MOSCOW, February 13 (RIA Novosti) – A partial roof collapse at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant reported late on Tuesday does not pose any danger to health, officials from the power station said on Wednesday.
Wall panels and parts of the roof caved in on Tuesday in the machine hall at the plant's Reactor Number Four, the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster in 1986. The damaged area was about 600 square meters (6,456 square feet), the Ukraine-based plant said in a statement.
No one was hurt in the incident and the radiation level in the so-called exclusion zone around the plant has not changed, the power station's management said.
“There is no threat to the lives or health of the population,” Russia’s Emergencies Ministry said early on Wednesday while confirming the report from the plant.
The collapse was caused by snow piling up on the roof, the Emergencies Ministry said. The area where the roof collapsed is part of the power plant's original structure and not the so-called "sarcophagus" built after the accident.
The Chernobyl disaster took place on April 26, 1986, when one of its four nuclear reactors exploded. The Soviet leadership was slow to admit the scale of the accident and order an evacuation. Radioactive contamination spread as far as northern Sweden and the UK.
A new "sarcophagus," which will cover the existing one built after the accident, is currently under construction, as engineers fear that the older one may soon start crumbling, possibly leading to a radiation leak. The new arch-shaped sarcophagus is expected to contain the unit safely for about one hundred years.
The plant’s spokeswoman said employees are working “normally” despite the accident. “No measures are being taken [to evacuate the workers]. The radiation levels are normal,” she said.
The spokeswoman failed to comment on media reports that two French construction companies, Vinci and Bouygues, which are working on the building’s new confinement, have evacuated 80 employees as a safety precaution.
She said, however, that France’s Novarka company, which is building a giant steel arch-shaped structure at the Chernobyl plant, has given its personnel a day off on Wednesday.
The Chernobyl nuclear power plant has set up a committee that will conduct a probe into the collapse. The investigation is expected to last for two weeks, the plant’s press service said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The committee has been tasked with analyzing the situation that led to the building structures' collapse within a 14-day period and with introducing proposals to overcome the consequences,” the statement said.
Updated with paras 8-12, fixes para 2