MOSCOW – A state-owned chemical company on the outskirts of the Chechen capital had “catastrophic” radiation levels tens of thousands of times greater than normal, Chechnya’s top prosecutor said Friday.
Chechen Prosecutor Valery Kuznetsov said a criminal investigation had been opened into the improper storage of radioactive materials at the Grozny Chemical Factory after tests found the unusually high radiation levels.
Calling it a “catastrophic radioactivity situation,” the prosecutor said as many as 29 uncontrolled radioactive elements were emitting radiation at the plant, located in Grozny’s southwestern outskirts not far from homes and a bus station.
Radiation levels at one storage center at the plant, which is owned by the Chechen Oil and Chemical Industry complex, exceed norms by 58,000 times, the Russian Prosecutor General’s office said in a statement issued late Thursday. Rossiya state television reported, without citing any source, that that is about half the level at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant after the 1986 explosion.
Vladimir Slivyak, of the Ecodefense environmental group in Moscow, said being near such high radiation for more than a few minutes could be fatal for a person.
He said another serious danger was the risk that terrorists could seize the improperly stored materials and turn them into a dirty bomb — an explosive device that spreads radioactive materials over wide area.
Chechnya has seen two separatist wars in the past decade and has been plagued by terrorist attacks, including numerous bombings.
NTV television reported that many of the plant’s premises were badly damaged in 1999 when federal forces bombed Grozny, and the plant remains largely unguarded.