The 216th radio call sign: Chernobyl suicide crew
The 216th radio call sign: Chernobyl suicide crew

“… 34 years have passed since the Chernobyl disaster. This fall, 75 years will pass since the end of World War II… Both tragedies destroyed the human material of the country very selectively, intensively incubating and concentrating grayness on the surface … This is especially evident now, years later …. ” One of the liquidators of the consequences of the Chernobyl accident, Petr Vasilyevich Shvydko writes. He is a candidate of technical sciences, laureate of the State Prize of Ukraine in the field of science and technology. Moreover, he is the author of 55 inventions, corresponding member of the Academy of Mining Sciences of Ukraine.

Based on the materials of P.V. Shvydko:

“… Today, it is terrifying and insulting for me. I am the son of a front-line soldier, a radio operator of a heavy bomber, who lived only 63 years old. He suffered from a dozen duralumin fragments in the body, which were moving all the time. Although I was still a child, I remember well the time when markets, approaches to cinemas and stadiums were full of legless, armless winners glorified by the Soviet international. They played for money with their medals in the “rhytm” and moved with a crash on the boards.

I remembered those Heroes from the age of three. We were the same height, and it was fun with them, although they sometimes lived just on the street. However, they rather survived. The families were already tired of the heroes, and the extra mouth in those years was critical. When I went to school in 1954, there were already half of them. By the beginning of the 60s, there were no real and obvious War Heroes at all!

My father has never went to the holiday parade. He did not participate in the magnificent celebrations on the occasion of Victory Day. Once, on the eve of the next May 9, I had a serious conversation with him. He told me with bitterness in his eyes: “Remember, today, there are not real front-line soldiers in formation at the Parade. The real front-line soldiers are in pain on this day. They have no time for the celebration. Bowing his head to the tens of millions of those who died in this war, is unreasonable and ashamed to rejoice in victory today. And I am especially ashamed of the dying war invalids. Unfortunately, they live in hunger, and not in those standards of life that they saw in a conquered and partially defeated Europe.”

The same story with the so-called Soviet-international debt – the Afghan war. The country was distributing its international debts with corpses and wounds. About 15,000 real heroes remained in the Panjshir Gorge, in the province of Badakhshan, in Kabul, Jalalabad, Mazar-i-Sharif and so on.

Three times as many returned from the Afghan war disabled – shell-shocked, wounded, infected with hepatitis or typhoid fever.

Who gave me the right to write so about “holy and secret”?

I took this right myself, paying tribute to the memory of my disabled father. Also, watching the “metal consumption of heavy post-war tunics”, when, years later, you see medals handed out simply for the fact that you survived. I earned this right myself. I observed by analogy the annual growth of “metal-consuming jackets” among the so-called “Chernobyl pros”, about which I really have every right to judge myself, due to one simple circumstance:

We got out of the Chernobyl hell. We have worked in the epicenter of the accident for a total of over 1500 hours. Today it’s hard to believe, but my bones survived the radiation – over 100 roentgens.

My Chernobyl: how it really was….

… On May 10, 1986, I was summoned to the State Committee for Inventions of the USSR. There, I “got a slap on the head” for the fact that I, as the author of a method for large-scale disposal of radioactive waste, did not report my unique technical solution to the Government Commission on Elimination of the Consequences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident. According to the chairman of the State Committee for Inventions, this was the only invention at that time. Large-capacity was the hallmark of this. There were a lot of reasons for “not showing up”.

There was a whole folder with documents from the All-Union Research Institute on the shelf. “Smart metropolitan professors” stated the reason for the refusal to implement my technologies. “… The nonsense and irrelevance of the problem. What, they say, can we carry your tankers? Marmalade, or what? “

As they say, everything has its time, and the hour has struck…

On the same day, May 10, 1986, I was promptly given a positive decision for the invention. A day later, I was already in Kiev. I reported on all the advantages of my invention at the Scientific Council of the Geological Institute. In particular, I highlighted the issue of large-tonnage burial of the “red forest”. The authorities supported the idea. Thus, fate brought me together with the problems of the epicenter of the Chernobyl disaster and with the famous team of “Chernobyl suicide crew” under the leadership of the legendary Yuri Nikolayevich Samoylenko.

I was told openly that Samoilenko’s headquarters, unlike others, was a team of volunteers, every single one. The goal of Samoilenko’s headquarters was to minimize the collective radiation dose of the liquidators as much as possible. He used robotics and the development of optimal technologies for decontamination of roofs 24 meters wide and 72 meters long between the 3-rd and 4-th ChNPP power units. I was assigned the 216th radio call sign. The chief of staff Yuri Nikolaevich Samoilenko was the 201st.

Every day, for 12 hours, I came up with, developed, designed, experimented, invented and directly took part in eliminating the consequences of the accident. Every day, after work, for 5-10 hours, I was free of charge to install the Demag crane in the part of attachments.

There was the crane, installed 300 meters from the destroyed 4 power unit of the ChNPP in the clearing of the “red forest”. I and my colleagues worked hard. We took a break only when our legs gave way, and there was no strength to resist them.

During my stay in the risk zone, from May 1 to November 1986, I managed to make a lot of inventions. I consider the most important for myself to be decontamination devices operating with the energy of rocket fuel and high-tech telecommunication monitor cables that saved the lives of hundreds of liquidators, working on decontamination of the roofs and premises of the Chernobyl NPP.

… On September 11, 1986, I was working on the roof of the third power unit. I witnessed how the MI-8 helicopter hovered over the corner of the power unit. The helicopter’s halyard caught several turns on the lightning rod … What to do? The elevation is 57 meters. Moreover, there is a cliff at the bottom – a platform for the sludge of concrete mixers and ABK-2. Breaking off my nails, I unrolled a very hard halyard. A “multi-ton blotter” with pieces of graphite and irradiated nuclear fuel adhered to it was attached at the end of halyard. I hovered over an abyss of 57 m seven times.

