Remembering Chernobyl: Alexander Zelentsov remembers the day of the Chernobyl disaster

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As the 30th anniversary of the deadly disaster draws near, we meet chief operator of reactor n°4 at Chernobyl, Alexander Nikolaevich Zelentsov, who was the first to arrive on site after the disaster.

“They told me there had been an accident in the plant and sent a bus to fetch me”, says Alexander. “In that sort of situation, you don’t ask questions”. He and his physicist colleagues knew the risks better than anyone, and yet they put on their white overalls and entered disaster zone. “We were scared but it had to be done”, he says. Their aim was to stop more accidents from happening “because if the incident spread to the other three reactors, the catastrophe would be even greater.” Alexander is one of 250 people recognized by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) as having received massive doses of radiation at Chernobyl. But he is not remembered as a hero. Instead when he and his family were relocated from Pripyat, they faced prejudice and discrimination, and were known as “the radioactive people”.

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