28.07.2020

What Academician Aleksandrov was wrong about

Anatoly Petrovich Alexandrov

Academician Anatoly Petrovich Aleksandrov ... Some call him a genius - he was a pioneer in the most diverse areas of modern physics.  The awards speak for themselves: three times Hero of Socialist Labor, nine Orders of Lenin, four times State and Lenin Prize laureate, hundreds of orders and medals.  Others call him ... an evil genius - for the fact that he developed nuclear reactors, including the RBMK, which was built at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986..


Little is known about the childhood and adolescence of Anatoly Alexandrov.  He was born on February 13, 1903 in the small town of Tarashcha, in the Kiev region.  His father taught at a local school, so Anatoly studied well.  Then he went to the college. There is information that after the revolution, the young man worked as an electrician and did not think at all about a scientific career.
At the insistence of his father, Anatoly passed the documents to the correspondence department of Kiev University, continuing to work at the plant.  After graduation, he was assigned to the position of a teacher in a rural school in the Kiev region.  Two years later, Aleksandrov was transferred as a physics and chemistry teacher to the Kiev Labor School No. 79.  At the same time, in his free time from the main work, he begins to independently engage in science.  At that time, the Roentgen Institute was working in Kiev - one of the best in the country - and the future academician plunged into research life.  In 1929 - at the age of 26 - Aleksandrov published his first scientific work.  Moreover, the article did not go unnoticed - the famous academician Ioffe drew attention to the young scientist.  Anatoly Petrovich was invited to work in Leningrad, at the Physics and Technology Institute.


Aleksandrov took up research in the field of dielectric strength of dielectrics, thanks to which the statistical theory of brittle strength was later put forward.  In the mid-30s, the scientist paid much attention to a completely new field of science for that time - the physics of polymers.  The study of the mechanical and electrical properties of synthetic polymers, which began to be quickly applied in technology, was of not only scientific but also practical interest.  Thanks to these studies, new unique materials have been created - frost-resistant rubbers based on domestic synthetic rubber, polystyrene.
The wave of repressions also affected Anatoly Petrovich - albeit indirectly.  The central press "stigmatized" his Teacher - Academician Abram Fedorovich Ioffe.  What this could mean is probably clear to everyone ... One of the few who spoke out in defense of the "Chief Academician" (as Vladimir Vysotsky called him) was Aleksandrov.  And in those years it was no laughing matter to speak up in defense of the disgraced scientist, even the actual founder of Russian physics: they could be accused of collusion or of political myopia.  It was all the more dangerous for scientists: at any moment, the "competent departments" could declare your work pseudo-scientific, and the conclusions - aimed at undermining the socialist system.  But, apparently, Alexandrov could not remain silent either.  The transcript of his speech took up sixteen typewritten pages.  And - oddly enough - Ioffe was left alone.


In 1941, Aleksandrov defended his doctoral dissertation.  But scientific research was interrupted by war.  The young professor also fell under the call, but not on the front line ... Aleksandrov was instructed to lead the work on protecting ships from magnetic mines. It was going well – soon Soviet fleet was not afraid of magnetic mines.  None of the ships of the Soviet Navy was blown up by such a mine!  Aleksandrov was nicknamed "Marine Academician" (although he was only a professor).  In 1942, Anatoly Petrovich was awarded the Stalin Prize, and at the end of the war - the Order of Lenin and the Order of the Red Banner of Labor.
However, the "marine academician" was also engaged in serious science at that time.  In 1943, a young doctor of sciences on behalf of Kurchatov plunged into research in atomic physics.  Little was reported about specific results, but, most likely, the work went well - after three years Aleksandrov was appointed director of the Institute of Physical Problems of the USSR Academy of Sciences.  In those years, such an appointment could take place only by agreement with the top management.


The story of Aleksandrov's appointment to the post of director immediately became overgrown with rumors and legends.  According to the most plausible version, events developed something like this.  After the war, academician Pyotr Kapitsa had a fight with the head of the all-powerful NKVD Lavrenty Beria.  Kapitsa wrote a harsh letter to Stalin.  The "Father of All Nations" still needed Kapitsa, and the scientist remained alive.  True, he was removed from scientific work and allowed to live in a dacha near Moscow.  Stalin and Beria decided to appoint ... Aleksandrov to the post of director of the institute.  This greatly depressed Anatoly Petrovich, because he did not want to be a strikebreaker.


Finally, it was time to receive an appointment, and Alexandrov was summoned to an appointment with Beria.  Rumor has it that Anatoly Petrovich decided to take a sip of vodka for courage, and even sprinkled himself a little with this "cologne".  In this form and came to the chief of the NKVD.  Lavrenty Pavlovich, not paying attention to the "flavor" emanating from the scientist, invited him to head the institute.  Aleksandrov began to say that, his candidacy was unsuccessful, since he drinks and cannot vouch for himself.  Beria, handing over the order signed by Stalin, replied: they say, we know everything, citizen Alexandrov - even how you poured vodka on yourself and rinsed your mouth with it, so don't play a comedy here, go and work.
Having learned that there would be two guards with the family at all times, the scientist's wife, Marianna Aleksandrovna, exclaimed: "How can you live like this? Let's turn on the gas and that's it."  Anatoly Petrovich persuaded her to wait.


