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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Strikers Dissuaded at Nuclear Plant

ST. PETERSBURG -- Hundreds of angry employees who had threatened to occupy a reactor at the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant and join a hunger strike backed down Friday after threats and promises from the management.


The original 10 hunger strikers, however, remained on strike, some at their posts, others being cared for at union offices and two hospitalized.


The decision not to strike came in response to a carrot-and-stick policy from management, in which the plant's leadership threatened police intervention and finally promised some of the back pay the workers were demanding.


Worker's union head Nikolai Vivsyany said management dispersed the 382 workers who threatened to occupy the plant's No. 4 reactor by saying it would summon police and also pay 18 billion rubles ($3.3 million) of its 25 billion ruble paycheck debt by Friday.


Vivsyany said Friday, however, that the workers of the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant, or LAES, had yet to see any of the money and did not expect they would.


"This was a last minute effort to avoid a plant shutdown," he said. "I'm sure we won't see any of this money." He said the workers' union had appealed to Gosatomnadzor, Russia's nuclear regulatory agency, to shut down the plant until workers were fully paid nearly five months of back wages.


The worker's union headquarters at LAES has for the past week been the site of a hunger strike by reactor engineers, who, despite complaining of dizziness and fatigue, continue to work their shifts at reactor controls.


Seven of the engineers have been fasting since Nov. 29 and were joined by three more on Dec. 3. They said they will continue to work their shifts and fast until the plant's 7,500 workers are paid.


Yury Khripunov, a spokesman for Gosatomnadzor, said in a telephone interview Monday that his organization "is concerned by the situation at LAES," and said it would decide by Dec.18 whether to shut the plant down.


A closure would mean energy losses for the entire Leningrad Blast, including St. Petersburg, as well as residents of the southern coast of Finland, Khripunov said, though he could not estimate the full extent of the blackout.