"Hell on Earth"
John Vidal in The Guardian
Twenty years ago today, Konstantin Tatuyan, a Ukrainian radio engineer, was horrified when Reactor No 4 at Chernobyl nuclear power complex exploded, caught fire, and for the next 10 days spewed the equivalent of 400 Hiroshima bombs' worth of radioactivity across 150,000 sq miles of Europe and beyond. He was just married, and he and his young family lived in the town of Chernobyl, just a few miles from the reactor.
Like 120,000 people, the family was evacuated, but Tatuyan volunteered to become a "liquidator", to help with the clean up, believing that his knowledge of radiation could save not just him but many of the 200,000 young soldiers and others who were rushed in from all over the Soviet Union. "We felt we had to do it," he says. "Who else, if not us, would do it?"
Tatuyan spent the next seven years in charge of 5,000 mostly young army reservists - drafted in from Azerbaijan, Lithuania, Chechnya, Kazakhstan and elsewhere in what was the Soviet Union - working 22 days on, eight days off, digging great holes, demolishing villages, dumping high-level waste, monitoring hot spots, testing the water, cleaning railway lines and roads, decontaminating ground and travelling throughout some of the most radioactive regions of Ukraine, Belarus and southern Russia.read more