As a researcher at the Institute for High Energy Physics in Protvino, Bugorski worked with the largest Soviet particle accelerator, the U-70 synchrotron. On 13 July 1978, Bugorski was checking a malfunctioning piece of equipment when the safety mechanisms failed. Bugorski was leaning over the equipment when he stuck his head in the path of the 76 GeV proton beam. Reportedly, he saw a flash "brighter than a thousand suns" but did not feel any pain.
The left half of Bugorski's face swelled up beyond recognition and, over the next several days, started peeling off, revealing the path that the proton beam (moving near the speed of light) had burned through parts of his face, his bone and the brain tissue underneath. As it was believed that he had received far in excess of a fatal dose of radiation, Bugorski was taken to a clinic in Moscow where the doctors could observe his expected demise. However, Bugorski survived and even completed his Ph.D. There was virtually no damage to his intellectual capacity, but the fatigue of mental work increased markedly. Bugorski completely lost hearing in the left ear and only a constant, unpleasant internal noise remained. The left half of his face was paralyzed due to the destruction of nerves. He was able to function well, except for the fact that he had occasional complex partial seizures and rare tonic-clonic seizures.
Bugorski continued to work in science and held the post of coordinator of physics experiments. Because of the Soviet Union's policy of maintaining secrecy on nuclear power-related issues, Bugorski did not speak about the accident for over a decade. He continued going to the Moscow radiation clinic twice a year for examinations and to meet with other nuclear-accident victims. He "remained a poster boy for Soviet and Russian radiation medicine". In 1996, he applied unsuccessfully for disabled status to receive his free epilepsy medication. Bugorski showed interest in making himself available for study to Western researchers but could not afford to leave Protvino.
Bugorski is married to Vera Nikolaevna, and they had a son, Peter.
- Masha Gessen (1 December 1997). "The Future Ruins of the Nuclear Age". Wired magazine. Retrieved 26 April 2007.
- Геннадий Дерновой [Gennady Dernovoi]. Персональный Чернобыль Анатолия Бугорского [Anatoli Bugorski's Personal Chernobyl] (in Russian). Izvestiya newspaper, 23 January 1998. Retrieved 28 October 2011.
- Kentaro Mori (16 September 2008). "Hit by a Particle Accelerator Beam".
- Joel Frohlich (12 January 2017). "What Happens If You Stick Your Head in a Particle Accelerator?".