I had 70 roentgens / hour under my feet, holding on to the lightning rod with one hand, and unwinding the halyard with the other. The helicopter pilots could not see the lightning rod. It has a project to a point from above and accidentally wound a halyard around it. At that time, we avoided the tragedy. However, I was reprimanded because I got into someone else’s work and earned a “someone else’s” dose of radioactive load … It was a shame, realizing that at that moment, there were no “helicopter rescuers” at the station anyway.

I took part in cutting down soft roof spots on the auxiliary systems of the reactor compartment. It was in those places where the radiation power was more than 200 r / h. Radiation spots on the roof in more than 200 r / h did not make it possible to operate the UPAK crane. This was necessary in preparation for the launch of the third power unit.

I personally developed and implemented unmanned decontamination of the roofs of the premises for joint operation of the third and fourth power units using mine scraper winches. I am sincerely proud of them! The implementation involved volunteer miners from the mines of Kryvbas, three teams of 6 people each. Thanks to my invention, each of them worked alone. It was instead of 200 people cutting down the radioactive soft roof by hand.

A day or two without radiation – depression …

You can list dozens of my projects. They were implemented as part of the liquidation of the consequences of the Chernobyl accident. I was directly involved in almost all of them. I personally detached the hydro monitor from the helicopter halyard on the roof of zone “K”. It connected the power cable and control connectors. I attached the hydro monitor with Indian fire hoses. Going to zone “K” four times, climbing onto a jet monitor, where I tried to connect a connector at a distance of two meters from a piece of a nuclear assembly, which had to solder into the soft roof on the night of April 26-27 by dozens of fuel rods, which, like snakes, stuck out of a zirconium pipe. Then, for several weeks, there was a strong intoxicating smell of ozone in my nasopharynx.

By the way, being 5 times a day on the roof of “L”, “M” or “N”, I do not longer wonder the “own arbitrariness of heroism”. After having received over 100 X-rays, I claim that I have developed a powerful craving for fithy places with ultra-high levels of radiation. If I was day or two without radiation, depression occured… My colleagues admitted this later.

As a result, the summary extract from the book of my exits and stay in the 3rd danger zone, in the epicenter of the accident, exceeded 1500 hours. These are zones of powerful irradiation. A reservist could enter only once there, one exit in a lifetime. The residence time was measured in minutes. The emergency dose received per single exit was limited to 25 rem. Today, it sounds like a sentence.

In 1986, I got 12 certificates, including two from the Government Commission. And only much later, on the 20th anniversary of the accident, I got the Order for Courage, III degree. It would have been normal without devaluation in time. But I remember three submissions to the institute. I filled on behalf of the Government Commission in 1986, for important awards and more timely ones. Then, they sank into the abyss of the nomenclature attitude towards the non-partisan inventor. So, what if the bones are permeated with strontium, and the total Chernobyl experience is 4 years and 7 months. There is no party membership card – there is no reason to compete for titles and other regalia.

Two years later, having formulated the signs of democratic centralism at the party committee, I miraculously became a candidate for membership in the CPSU. And yet, after 900 days, I myself handed over my party card to the party organizer of the experimental association “Spetsatom”. I realized that only those who cannot support themselves go to the party.

On October 1, 1986, I was among twelve people of honor escort of colleagues. We climbed through the ventilation pipe on an honorable mission. Our mission was raising the red flag on the occasion of the end of the first stage of decontamination. By that time, more than 70% of the highly active fragments of the exploded RBMK nuclear reactor had been manually dropped from the roofs.

Just think. Volunteers-suicide bombers manually dumped highly active graphite at one of the best nuclear power plants in the country, pompously bearing the name of Lenin himself. The wind above their heads loudly swayed the logo torn off by the explosion. “The Chernobyl nuclear power plant named after Lenin works for communism”. How symbolic it is.

Why were sacrifices needed?

I believe that human casualties and material resources spent on decontamination and launching of the ChNPP after the accident do not correlate with the subsequent closure of the energy generation of the ChNPP itself. If the design of the RBMK-1000 reactor is really ineffective, then it is another matter. But in this case, it is necessary to stop, first of all, the Smolensk NPP.

Because its three RBMK-1000 power units are similar to those in Chernobyl. Moreover, they stand on the banks of the Desna River, without a cooling pond. The same situation was at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. There is discharge of water of the secondary circuit directly into the Desna River. It is into the main water intake of Kiev, Chernigov and a number of other cities. No one talks about this either on the Kiev hills or on the Brussels get-togethers in Europe. This means that the matter is not only in the unreliability of the design of the RBMK-1000 reactor. It is in something else…

What was the goal of the authorities, eliminating the consequences of the accident and thereby irradiating a colossal number of Ukrainians and seconded guys from fraternal republics in excess of the norm?

Why, when the decontamination of buildings, structures, territory, machines and mechanisms, reactor, power and other capacities began to comply with international sanitary standards, they took out of operation the updated and modernized station? However, the ChNPP, after a serious modernization, could annually replenish the state budget at the most modest prices up to $5 billion a year.

It is also obvious that 3,000 km² of Ukrainian lands have been withdrawn from crop rotation, hayfields, cattle breeding, hunting and fishing almost forever! Does anyone know what is really happening with this once fertile land now? Does anyone ask a question: why are huge forests in the Chernobyl exclusion zone so regularly burned out? Every year we see horrifying fragments of the fires in the Chernobyl zone. What is this: an accident, negligence, irresponsibility, or is it just another terrorist attack? It got sick. Everything written was very hard-won and very sincere… Time will judge, as they say …”