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Nuclear Disaster Near Populous Dnepr Valley

April 30, 1986 GMT

MOSCOW (AP) _ The Chernobyl nuclear accident in the northern Ukraine occurred in an area of gently rolling hills in a populous stretch of the republic’s industrial heartland that hugs the Dnepr River.

Soviet reference books do not list a population for Chernobyl, about 60 miles north of Kiev. Although the facility is called the Chernobyl plant, it is a few miles north of Chernobyl and the town of Pripyat grew up around the nuclear power complex to house those who work there.

The second most-populous of the 15 Soviet republics, the Ukraine has 50.8 million residents and Kiev is its largest city with a population of 2.4 million.

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Kiev is the Soviet Union’s third largest city after Moscow and Leningrad and is a major river port with large chemical and metallurgy industries.

Kiev also is one of Europe’s oldest cities, becoming a commercial center as early as the 5th century. The city was the capital of Kievan Russia in the 9th century.

The four-reactor Chernobyl complex is at the confluence of the Uzh and Pripyat rivers, which flow into the reservoir just north of Kiev.

The 50-mile-long reservoir empties out into the Dnepr River, which flows through Kiev and winds more than 600 miles through the Ukraine to the Black Sea.

The Dnepr fills several other reservoirs, presumably drinking water supplies, en route to the sea. It is flanked by industry and some of the republic’s largest cities, including Cherkassy, Dnepropetrovsk and Zaporozhye, are all downriver from the accident site.

Soviet government reports on the accident gave no indication whether drinking water sources were contaminated by radiation or what other health hazards may have been created by the reactor accident.

A radioactive cloud apparently spread northwest from the nuclear complex and Scandinavian countries reported higher-than-normal radioactivity.

Those reports indicated fallout from the accident would have traveled over the Byelorussian capital of Minsk and across the three Soviet republics along the Baltic Sea.

There was no immediate information on whether radiation levels were dangerous in those areas of the Soviet Union.

Scandinavian countries said the radiation levels detected there were higher than normal, but not dangerous.