MOSCOW, FEB. 10 -- Nearly two years after the nuclear accident at Chernobyl, the Soviet Union is still suffering from radiation phobia, the government newspaper Izvestia said today.
Despite official assurances that conditions in the Chernobyl area of the Ukraine are back to normal, the widespread fear of radioactivity persists, the newspaper said. An Izvestia reporter who visited a medical center in the Ukraine said he had found that doctors there are spending more time trying to dispel irrational fears than on treating the effects of radiation.
He said many patients were undergoing regular checkups, which showed no alarming signs, but they refused to believe the results.
The Izvestia report came after the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda reported that public protests had forced a halt in construction of a nuclear plant in the Krasnodar region.
Physicist Andrei Sakharov joined the debate, proposing that future nuclear reactors be built underground to prevent radiation leakage in case of an accident. Writing in the weekly Moscow News, he said that putting reactors several dozen yards below the surface would increase costs by 20 percent, but he said that that would be far less than the cost of a nuclear accident.
Komsomolskaya Pravda called for an expanded program of education in an effort to persuade people that nuclear power is not intrinsically dangerous. "It must be known to everyone that Chernobyl is not the symbol of technical progress" but "a tragedy of irresponsibility."