President Mikhail S. Gorbachev will for the first time visit the Chernobyl power plant, site of the world's worst nuclear disaster, during his current trip to the Ukraine, Radio Moscow reported Tuesday.
Gorbachev found out Monday in Kiev, the republic's capital, that the dangers of nuclear power are still very much on the minds of Ukrainians.In a street encounter broadcast by Soviet television, an elderly woman asked Gorbachev why another nuclear power plant was being built in the Crimea. The area contains some of the country's most popular beach resorts and is home to 2 million people.
Gorbachev said he was aware of worries about the plant's safety. He also said American specialists who helped plan nuclear power plants in earthquake-prone Japan had been asked to study the Crimean facility.
"Construction is under way," he said. "But if the conclusion (of the specialists) is that it is not advisable to build a station there, then it will be turned into a training center for personnel, not an atomic power station."
Gorbachev assured the woman that the government now takes a cautious approach to nuclear power.
Radio Moscow said Tuesday that Gorbachev was preparing visits to Chernobyl and Slavutich, a nearby town built to house plant workers.
The broadcast did not say exactly when Gorbachev would be at Chernobyl, where an explosion and fire at a nuclear reactor on April 26, 1986, killed at least 31 people and sent a radioactive cloud around the world.
Gorbachev arrived Tuesday in Lvov, a center of railway engineering, automobile assembly and oil refining. The city of 753,000 residents is about 260 miles west of Kiev, where Gorbachev began his trip Monday.
Last month, 10 Soviet scientists wrote a letter to the Communist Party newspaper Pravda calling for construction of the Crimean plant to be stopped. They said it was not designed to withstand earthquakes of the magnitude possible there.