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Anatoly Dyatlov

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Anatoly Dyatlov
Анатолий Дятлов
Dyatlov in 1987
Anatoly Stepanovich Dyatlov

(1931-03-03)3 March 1931
Died13 December 1995(1995-12-13) (aged 64)
Other namesАнатолій Степанович Дятлов (in Ukrainian)
CitizenshipSoviet, Ukrainian
Alma materMoscow Engineering Physics Institute
Known forDeputy chief-engineer of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant
Criminal chargeGross violation of safety regulations
Criminal penaltySentenced to 10 years in prison (released in 1990)

Anatoly Stepanovich Dyatlov (Russian: Анатолий Степанович Дятлов, Ukrainian: Анатолій Степанович Дятлов; 3 March 1931 – 13 December 1995) was a Soviet engineer who was the deputy chief engineer for the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. He supervised the safety test which resulted in the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, for which he served time in prison as he was blamed for not following the safety protocols. He was released due to health concerns in 1990. Later investigations found that reactor design flaws were a more significant factor than human error, although some safety procedures were not followed.


Dyatlov was born in 1931 in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union. His parents were poor. They lived near the Yenisei River and the penal settlements of Krasnoyarsk.[1] He ran away from home at the age of 14.[2] He first studied in a vocational school, at the electrical engineering department of the Mining and Metallurgical Technical School in Norilsk,[3] and worked three years as an electrician before he was admitted at the Moscow Engineering and Physics Institute where he graduated in 1959 with honors.[1]

After graduation, he worked in a shipbuilding plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, in Lab 23 where reactors were installed into submarines. During a nuclear accident there, Dyatlov received a radiation dose of 100 rem[1] (1.0 Sv), a dose which typically causes mild radiation sickness, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue and reduction in resistance to infections.[4]

One of his two sons died of leukemia at age nine.[1] In his personal life, he loved poetry, particularly Pushkin's Eugene Onegin.[1]


In 1973, he moved to Pripyat, in the Ukrainian SSR, to work at the newly constructed Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. His fourteen-year experience working on naval reactors in the Soviet Far East made Dyatlov one of the three most senior managers at the Chernobyl station.[1] He was in charge of Units Three and Four.[1] Dyatlov worked 6 or even 7 days a week for long shifts, while priding himself on his knowledge of reactor systems.[1]

His management style was unforgiving, projecting an image of infallibility, and he often cursed at staff who did not follow his orders to the letter.[1] However, some workers say they respected him and the knowledge he held. To those workers, he was seen as honest, responsible and a devoted man. Other seemingly "lazy" workers, targeted by Dyatlov's high standards, saw him as tough, stubborn and unfair.[3]

On 26 April 1986, Dyatlov supervised a test at Reactor 4 of the nuclear plant, which resulted in the Chernobyl disaster. In preparation, Dyatlov ordered the power to be reduced to 200 MW, which was lower than the 700 MW stipulated in the test plan.[1] The reactor then stalled unexpectedly during test preparations.[1] Raising power after this point put the reactor into a potentially dangerous state, due to xenon poisoning, as well as undocumented design flaws in the reactor, which were unknown to the operators at the time. One major contributing factor to the accident was raising the power level after the reactor stalled at below 30 MW.[5] The operating manual was contradictory and lacked clear definitions, so the test program was allowed to continue.[5]

I came up to them and saw the reactor power was at about 50–70 MW. I asked Sasha Akimov why the power had been so low. He said that the power decreased to 30 MW when switching between automatic rod control systems. This didn't mean any negative consequences. There are no units that haven't suffered from power losses. As well there are no operators that haven't allowed unscheduled power decreases for [one reason or another]. Actually this [was] a trivial situation, so I didn't pay much attention to it. I allowed the further power increase and walked away from the panel.[6]

While withdrawing a dangerous number of control rods, the operators could only reach 200 MW due to xenon poisoning. During the test, Akimov called for the AZ-5 scram button to be pressed to shut down the reactor.[1] A few seconds later, the reactor exploded.

After the explosion, Dyatlov ordered the control rods to be inserted by hand. Too late, he attempted to revoke his order. He called for increased water circulation to the reactor in an attempt to cool it, not knowing most of the systems had just been destroyed.[1] The reactor shop supervisor returned to the control room to say the reactor had been destroyed, but Dyatlov refused to believe him.[1]

Dyatlov left the control room to evaluate the situation himself, even attempting to locate lost plant worker, Valery Khodemchuk. He began to feel weak and started vomiting, caused by acute radiation syndrome, so gathered the operating logs from the control room and left for the administration building to report to Bryukhanov.[1] During the accident, Dyatlov was exposed to a radiation dose of 650 rem (6.5 Sv), which causes death in 50% of affected people after 30 days. Ultimately, he survived.[4]

After the accident[edit]

He was admitted to Pripyat Hospital where he initially refused treatment, saying he just needed to sleep.[1] He was quickly transferred to Moscow Hospital 6.[1] By 28 April, the symptoms of radiation sickness had mostly abated. During his stay, he discussed possible causes of the accident with Akimov and Toptunov, but they were mystified as to the causes.[1] Dyatlov's condition began to worsen due to the delayed effects of his radiation exposure. He recovered thanks to hospital care, surviving what is often a lethal radiation dose.

