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BBC Monitoring
Russian Nuclear and Chemical Plant is Deadly to Local Residents - TV
Source: NTV, Moscow, in Russian 0800 gmt 8 Jun 03

(Presenter) Chelyabinsk Region continues to be the scene of an emergency. The notorious Mayak chemical combine is dumping radioactive waste into local rivers and lakes.

Residents of nearby villages say they aware of the danger but cannot leave the place. Employees of the enterprise, where the first Soviet atomic bomb was made, say that the state does not provide funds to reconstruct those parts of the plant that contaminate the environment. Our correspondent Viktor Kuzmin has the details.

(Correspondent) A small river divides the village of Muslyumovo into two parts. Everybody has got used to these warning signs (video shows a radioactivity sign). As to the barbed wire, people just ignore it. Local residents call themselves hostages of the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry.

(Unidentified man) There are funerals every day. Guys like you can die any day.

(Unidentified female shop assistant) We are afraid. But what is to be done? Nobody needs us, nobody is waiting for us and nobody will help us.

(Correspondent) For 20 years now the residents of the village have been given promises that they will be relocated to a safe place. For living on the banks of a radioactive river, an adult is paid R100 (3.4 dollars) and a child gets R40 (1.4 dollars) a month.

(Unidentified woman) My son is not entitled to this radiation compensation of R40 any more. We have not received this scrap of money for a year now.

(Correspondent) All schoolchildren know that they should better not go to the Techa river. They also know that they should cross the bridge over the river quickly, that the atom is dangerous and also where radiation comes from.

(Unidentified child) The atom comes from lake Karachay. They throw all kinds of garbage and rubbish in there.

(Correspondent) Once a year, each resident of Muslyumovo is obliged to spend two weeks in this hospital. The three two-storey buildings with 50 hospital beds were built immediately after the 1957 accident (at the plant).

Doctors say that their patients have diseases common to any Russian region - cardiovascular, locomotive and digestive system diseases.

And yet radioactive waste continues to be dumped into the Techenskiy water cascade. Mayak employees speak a lot about the plant's contribution to solving the problem. Yet, everything boils down to the money problem.

(Yevgeniy Ryzhkov, captioned as Mayak employee) The operation of this enterprise cannot be stopped. The natural decay of radioactive elements cannot be stopped. The gas purification systems cannot be stopped. What we need is a profit-making plant which generates profit which could be invested in solving environmental problems.

(Correspondent) It will cost the federal budget several billion roubles to reconstruct some of the enterprise's workshops alone. Filling up the most contaminated reservoir, lake Karachay, costs R30m annually.

The plant's employees wonder why - since there used to be a state nuclear weapons programme- there are no projects to save the regions affected by that programme.

(Video shows the plant, the village, the local hospital and barbed wire fencing off the river; counter reading 0218-0504)

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