possible influence on China... The consumer basket in the Far East depends a lot on the quality of food from China," Interfax quoted him as saying.

Areas that rely on food from China are the Amur, Khabarovsk and Primorye regions, where Vladivostok is, Onishchenko added.



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