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Concerns Over Radioactive Pollution In Chechnya

The radiation levels were described as "catastrophic" (RFE/RL) 16 December 2005 -- The chief prosecutor in Russia's Northern Caucasus republic of Chechnya today said authorities are concerned the radioactive source discovered recently at a Grozny chemical plant may pose a threat to local populations.

In comments broadcast on Russia's ORT public television, Valerii Kuznetsov blamed the plant's management for not taking appropriate measures to either eliminate or isolate the source of the pollution.

The Russian Prosecutor-General's Office issued a statement yesterday saying up to 29 "uncontrolled radioactive elements" had been discovered in a workshop at the Chechenneftekhimprom production facility. The statement described radioactivity there as "catastrophic," saying it was 58,000 times higher than admissible levels.

The source of the pollution has been identified as an isotope known as Cobalt-60.

The prosecutor's office in Chechnya has opened a criminal investigation.