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Fire at Moscow nuclear research center

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A fire broke out at a Moscow nuclear research center on Sunday, but officials say there is no risk of a radiation leak. The facility, situated in the southwest of the city, houses a 60-year old, non-operational atomic reactor.

According to officials, the fire broke out in an are of the institute where there are no sources of radiation. All personnel was immediately evacuated, and there are no casualties, the statement said. Russia's nuclear agency spokesman said there were no open flames, only smoke emanating from an area housing power cables which were not connected to any nuclear materials. (rt.com)

The environmental group Greenpeace Russia expressed serious concern about the incident.

The fire was in a basement at the Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics in southwestern Moscow, said Sergei Vlasov, spokesman for the Moscow branch of the Emergencies Ministry. He said no casualties were reported.

Grey smoke rose above the institute, which is encircled by a wall, and an acrid smell filled the air. Some 30 emergency vehicles, including fire trucks and ambulances, stood inside and outside the main gate, witnesses said.

Sergei Novikov, spokesman for Russia's state nuclear agency Rosatom, said there were no open flames, only smoke that came from an area housing power cables and could not affect any nuclear materials at the institute.

"This case poses no threat to fissile materials," said Novikov, adding that firefighters were pumping foam into the affected area. He said the institute's heavy-water research reactor was no longer operational.

A Greenpeace Russia official said the incident was potentially very dangerous.

"This is extremely dangerous … this should not have happened at all, but as long as it did, it shows there has been a major failure in their operations," said Ivan Blokov, campaign director at Greenpeace Russia.

"What we have here is a large amount of radioactive substance right in the center of Moscow and even if a minor quantity leaks, it would pose a serious problem," he said.

Russian news agencies issued conflicting reports.

Interfax cited a police source as saying fire brigades were denied access to the facility for "a long time" before being allowed in.

Vlasov said he could not confirm the report, but said the fire had not been extinguished as of 2:45 p.m. (1045 GMT). State-run RIA reported earlier that the fire had already been put out. (HuffingtonPost via Reuters)

Featured image credit: UbAlert.com

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