Journalists met with Anatoly Chomchoev, who in 1988 served as chief of staff of the operational group of the special zone of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
In 1986, an explosion occurred at Chernobyl Reactor No. 4. Several hundred workers and firefighters tried to put out the fire that burned for 10 days. About 50 employees of the station died and hundreds of rescuers were injured. It is still difficult to determine the magnitude of the disaster and its impact on human health. 4 to 200 thousand people died from cancer which developed as a result of the received dose of radiation. Pripyat and the surrounding areas will be unsafe for people to live for several centuries.
the American television channel HBO released the Chernobyl mini-series about those events in May 2019 which received universal acclaim by critics and was nominated for many awards, including the Emmy. It’s interesting what the real heroes of those events think about the series.
Anatoly Chomchoev postponed watching the sensational series for a long time. “Everyone asked me my impression of the series so I had to watch it. I have problems with my eyes and hearing because of radiation so viewing took a long time. Of course, there are many inaccuracies, but this is a work of art, it is good for understanding the size of the disaster. Events are shown softer, it was much worse there though”, he says.
Journalists met with him at his home on the 46th kilometer of the Vilyui tract at the Kholod test site. “I live here now because of the Chernobyl accident,” he says. Gratitude for heroic work during the liquidation of the Chernobyl accident is hanging on the wall, most are signed by Boris Shcherbina.
“I had a position as Valery Legasov, I was the thirteenth chief of staff,” he says. Anatoly Chomchoev joined the liquidation two years after the accident.
In 1986, Anatoly Chomchoev worked in Yakutsk in the civil defense system of the Yakut Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. I heard about the accident on the radio, then read in the newspapers, watched the news stories on central television: “Like the whole country, I thought it was a simple accident."
He paid no attention to the Chernobyl tragedy until May 11, until he met with a third-grader who came from Kiev.
The girl at the beginning of May went to her grandmother for an anniversary, participated in the May Day demonstration and returned to Yakutsk in a couple of days. She was lethargic and felt constant weakness. Parents first went to the hospital but the doctors could not diagnose her. The girl’s father suggested that the cause of her ailments could be radiation and brought her to the headquarters of civil defense. There he was redirected to the Ministry of Health but still he was insisting on checking with a radiation hazard meter.
“I realized it was no small matter”
- At that time we did not have dosimetric devices that examine microdoses but the parents insisted and I asked the geologists for a dosimeter and invited a specialist. The first thing they checked was goiter. The device rolled over and then I realized that the Chernobyl was no small matter. I immediately called the Minister of Health Ivan Ivanovich Mestnikov and sent the girl to him where she was examined, and prescribed some treatment.
As a specialist I had to delve into this matter and I realized that that was the largest global catastrophe. And the more I studied this problem, the more clearly I saw that the liquidation is being conducted with violations.
From newspaper reports Chomchoev concluded that the decontamination work that had begun at the station was not carried out correctly. He sent letters to the Headquarters of the RSFSR and the USSR where he proposed his methods and ways to eliminate the accident at the station. Only in 1988 his methods were accepted.
In March 1988, he was invited to Chernobyl to work as an operational group staff chief of the “Shelter” special zone. He supervised the organizational and scientific work carried out at the station.
I coped with my task to reduce the effects of radiation on people
The task force lived in Chernobyl 18 kilometers from the accident zone. The highest level of radiation was in the fourth power unit. The headquarters was located in the third power unit.
Working day schedule: 6:00 a/m – wake up. 6:15 a.m. – blood check. 6:30 a.m. – breakfast. 7:00 a.m. – leaving for work. 7:30 – working day starts. 5:30 p.m. working day is over.
Chomchoev led a group of ten thousand people who were responsible for the decontamination work inside the nuclear power plant, including at the fourth power unit, where the accident occurred. The commanders planning meetings were held Inside the nuclear power plant. While there was a glider, the soldiers were standing outside and waited near the station for two hours, and during this time they were exposed to radiation. Seeing all this, Chomchoev ordered that the planning meeting should be held once a week in the deactivated zone in Chernobyl.
