The story of the Chernobyl disaster is littered with names and faces of those who played some part. Some survived, others died because of the events of that Saturday morning. No matter their roles anyone who played even the smallest part in the aftermath of the explosion deserves to be recognised for their efforts. What follows is a list of the people most commonly connected with the disaster, and some perhaps less well known. The list will be added to whenever I come across someone who I think should appear.
Alexandr Akimiov(b. 06/05/53; d. 10/05/86) - Shift controller on the morning of the explosion. It was his perfectly logical decision to press the AZ (SCRAM) button which triggered the fateful explosion. Alexandr received a fatal dose of radiation having spent several hours opening feedwater valves in a futile attempt to cool an already destroyed reactor. Akimov died on the 10th of May, aged 33. Until his last breath he insisted he'd done nothing wrong.
Leonid Toptunov(b. 16/08/60; d. 14/05/86)- Reactor operator on the morning of the explosion. It was Leonid's job to insert and remove the control rods in and out of the reactor. Both he and Akimov were of the opinion that the test should be cancelled and the reactor shutdown. However, they were overruled and the test continued. Along with Akimov, Leonid Toptunov spent several, deadly radiation filled hours in an attempt to cool the destroyed reactor. Leonid survived his shift leader by four days, dying at the age of only 25 on the 14th of May.
Anatoly Dyatlov(b. 03/03/31; d. 13/12/95)- Deputy Chief Engineer at the plant. Was in the control room on the morning of the explosion to take charge of the test. Despite Alexander Akimov being the shift leader, it was Dyatlov who had the final word that morning. Along with Victor Brukhanov and Chief Engineer Nikolai Fomin, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for "criminal mismanagement of potentially explosive enterprises". Despite receiving a seemingly lethal does of radiation during the disaster, he survived until 1995 when he died of heart failure.
Viktor Brukhanov - The plant manager arrived on site at 2:30am. Akimov reported a serious radiation incident, fires in the process of being extinguished, and a second emergency water pump being readied to cool what they believed to be a damaged, but still intact reactor. Due to limitations of available instruments, they seriously underestimated the radiation levels. At 3:00 am, Bryukhanov called Maryin, the deputy secretary for the nuclear power industry, reporting Akimov's version of the situation, including the vastly underestimated radiation readings. Maryin sent the message further up the chain of command, finally reaching Gorbachev and other members of the Politburo. At 4:00 am, Moscow ordered feeding of water to the reactor - a reactor which was already well and truly destroyed. Brukhanov was sentenced to 10 years for his part in the disaster. (Despite a lot of searching, I can't confirm whether Viktor is still alive)
Nikolai Fomin - The plant's Chief engineer arrived in the Block 4 control room at 4:30am. Akimov reported an intact reactor and an explosion of the emergency water feed tank. Fomin kept pressing the staff to feed water to the reactor and transferred more people to Unit 4 to replace those being disabled by radiation. After Dyatlov left, Fomin ordered Sitnikov, his replacement, to climb to the roof of Unit C and survey the reactor; Sitnikov obeyed and received a fatal radiation dose. At 10:00 am Sitnikov returned and reported to Fomin and Bryukhanov that the reactor was destroyed. The managers refused to believe him and ordered continued feeding of water into the reactor. The water, however, flowed through the severed pipes into the lower levels of the plant, carrying radioactive debris and causing short circuits in the cableways common to all four blocks. Later, before trial Fomin had a mental breakdown and tried to kill himself. He had broken his glasses and slit his wrists with the shards, but his life was saved and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. (As with his boss, Viktor Brukhanov, I haven't been able to establish whether Nikolai is still alive. If I find out I'll update this page)
Vladimir Pravik(b. 13/06/62; d. 11/05/86) - Chief of the Plant's fire crew on duty at the time of the explosion. Other crews were called from Pripyat, Ivankov and Poliske, but it was Pravik and his men from the plant who were first on the scene. Their job was clear, to put out the fires that were burning around reactor 4. The area was of course flooded with radiation and by climbing onto surrounding rooftops they became even more exposed to what was escaping from the reactor core. Not surprisingly these men who were on the front line in the Battle of Chernobyl suffered more than most. However, they didn't shirk their duties and many paid for that with their lives, including Vladimir who died on the 11th of May, aged only 23.
Valery Legasov(b. 01/09/36; d. 27/04/88) - One of the lead scientific members of the government commission set up to investigate the disaster. Valery presented the Soviet Union's official report on the disaster at a special meeting of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) in Vienna. Valery was more open and forthright with his opinions on the disaster than most of his Soviet colleagues were comfortable with. Legasov was slowly shunned by the establishment and overlooked for positions and honours he could have expected to receive. He ended up in a spiral of guilt and depression over his and his countries role in what happened. Almost two years to the day after the disaster, Valery Legasov took his own life. A shocking waste of a brilliant mind.
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