In memoriam of our liquidators of Chernobyl catastrophe

The third decade of April, for more than 30 years, has been held under the sign of the Chernobyl disaster.

The chronicle of those events has been written and published for a long time, detailed reports have been prepared, dust has been covered in thousands of newspaper columns in archives, artistic and documentary films have been created, stories and novels have been written. The words “fourth power unit”, “sarcophagus”, “30-kilometer zone”, “exclusion zone” were captured in the memory of the present generation of people as black symbols of the last decades of the last century. However, the theme of Chernobyl remains inexhaustible, it worries people to this day.

On the anniversary of this catastrophe I would like to mention once again the group of scientists from the chemical-technological faculty of the KPI, Oleksandr Petrovych Shutka, Anatolyi Dmytrovych Chrisenko, and Vitaliy Pavlovych Basov – thanks to the initiative of perseverance, the courage of whom greatly saved life and health very many people

At that time, they worked in the laboratory of CTF and, having the appropriate devices, recorded a sharp increase in the radioactive background in the territory of the KPI already in April 29-30, 1986. The glass of windows collected in a glass of water was more radioactive than samples of drugs that were used for research and stored in special lead containers.

V.P. Basov, O.P. Shutko, A.D. Krysenko, 1986

But radioactive dust was brought to Kyiv not only by wind. It could be carried on cars and buses that took people out of the exclusion zone and delivered liquidators, materials and equipment there. To prevent this, at eight entrances to the city were created points of sanitary transport, where cars were used on special platforms. At the same time, water contaminated with radionuclides dripped into reservoirs-accumulators – concrete containers, or pits, lined with a film. The water that they were going to need to clean up resulted in the construction of stationary water treatment plants. But the drives were filled up too quickly, and the problem of water purification had to be addressed urgently.

And in this critical situation senior scientific worker O.P.Shetyko, who, together with his group, was engaged in the development of reagents for deep sewage treatment, appealed to his colleagues with a proposal to test the developed reagents “for radiation”. They firstly tested the water, to which they added dust from the windows, got a good result. They turned to the Civil Defense Staff (CP) of the KPI, from where they were first sent to the district headquarters of the Central Authority, and then to the city. There were obtained samples of water from TP “Demidov” for research and found that the proposed technology reduces the radioactive contamination of water by two or three orders. Scientists urgently developed not only the recipe, but also the apparatus. It was suggested to create mobile installations and to clean water directly in storage tanks. Two weeks ago, at the factories in Kyiv, two units were made on the plants of Kyiv, and a batch of reagent was manufactured in Rubizhniy.

On June 6, 1986, by order of the head of the Central Committee of the city of Kyiv, the headquarters of the Central Authority of the city established a unit of 11 people with the official name “Water deactivation group” (informal title – “Shutko Group”), dealing with all issues of decontamination in the TP.

Already after 1.5 times after the treatment of dirty water by reagents in storage tanks, the radioactive substance settled on the bottom, and the purified water met the maximum allowable standards. This water was used for watering roads, and the radioactive sludge was taken to the burial ground of a 30-kilometer zone.

During 1986-1987 the group purified water at all points of deactivation and radioactive control of the Kyiv region, at the points of decontamination of the Southwest Railway equipment, as well as in the 30-kilometer zone. Due to the fact that the proposed technology did not require the construction of in-house treatment facilities, its implementation allowed saving only more than 18 million rubles in the 1986 prices.

In August 1986, the main newspaper of the USSR “Pravda” in the column “Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant: Chronicle of Events” published an article titled “Ambulance to Water”, where a great credit of the specialists of the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute was noted, who created mobile installations and ensured the seamless decontamination of sewage water at the points of sanitary transport processing.

In September 1986, the rector of the KPI prof. G.I. Denisenko stressed (the newspaper “For the Soviet engineer”): “I want to mention, first of all, the head of the Laboratory of O.P.Shyutko, the assistant professors G.M. Prokofiev, V.P.Basov, A.D.Kryzenska (FCT), who made their personal contribution to the liquidation of the consequences of the Chernobyl accident”.

The newspaper “Pravda Ukrainy” (Dec. 17, 1986) in the publication “Prize - to the account number 904” wrote: “On the path of an insidious and invisible enemy were people who, at any time of the day, traveled to the points of special transport processing”.

Decontamination post on the Southwest Railway, 1986

As stated in the article, the group for the introduction of the new technology of water treatment from radioactive substances, led by the head of the laboratory of new reagents of the Kiev Polytechnic Institute O.P.Shutko, was transferred to the account of the Chernobyl Fund No. 904.

The group's activities are reflected in the documentary film “The Radioactive Shield of Kyiv” (Kyiv Film Studio of Popular Folk Films, 1987).

On the question of the editorial board of our newspaper “How do you assess the work of the group of KPI scientists in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster after 32 years?” Associate Professor A.D. Krisenko answered:

- To my deep conviction, a rational way of solving the problem of cleaning highly contaminated water in such large volumes was chosen then. The task of ensuring the uninterrupted operation of the transport highway, which connected the 30-kilometer zone with “great land,” was solved. There is no need to build expensive in-house treatment facilities.

Analyzing today the results of the group's work on those hot days, it should be emphasized: then it was possible not just to close one of the ways of pollution of the city, but to change the strategy of environmental protection against global pollution of the water horizons. In addition to significant savings in material and financial resources, it was preserved (and, most importantly) the health and life of many hundreds of people planned to be sent to the active zone for construction works, installation and maintenance of treatment facilities.

Prepared by M. Petrenko