Together with Nikolai Fomin and Viktor Bryukhanov, Dyatlov was criminally charged for failure to follow safety regulations.[7][1][8] The trial began on 6 July 1987 at the Palace of Culture in the town of Chernobyl. Only people invited by the state were allowed to witness the proceedings. There were six defendants; Bryukhanov, Fomin, Dyatlov, station shift supervisor Boris Rogozhkin, reactor division chief Alexander Kovalenko, and inspector Yuri Laushkin.[1] Among the defendants, only Dyatlov remained combative, saying that the operators were not responsible for the accident.[1]

Dyatlov claimed that he was not present when the reactor stalled or when the power level was increased, but this was contradicted by several witnesses.[1] The design flaws in the reactor were not considered by the court, and any expert witnesses involved in the design were keen to avoid blame.[1] All six were found guilty and Dyatlov was given the maximum sentence of ten years.[9][10][11]

From prison he wrote letters trying to explain RBMK reactor flaws he had discovered, as well as to restore his and the other operators' reputations.[1] He wrote a letter to the family of Toptunov, relating how he had tried to restore coolant to the reactor.[1] He was granted amnesty in late 1990 due to his worsening health from radiation exposure.[3][12]

He wrote a paper published in Nuclear Engineering International in 1991[13] and a book in which he claimed that poor plant design, rather than plant personnel, was primarily responsible for the accident.[14]

This program had to be executed, that was a demand of regulations and the project design documents.... The accident was caused by completely inappropriate characteristics of the reactor, that weren't clear enough at that time. ... They blamed us that we had violated the regulations by increasing the reactor power after power loss. There was no violation. Everything had been done according to the regulation demands... the reactor protection system designed to stop the fission in an emergency situation... played the role of the atomic bomb detonator.[6]

While the initial Soviet investigation put almost all the blame on the operators, later findings by the Ministry of Atomic Energy[1] and the IAEA found that the reactor design and how the operators were informed of safety information was more significant.[15][16][17] However, the operators were found to have deviated from operational procedures, changing test protocols at will, as well as having made "ill judged" actions, making human error a major contributing factor.[15]

Dyatlov died of bone marrow cancer in Kyiv, Ukraine in 1995, which was almost certainly caused by his radiation poisoning from the accident.[1][18]

In media[edit]

Dyatlov was portrayed by Igor Slavinskiy in the 2004 series Zero Hour: Disaster At Chernobyl, by Roger Alborough in 2006 BBC production Surviving Disaster: Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster and by Paul Ritter in the 2019 HBO miniseries Chernobyl.[19]

Dyatlov's memoirs were recorded in 1994, a year before his death. The recording was made by an unknown operator and appeared on YouTube in 2016.[20] A version with English subtitles was provided in 2019.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa Higginbotham, Adam (2019). Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster. New York: Simon and Schuster. pp. 76. ISBN 9781501134616.
  2. ^ Amazing World (2018-09-13), Zero Hour - Chernobyl - 1986, archived from the original on 2019-06-26, retrieved 2019-06-15
  3. ^ a b c Zubacheva, Ksenia (2019-06-17). "The truth about Anatoly Dyatlov, the man blamed for Chernobyl". Russia Beyond. TV-Novosti. Retrieved 2020-01-12.
  4. ^ a b Nolan, Dennis P. Loss Prevention and Safety Control: Terms and Definitions, CRC Press, LLC (2016); Boca Raton, Florida; p. 225.
  5. ^ a b International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group, INSAG-7 The Chernobyl Accident: Updating of INSAG-1, 1992, page 74
  6. ^ a b c "Chernobyl Anatoly Dyatlov's real interview (English) - YouTube". www.youtube.com. Archived from the original on November 27, 2023.
  7. ^ Burgan, Michael (2018). Chernobyl Explosion: How a Deadly Nuclear Accident Frightened the World. th Mankato, Minnesota: Capstone. p. 47. ISBN 9780756557447.
  8. ^ Schmemann, Serge; Times, Special To the New York (16 June 1986). "Chernobyl Chiefs Ousted for Erring During Accident". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  9. ^ "Chernobyl Officials sentenced". The Washington Post.
  10. ^ "Chernobyl Officials Are Sentenced to Labor Camp". The New York Times. Reuters. 30 July 1987. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
  11. ^ Worley, N.; Lewins, J. (2003-08-29). The Chernobyl Accident and Its Implications for the United Kingdom: Watt Committee: Report. Routledge. ISBN 9781135382926.
  12. ^ "As Seen On The HBO Series, Justice Wasn't Necessarily Served At The Chernobyl Trials". Bustle. Retrieved 2019-12-28.
  13. ^ Dyatlov, Anatoly (November 1991). "How it was: an operator's perspective". Nuclear Engineering International. Retrieved 2020-01-12.
  14. ^ Anatoly Dyatlov, "Chernobyl. How it happened", 1995 (in Russian)
  15. ^ a b INSAG-7 report, page 22-25
  16. ^ INSAG-7 (November 1992). The Chernobyl Accident: Updating of INSAG-1 (PDF). Vienna: IAEA. p. 23. ISBN 92-0-104692-8. The accident is now seen to have been the result of the concurrence of the following major factors: specific physical characteristics of the reactor; specific design features of the reactor control elements; and the fact that the reactor was brought to a state not specified by procedures or investigated by an independent safety body. Most importantly, the physical characteristics of the reactor made possible its unstable behaviour.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  17. ^ Dobbs, Michael (27 April 1992). "Chernobyl's 'Shameless Lies'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  18. ^ Dyatlov A.S. Chernobyl: How it was, 1995; Brief biography, page 3 (in Russian)
  19. ^ "Chernobyl: Full Cast and Crew". IMDB.com. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  20. ^ "Чернобыльская авария А.С.Дятлов - воспоминания - YouTube (in Russian)". www.youtube.com. Archived from the original on 2019-02-20. Retrieved 2021-01-07.

External links[edit]