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Chernobyl unaffected by roof collapse

KIEV — Ukrainian officials sought Wednesday to reassure the public that radiation levels were unaffected at Chernobyl and there was no safety threat after a partial roof collapse at the exploded nuclear power plant.

A 6,500-square-foot section of the roof collapsed Tuesday, said Maya Rudenko, a spokeswoman for the plant. The collapse was caused by heavy snowfall, emergency authorities said.

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Rudenko said the affected area is about 165 feet away from the ‘‘sarcophagus,’’ a shelter built to contain radiation emanating from the exploded reactor.

The April 26, 1986, accident in the then-Soviet republic of Ukraine sent a cloud of radioactive fallout over much of Europe and forced the evacuation of about 115,000 people. A 19-mile area directly around the plant remains largely off-limits.

A giant arch-shaped confinement is being constructed over the old sarcophagus. The construction of the shelter was not affected, said Anton Usov, spokesman for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which runs the $2 billion project cosponsored by the bank and international donors.

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