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Scaling down the ''China Syndrome?''

The effects of a Class 9 nuclear accident - a so-called ''China Syndrome'' - have been drastically exaggerated, says a Boston engineering firm. The report by Stone & Webster Engineering Corporation, says the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's standard is outdated. The NRC estimates that in the first week after a worst-case nuclear accident as many as 11,000 fatalities might occur from radioactive particulates and another 2,500 from radioiodides. Using new US and West German studies and data from the accident at Three Mile Island, the new study predicts only 18 fatalities - all from particulates - using ''extremely conservative assumptions.'' ''Realistically, we'd expect no early fatalities from a China Syndrome,'' a Stone & Webster nuclear engineer says.

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The firm has proposed that the NRC adopt its findings as a new interim standard.m

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