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IAEA Confirms "Serious Incident" at Chernobyl Last November

By Ron Loggans

Vienna, March 8 (RFE/RL) - The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed what the agency classifies as a "serious incident" at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant last year. The "incident" is not classified as an "accident," but it did result in serious contamination in a part of the power plant, and a worker was dangerously exposed.

The IAEA, a Vienna-based, United Nations monitoring agency, said the incident occurred as a spent fuel rod was being replaced, and began leaking. The contamination was, at first, not detected - and went undetected until a worker in the reactor building was found to have been exposed to almost a year's maximum radiation dose in just minutes. IAEA spokesman Hans Frederick Myer ttold RFE/RL that the worker is well, and being closely monitored.

A first report yesterday by Ukraine's "Unian" news agency said the incident was not reported until state inspectors later detected the serious contamination in the reactor building. The report said the contamination, which occured in mid-November, was not cleared up until December 1995.