The Story of Alexei Breus (Part-2)

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Part two.
"Radiation euphoria"

At the control room 4 were M.U. Gashimov, V.A. Babichev, V.A. Orlov, A.G. Uskov, V.G. Smagin (all - ARS-2), A.F. Akimov and L.F. Toptunov (ARS-4, both died from overexposure), A.I. Cheranev (OLB-1) and others (because of the respirators on their faces, I could not recognize everyone).


8 a.m.

Four of us, together with the shift supervisor of Unit No. 4 V.G.Smagin, whom I was directly subordinated to, and those who arrived at night from the Chernobyl first-stage reactor shop V.A. Orlov and A.G. Uskov left the control room-4 in the corridor at + 9 meters, then went to stairs 059 (towards the emergency control desk), went up the stairs to +27 m mark (see diagram 1) .



We entered room 714/2 (next to the feed unit of the fourth unit; a feed unit is a system of pipelines and regulators for returning water to the reactor, which is sent to the turbine in the form of steam).  The room was partly filled with steam, there were puddles on the floor.  In room 714/2 I spent about 3-4 minutes near the nearest (to the entrance) and distant gate valve.


We manually opened the shutters for the supply of cooling water to the reactor from below through the emergency reactor cooling system.  Due to the tight running, the valves gave in poorly.  But there still was the flow, which could be judged by the periodic (after 5-10 seconds) pops of the check valve.


8:10 a.m.

Everyone left room 714/2 - it was necessary to find the lever, that was left somewhere nearby at night, by others, A.F. Akimov L.F.  Toptunov, V.A.  Orlovi A.G.  Uskov. to open the tight valves. I entered room 702/2, to the nutrient node (see diagram 2).  At the same time, I checked the position of the valves on the starting thread of the feed unit - it seemed that they were ajar.  Found a lever in room 702/2.


8:13 a.m.

We returned to room 714/2 and continued to open the valves.  Opened them by 40-60%.  I was located mainly at the gate valve closest to the entrance to the room.


8:30 - 8:35

All four left the room 714/2, went down the stairs 059 to the +9 m mark and passed along the corridor to the control room-4.  It was difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of our actions.


From 8:35 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. I was at the control room-4, mainly near control panel and near the unit shift supervisor desk (see diagram 3).


Around 8:40 I shared my doubts with Smagin, about the appropriateness of supplying water to the reactor, as I saw that the drums of separators are located below the top of the reactor.  It turned out that he did not see this, since he entered the plant from the other side, through AB-1.  After that V.G.  Smagin went to the backup control panel, from where part of the collapse was viewed.  He saw a falling stream of water from a damaged fire pipeline and then gave a command to the onshore pumping station to turn off the fire pumps, after which the water flow stopped.


While at the control room 4, I filled out operational journal.  When I recorded the time of an action and looked at my watch, I was very surprised that it was only about nine in the morning.  In my opinion, it seemed to me that it was already about two or three in the afternoon to the internal perception of time!  For some time, I felt a sense of inappropriate elation, “charge”, readiness to do whatever was required, although there was no confidence in the effectiveness of the actions taken.  Doctors call this condition radiation euphoria.


At this time and later, water was supplied to the reactor from the deaerator (the main water tank in the turbine compartment) using the emergency feed pump, which was turned on even at night, before I arrived.  The progress of this operation was periodically monitored by the shift supervisor of the station N.V.  Bekeshko (consulted by phone).


While on the control room 4, I also turned off unnecessary equipment that remained in operation from the night shift (in particular, cooling pumps for the reactor control and protection), and also turned off emergency cooling pumps for the emergency and non-emergency half of the reactor, since the inspection of the half ruined premises of the reactor shop revealed that the electrical cables and pipelines of these pumps were cut off.  As I recall, the head of the shift of the reactor shop, S.V.  Kamyshny (ARS-2) and the reactor shop operator A.N.  Zelentsov (ARS-1) have been there and later went to the control room 4.


At this time, joint efforts of the operators also made attempts to cut off the group of deaerators in order to reduce water losses through the damaged pipeline at the feed pump, since the damaged section could be turned off only together with half of the deaerator tanks.  The pipeline was damaged at night due to the fall of a concrete slab on it from the roof of the turbine hall.


Around 10 a.m. Smagin and Usenko felt much worse, vomiting began, because of which they ran out the door to the room of the left inoperative control room.  After some time, Kamyshny brought a military first-aid kit (orange box), from which V.G.  Smagin and me took anti-emetic pills.  By that time, I had a slight nausea, but there was no vomiting.  After taking the pills, the nausea went away.  Military pills, designed to preserve, by all means, the combat effectiveness of personnel in the face of radiation damage, do work!


As I recall, at 10:04 a.m. due to water flooding and, as a result, an emergency shutdown of the electric sections, from which the main equipment of the fourth unit is supplied with power, two of the three diesel generators turned on automatically, the third I started with a key from the safety panels on the control room  -4.  On one of the three diesel generators, a fuel pipeline with a diameter of 80 mm broke at startup, which caused a leak and a fire hazard.  The localization of the leak was carried out by the driver of the diesel generator station (located away from the block, in a separate building).


After disconnecting the electric sections, the pumps also stopped supplying water from the tanks of pure condensate to the deaerators, since these pumps are not powered by diesel generators.  Therefore, the water supply to the deaerators stopped, the water level in them quickly decreased, and I had to turn off the emergency feed pump, which takes water from the deaerators.  It means that water supply to the reactor was stopped (I write "to the reactor" and not "in the reactor", because I did not have confidence that the water reaches the reactor).


