he event that took place on the 26th of April 1986 had shaken the whole world and really gave a cautious warning to the world about the use of nuclear materials to produce energy. This week marks 35 years since the incident and I wanted to write about someone who isn’t given enough attention when it comes to this incident. That someone is Valery Khodemchuk who was the first person to die from the nuclear explosion and also the only person whose corpse could not be retrieved as it is burning right below where the reactor used to be, making his corpse extremely radioactive.
Who was Valery Khodemchuk?
Valery was a nuclear mechanical engineer born in Ukraine and raised in Chornobyl. At the time of the incident, he was 35 years old. He had been working at the plant since 1977 when it first opened, making him one of the more experienced engineers on the night the incident happened.
Right before the incident, Valery was in the turbine room of reactor 4, waiting to report the results of a safety test which resulted in the explosion of the reactor. It is said that Valery died right after the explosion, however, others argue that he did not die straight away.
The second recorded victim from the incident was Vladimir Shashenok who died trying to save Valery, this is what makes people think that Valery didn’t die right on impact. Vladimir died due to exposure to high radiation. His body was recovered as there was easy access to it at the time.
A Soviet publication from that era named “Pravda” had written an official news article about Valery stating the reasons why his body can’t be retrieved and also stating that reactor 4 will be his grave. The author of the article had also written that one day when the radioactivity will go down, someone will write on the walls of reactor 4 that Valery is resting under the pile of radioactive cement.
Therefore last year as the radioactive conditions permitted, a monument was built to commemorate Valery Khodemchuk and his work at the nuclear power plant. The monument can be found between reactor 3 and 4 right where the control room used to be.
The text beside his name and date of birth/date of death is translated to: The body of Valery Khodemchuks was never recovered, therefore it remains buried for eternity under reactor 4.
Based on the records of the Soviet Union, 31 people died due to the nuclear explosion and approximately 27,000 people had long-term effects from the radiation. During the early 2000s, some researchers from Russia estimated that over 200,000 people had died from medical complications provoked by the radiation within Ukraine.
There is also a report from 2006 published by the NGO Greenpeace where it points out that Chornobyl had affected thousands of more people than had not been recorded and that it still does to this day.