12 Aug 2010

New fire near Russian nuclear research centre

8:55 am on 12 August 2010

A new wildfire has broken out near a major nuclear research centre in Russia.

A withdrawal of firefighters and soldiers around Sarov, a town 500km east of Moscow, which houses the country's main nuclear research facility, has been stopped.

The plant's director asked for the withdrawal to be stopped because of the renewed danger.

The town is closed to foreigners.

Meanwhile, concerns are mounting over the environment in the Bryansk region bordering Ukraine and Belarus, where the soil is still contaminated by the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

There are fears that wind or fire could whip up radioactive particles in the soil.

Officials say there is no cause for panic.

Although the total area ablaze in central Russia has fallen by half since Tuesday, the emergencies ministry says hundreds of wildfires are still burning.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin took to the air on Tuesday in a water bombing jet to douse fires in one of the worst regions.

The BBC reports some 165,000 firefighters and 39 aircraft are battling the blazes.

Moscow had clear skies on Wednesday after rains helped cleanse the air after a week of heavy smog.