Originally created 05/19/00

Chernobyl officials say reactor normal



KIEV, Ukraine - Officials at the Chernobyl nuclear plant said Wednesday its only operating reactor was working normally after a malfunction in a turbo generator forced them to halve power.

"The reactor is working in a normal regime," said Chernobyl duty officer Andriy Bilyk.

The plant, the site of the world's worst nuclear accident in 1986, reported the malfunction Monday.

U.S. officials reported details of the power cut Wednesday in Washington. Bilyk said the report did not reveal anything the plant had not already reported.

Chernobyl and the U.S. official said no radiation was released.

When the incident was reported on Monday, plant officials said a turbo-alternator at the plant's only working reactor No. 3 failed before dawn and was shut down for repairs until evening.

Later Wednesday, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker gave a similar account, calling the malfunction a leak.

Reeker said forest fires in Belarus and northern Ukraine had spread radiated debris from the 1986 disaster and caused a slight elevation of radiation levels in Minsk, the Belarus capital.

Reeker said U.S. medical authorities had found no reason "to take any specific measures."

Ukraine emergency officials have reported fires in the region, but said they were well outside the 18-mile isolation zone surrounding Chernobyl.

President Clinton is due to visit Kiev on June 6 after summit talks in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin. A White House official said there was no reason for Clinton to change plans.

Most nuclear plants in the former Soviet Union, including Chernobyl, experience frequent malfunctions that force a reduction or stoppage of electric production. Most of the incidents do not result in the release of radiation and repairs are generally made quickly.

Ukraine has promised to close Chernobyl down in 2000.