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Pripyat: a town 'born of the atom'

By JANICE FUHRMAN

WASHINGTON, April 29, 1986 (UPI) -- The Soviet Union painted an idyllic picture of life in a town near its Chernobyl nuclear reactor, quoting one young mother in a recent magazine as saying, ''We don't even notice that we live close to a nuclear power plant.''

In an article titled ''Born of the Atom,'' the magazine Soviet Life profiled the town of Pripyat, closest to the nuclear reactor that malfunctioned during the weekend, spewing radiation into the atmosphere.

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Nikolai Fomin, the plant's chief engineer, believed both man and nature in the surrounding areas were ''completely safe.''

''Even if the incredible should happen, the automatic control and safety systems would shut down the reactor in a matter of seconds,'' the magazine said in its February issue. ''The plant has emergency core-cooling systems and many other technological safety designs and systems.''

A fire at the giant atomic plant 80 miles from the nation's third most populous city of Kiev caused mass evacuations and two deaths, according to the official Soviet news agency Tass. One unconfirmed report from the area said the death toll may have surpassed 2,000.

The magazine touted life in the nearby town of Pripyat, where the average age of its 25,000 to 30,000 residents is 26.

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''The streets abound in flowers. The blocks of apartments stand in pine groves. Each residential area has a school, a library, shops, sports facilities and playgrounds close by,'' the magazine said.

Boris Chernov, 29, a steam turbine operator at the Ukraine's first nuclear plant that began operations in 1977, is quoted as saying, ''There is more emotion in fear of nuclear power plants than real danger.

''I work in white overalls. The air is clean and fresh; it's filtered most carefully. My workplace is checked by the radiation control service. If there is even the slightest deviation from the norm, the sensors will set off an alarm on the central radiation control panel.''

The magazine said worker Pyotr Bondarenko maintains that ''working at the station is safer than driving a car.''

The 16-year-old town -- made up of people belonging to more than 30 different nationalities from throughout the Soviet Union -- is experiencing ''teething problems,'' and ''a baby boom,'' according to Mayor Vladimir Voloshko. He said many new parking lots, day-care centers and nursery schools were being built.

''We believe the town of Pripyat should be as safe and clean as the power plant,'' he said.

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