United Press International

December 06, 2000

KIEV, Ukraine, Dec. 6 (UPI) — The last working reactor at Ukraine’s infamous Chernobyl nuclear power plant was shut down Wednesday because of a steam leak, only nine days ahead of the plant’s final closure.

The number 3 reactor, which still produces a significant amount of power for the energy-starved country, was shut down by a safety system as a precaution when steam burst from a pipe of the central cooling system.

Engineers at Chernobyl hoped to locate the leak and restart the reactor even if it is for a few more days.

The reactor shutdown was the second in two weeks. A cold snap snapped power lines last week and caused them to short circuit, triggering an automatic shutdown at the plant.

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, who has been under intense pressure from international agencies over the danger posed by the unstable Chernobyl reactor, has agreed to shut down the plant for good on Dec. 15.

Chernobyl was the site of the world’s worst civil nuclear disaster in 1986, when a reactor exploded, polluting much of Europe with radioactive particles.

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