Lingering fears left by the Chernobyl disaster are partly behind the public protests that have prevented a nuclear-powered merchant ship from entering eastern Soviet ports, a newspaper says.

The 860-foot Sevmorput had been anchored off Vladivostok for four days because the city council there has refused to let the vessel enter port, the newspaper Sovietskaya Rossiya said on Tuesday.It said officials in the Pacific port city decided March 2 not to let the ship dock until they receive additional information about its radiation safeguards.

Officials of nearby Nakhodka and the northeastern Soviet region of Magadan also refused port calls after tens of thousands of residents protested to a radio station, the newspaper said.

Fractures appeared in the $260 million barge carrier soon after it began its maiden voyage Dec. 31 from the Crimean port of Kerch to the far eastern Soviet Union, the newspaper said.

Experts found that no radiation was released and confirmed its "atomic heart" was not damaged, the article said. It did not say how the damage occurred or precisely when the incident happened.

According to the newspaper, the ship has good safeguards and could even withstand the crash of a jetliner or a collision with a huge icebreaker, but it added:

"A deficit of information, piled on top of the invisible shadow of the Chernobyl tragedy and the most complex ecological situation in the region, detonated a powerful explosion of public indignation."