Communist Party slogans in red letters still proclaim their message from Pripyat's abandoned buildings: "Let the atom be a worker and not a soldier," says one in Ukrainian.

But two years after the hasty evacuation of the town following the world's worst nuclear accident, the workers have not returned. Only soldiers patrol the empty streets.There is no plan to resettle Pripyat, the company town of the Chernobyl power station. The entire population of 49,000 was put on buses and driven away when the radiation came, 16 years after the community was founded.

"We don't have a working program for Pripyat to be an ordinary town," said Mikhail Umanets, director of the Chernobyl power plant. "To grow flowers outside, to have children playing - it's impossible."

Pripyat is a ghost town of modern apartment buildings and playgrounds overgrown with weeds just 1.8 miles from the stricken reactor.

There are still no plans to resettle the entire 18-mile zone around the nuclear plant, evacuated after the explosion and fire at Chernobyl's fourth reactor on April 26, 1986.

Thirty-one people, most of them firefighters and station employees, died in the blast, and more than 100,000 people were evacuated from the zone.

Despite massive cleanup efforts that have made many parts of the area relatively safe, it would be too expensive and too risky to allow people to move back now, Soviet officials say.

"In spite of the fact that many people demand to return to their homes, we are rather reserved about it," said Leonid Ilyin, a Soviet health official.