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Russian nuclear plant blast kills 1

Russian nuclear plant blast kills 1

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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia - An explosion at a Russian nuclear power plant complex killed one worker and badly hurt two others, but Russia's nuclear agency said Friday no reactors were affected.

The Rosenergoatom agency said radiation levels remained normal as the reactor in that part of the Leningrad nuclear plant was undergoing repairs and was not in operation. But Thursday's blast threw a spotlight on what environmentalists called uncontrolled operations at Russian nuclear sites.

The blast happened in a smelter in the closed nuclear town of Sosnovy Bor, 50 miles west of the northern city of St. Petersburg. The smelter is operated by Ekomet-S, which reprocesses scrap metal.

"The enterprise ... functions illegally because there was no mandatory [state] environmental impact assessment on its construction," Dmitry Artamonov, head of the St. Petersburg branch of Greenpeace, told The Associated Press.

He said Greenpeace had complained of Ekomet-S to the Sosnovy Bor prosecutors' office but it took no action.

Rosenergoatom said the smelter was on the grounds of the second of four units, or reactors. Plant spokesman Sergei Averyanov said it was about a half-mile from the reactor.

Oleg Bodrov, a physicist who heads the Green World ecological group in Sosnovy Bor, said the reactor was only about 700 yards from the smelter, which is about50 yards from a liquid radioactive waste pond.

A 33-year-old worker died of his injuries Friday morning, and two others were injured, Yuri Lameko, chief doctor of the Sosnovy Bor hospital, told the AP.

"There were no violations of safety levels and operating conditions of the energy units of the Leningrad nuclear plant," Rosenergoatom said in a statement.

The second unit was shut down for planned major repairs in July, it said.

Averyanov said the blast caused molten metal to spurt out of the smelter. Usually Ekomet-S reprocesses scrap with low levels of radioactivity, but Thursday the metal was clear of radiation, Averyanov said.

He blamed the blast on violations of technical and production rules.

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