- My goal was to reduce the effects of radiation on humans. I think I coped with it. I insisted on a weekend for the soldiers. I also reduced the task force from 10 thousand to 2 thousand due to the mechanization of work. The operating time on the 5th and 6th blocks of the station was reduced.
I spent 2 months there. I was supposed to stay there for 60 days but on the 58th day I had changes in the blood. Therefore, I began to lead the headquarters from Chernobyl. There are many things to tell you about all that but let’s talk about the film.
The movie and the real Chernobyl
- You need to understand that “Chernobyl” is a feature film intended for a wide circle of world society. The work of the screenwriter and director is very professional. In my opinion, they made the film light. In fact, everything was much worse.
- The filmmakers showed the mistakes of not only the Chernobyl but of the entire nuclear energy industry as a whole. The use of nuclear power plants is fraught with danger and risk. Now we are creating safe mini-nuclear plants. These are the most complicated devices, at the moment we are working on the practical part. The British and Americans read our scientific developments. A total of more than a hundred people are working on the project on a voluntary basis. This is not of interest to the state yet, since we are creating small capacities. But I know that they will have the future, and not large nuclear power plants.
The series bloopers
- According to critics, there are some distortions in the movie. But it seems to me that on the contrary it adds artistic drama or something. Firstly, the liquidators drink vodka all the time in the movie but in fact there was a “dry law” in Chernobyl. Many times I met people who were in the early days of the accident - professors Velikhov, Wozniak, Ignatenko. They all said that no one drank vodka, for this they could get fired.
- The fact is that in 1957 there was a major accident near the city of Kyshtym, Chelyabinsk Region - the first nuclear disaster in the USSR. This myth appeared there - to remove radiation from a person, you need to drink alcohol. At the entrance to the nuclear power plant there was a barrel with diluted vodka and a mug chained. The fact that the filmmakers are familiar with this fact suggests that they have well studied the history of nuclear energy in the USSR.
- Secondly, in the series they smoke all the time. But at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant smoking inside the nuclear plant was strictly prohibited. Smoking in general is severely suppressed at nuclear facilities. Well, apparently, the Americans cannot imagine a Russian person without a cigarette like Sherlock Holmes without a pipe. I think that they wanted to show the Russian character.
- Thirdly, the miners work naked in the movie. But, of course, no one worked naked, this is the creators of the film metaphorically show the severity of the work.
- As for Academician Valery Legasov ... I arrived after he died. They talked a lot about him. In general, the biography of the real Legasov is different from the biography of the scientist from the series. He was not a specialist in reactors - he was engaged in physical chemistry. In the Legas film, this is a collective image of all the atomic scientists who worked there.
In 1993, in Belgium, at the UN level, I participated in a conference on radiation safety in Europe. The Russian delegation was represented by academician-meteorologist Yuri Antonovich Israel, 18 academicians and doctors of sciences, I alone was without a scientific degree but with the main report. This report has been included in the bibliography of Cambridge University.
- If we talk about interesting facts, they say that radiation is not noticeable. This is actually not true. When you go to a place with a high dose of radiation, you feel goosebumps running around your head. In Yakut they say "kuyahak kүүrer". This has not been written anywhere. Biologists and I began to study this, but soon abandoned it. Even from the blood from the nose you can understand what kind of radiation this is, with alpha radiation there is blood, and when gamma there isn’t. But the fact that radiation has no smell is true.
Of course, Chernobyl affected my health. I can hardly hear and see. I have an artificial lens. I spent almost a year in the hospital after working in Chernobyl Due to blood problems. Then there were problems with the lymph nodes and I had an operation on an outpatient basis. The operation was carried out by the country's chief oncologist according to my scheme. But that's another story.
Ten years ago my stomach problems started and I lost 25 kilograms. I was told that this was an exacerbation of gastritis but I realized that it was something else. Analyzes confirmed oncology. I began to treat myself with milk of a Yakut cow from Eveno-Bytantaysky ulus. Now I eat meat, I drink milk only Yakut cow milk and therefore I live here.
Of course, those events influenced my life, but I do not regret anything. My task in Chernobyl was to reduce the effects of radiation on humans, and I coped with it.