Mechanical engineer Oleksiy Ananenko, known to the public as the Chernobyl diver who saved the world, spoke about his work, the tragedy, and life after it, speaking from his home in Kiev on Wednesday.
«I don’t remember being afraid. It was usual work for me,» said Ananenko, recalling the day when he was ordered to go into the plant and open the sluice gates alongside his colleagues — senior... Еще engineer Valeri Bespalov and shift supervisor Boris Baranov. None of the three were qualified divers.
«So I had my lunch, and after that I took a car with others to work. When we came there, I saw that these huge constructions, not smoke stacks, but these constructions which direct water to the places where it is needed, they were already on the ground destroyed. Even though they were huge. And I remember looking at them. Then I turned away because I understood that high doses of radiation might be coming from there. Then we got to work,» said Oleksiy.
The man denies reports that he volunteered to go down the plant, saying: «They called me and said that I need to dive there and make sure that the water down there in those huge reservoirs is removed.»
On Wednesday, 33 years after the tragedy, Ananenko received the highest state award for his heroic act. «I don’t remember anyone applauding to me [after I did my job]. That never happened,» Oleksiy said, replying to a question on whether he received any recognition for his job in Chernobyl as it was shown in the acclaimed HBO series.
A series of explosions and subsequent fire at Chernobyl's fourth reactor on April 26, 1986 released radioactive fallout which dispersed over nearby countries. More than 8 million people were exposed to elevated levels of radiation as a result. To date, Chernobyl is still thought to be the worst civil nuclear accident in human history. The immediate death toll from the incident itself numbered 31, while thousands have since suffered radiation-related illnesses such as cancer and infant deformities.
A new confinement dome for the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant was installed on Wednesday. Made of steel and polycarbonate inner panels, it is the largest moveable land-based structure in the world, weighing over 36,000 tonnes and costing €1.5 billion.