Immediately after shutting down the emergency feed pump, the chief engineer of the Chernobyl NPP N.M.  Fomin asked what happened, since, according to him, smoke from the reactor increased sharply (M.U. Gashimov spoke to N. M. Fomin by telephone).  This can serve as an indirect confirmation that some of the water still reached the reactor.  From the control room it was impossible to observe the collapse, since the control room, as well as the rooms adjacent to it, has no windows.


At about 11 a.m. Smagin gave the command "Everyone leave the fourth block!".

 Later V.G.  Smagin received the Order of Lenin, the highest award of the Soviet Union.  I do not know what is written in the award documents for the order, but only for this team alone he could already be awarded the highest awards.  Recognizing the futility of their actions in that situation was more difficult than continuing actions “according to instructions”.


By order of V.G.  Smagin I stayed with him at the control room 4.  This was required by the instructions for action in emergency radiation circumstances.  The instruction was classified as secrecy and was not among the documents that I, as a senior unit management engineer, should know.  But its requirements were known to the shift supervisor V.G.  Smagin: if necessary, two highest-ranking operators should remain on the block, i.e.  The shift supervisor and the second person after him- SME, which has the right and obligation to replace the shift supervisor if necessary.


For a while we were at the control room 4 together.  And before that there were (not at the same time) M.U.  Gashimov, V.A.  Babichev, A.I.  Bibikov, V.G.  Kovalev B.G.  Usenko.  V. Dobrynin S.V.  Kamyshny (all - ARS-2), A.I.  Cheranev, N.V.  Korikov, A.N.  Zelentsov (all - ARS -1) and others.



 By order of the Smagin, agreed by telephone with the shift supervisor of the plant N.V.  Bekeshko, I left the control room 4 to the control room 3 (control panel of the third unit).  Passing along the "golden" corridor at +9 m, I stopped near the shield of radiation monitoring systems for changing plastic shoe covers (not to take radioactive dirt onto shoes).



I came to the control panel of the third block.  There were Usenko, V.S. Minin and operators of the third block, others.


I called Smagin, whho was left alone in poor health at the control room 4.  I called several times, but no one answered my calls.  Given the poor condition of Smagin, I decided to go to him (decision made on my own), as I informed Minin.



I left the control room 3 and went towards the control room-4.  Before reaching the fourth block, near the shield of the radiation monitoring systems met V.G.  Smagin.  He walked to the third block and stopped to change plastic shoe covers.



I returned with V.G.  Smagin to the control room 3.  Due to the very poor state of health of V.G.  Smagin and V.G.  Usenko, they left the unit for the first-aid at AB-1 (outside the strict regime zone).  By order of Bekeshko and in accordance with my job description, I replaced V.G.  Smagin.


V.G.  Smagin handed me the draft log of the shift supervisor of Unit No. 4 and ordered me to write down all my actions in it (operational journal of Unit 4 was not handed over to him when he accepted the shift in the morning, as it was taken by someone else at night, and it was rumored to be the Chernobyl Deputy Chief Engineer  A.S.Dyatlov (ARS-3), who led the testing of unit 4 on the night of April 26).  I also had my own journal - the operational journal of a senior unit control engineer, in which I recorded my actions.


Got a command from the shift supervisor V.A.  Babichev to supply water from the tanks of pure condensate to deaerators (located on the industrial site, near the building of the block), which by that time were filled with industrial water (from a cooling pond) using fire hoses.



 To fulfill the order, I departed from the control room 3 along the corridor at +9 mark in the direction of the control room 4. I walked alone.


 By that time, a sanitary gateway had already been set up between the third and fourth blocks, and G. Krasnozhen (the head of the radiation safety service), who was on duty there, refused to let me in, as he received an order not to let anyone into the fourth block.



I returned to the control room 3, called from there to the central control panel of the first stage (central control room 1), the shift supervisor N.V.  Bekeshko and asked him to allow passage to the control room 4.  Passage was allowed.



 I went from the control room 3 along the corridor at +9 m to the control room 4. I walked alone.



 I was at the control room 4 alone.  I controlled the filling of deaerators with pure condensate pumps and turned off unnecessary equipment - intermediate circuit pumps and something else - I don’t remember what exactly.



 Along the +9 m corridor, I returned from the fourth block to the third - to the control room 3.



 Stayed in the control room 3.  There, besides the operators, were A. Radko, A.G.  Bakaev (ARS-1), N.V.  Korikov (ARS-1), A.E.  Smyshlyaev and others.



 Again, I crossed the “golden” corridor at the +9 m mark from the control room 3 to the control room 4.  Walked alone.



I was on the control room 4, controlling the filling of deaerators.  I made the transition for the pumps, supplying cooling water to the blocks from the cooling pond (I turned on one and turned off another; this was necessary for the third block).


In the room there was no one except me.  There was absolutely no fear, just as there was no longer a sense of danger.  It was very quiet, there was no habitual hum of working equipment, every sound was heard from my movements, especially from steps in crispy plastic shoe covers, and this aggravated the feeling of unusual silence on the block.  A very sharp sense of annoyance came over, with a crushing lump at the throat.  Probably, in order not to be in the grip of this feeling, I hit the table with my fist.  After such a "discharge" I waited a minute, arms resting on the table.  Calming down, went into the "golden" corridor.


 © Breus A.A.


 The end of the second part.

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