As the new director of the institute, Aleksandrov resumed work on the thermal diffusion separation of uranium isotopes.  In addition, the institute was instructed to develop a technology for the separation of deuterium, a heavy isotope of hydrogen.  Aleksandrov and Kurchatov are developing the foundations for the development of all the main directions of domestic reactor building.  Anatoly Petrovich directs and organizes the joint work of physicists, designers, technologists.


One of his subordinates recalls: “He knew how to create an atmosphere of benevolence and creativity, supported talents, was able to captivate people with a new business. He was an interesting person, inexhaustible for inventions ... So you see AP's smile, eyes sparkling with inner laughter.  was easy to communicate, its simplicity was natural, came from an internal culture, expressed in a respectful attitude towards people. "
Soon Aleksandrov was transferred to work at the Institute of Atomic Energy as deputy director.  It would seem that he was demoted: he was a director - he became a deputy.  But that’s not true: the post of the second person in the "atomic" institute was much more "responsible".  Moreover, Aleksandrov actually became Kurchatov's right hand.


Having headed the Institute of Atomic Energy after Kurchatov's death in 1960, Aleksandrov was closely engaged in the development and construction of nuclear reactors for various purposes.  Under his leadership, the largest power reactors, which today operate at all operating nuclear power plants of the former USSR, and small research reactors built in many cities of "one-sixth of the land", and industrial reactors for the production of strategic nuclear materials, and reactors for work in space ... But, perhaps, Anatoly Petrovich himself most of all loved nuclear power plants for the navy - both for combat ships (nuclear submarines) and for those with a purely peaceful purpose (nuclear icebreakers and lighter carriers).
An old, yellowed photograph ... It depicts two happy, smiling people - Anatoly Petrovich Alexandrov and Vice-Admiral Pavel Grigorievich Kotov.  On the back of the photo there is an inscription: "We are in a good mood. Steam is given on a boat without coal and fuel oil."  It was April 17, 1958 ...
Pavel Grigorievich Kotov recalls: "July 1, 1958 is the day of raising the Naval flag on the first nuclear submarine ... The Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, Admiral of the USSR Fleet Gorshkov and the director of the plant Yegorov, who at the end of his speech, noting on the creation of the first nuclear submarine, on behalf of the plant's staff, presented him with the factory Red Flag of the submarine. We all saw with what excitement Anatoly Petrovich accepted and kissed the Flag and said with tears in his eyes: “This is the best gift in my life for me.  When I die, I will order my family to put this flag in my coffin. "


In April 1986, as you know, the RBMK reactor, a reactor developed at the Aleksandrov Institute, exploded at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.  Anatoly Petrovich was then 83. In early May, his wife died - and the scientist arrived in Chernobyl only a month after the disaster.  "He retained clarity of thought and firmness in decisions, but it was clear that what had happened crushed him with an unbearable burden," eyewitnesses write. "Everything collapsed overnight - trust in nuclear energy, the unquestioning authority of atomic lobbyists ..."


Why was RBMK built at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant?  The answer is contained in the confession of the director of the Mayak plant Brokhovich: "The choice of the RBMK uranium-graphite reactor for nuclear power plants was due to the fact that this type was well studied and mastered by us ..."
But why did the irreparable happen?  As the investigation established, the leaders of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant decided to "distinguish themselves": they conceived an experiment - will the reactor cope with some critical loads and will it provide additional energy?
But now everything fell into place, and then ... Then two commissions were created: from the Union - through the Politburo, and from Ukraine - through the party and government bodies.  They say that both commissions were interested in Aleksandrov being guilty: the Ukrainians wanted to deflect the blow from themselves and "push" everything onto the union leadership, while the Muscovites needed to "move" the president of the Academy of Sciences and put Legasov in this chair.


But, despite all the efforts of both commissions (Legasov personally traveled to Chernobyl to find incriminating evidence), the conclusions were unambiguous: neither Minsredmash, nor Minister Slavsky, nor Academician Aleksandrov were found guilty.


“Anatoly Petrovich Aleksandrov, of course, understood the essence of the tragedy and his main mistake: he could not impress upon everyone who worked at the nuclear power plant that they were facing a very dangerous object capable of killing mankind's faith in nuclear energy,” writes a family friend of Aleksandrov.  “The reactor itself was reliable, it just had to be worked on, and not experimented with.”  Academician Aleksandrov did not have time to correct his mistake: he had too little left to live.
In February 1994, Anatoly Petrovich died.  Not one of the then rulers of Russia was at his funeral ... Chernobyl was inside him until the end of his life - maybe that's why he asked to be buried at the Mitinskoye cemetery, the very one where the Chernobyl "liquidators" found their last refuge.
The last will of Anatoly Petrovich - to put the Red flag of the first nuclear submarine of the USSR in the coffin - was fulfilled.

 

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