Valery Legasov

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Valery Legasov
Photograph
Born
Valery Alekseyevich Legasov

(1936-09-01)1 September 1936
Died27 April 1988(1988-04-27) (aged 51)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Cause of deathSuicide by hanging
Resting placeNovodevichy Cemetery, Moscow
Alma materD. Mendeleev University of Chemical Technology of Russia
Known forChief of the commission investigating the Chernobyl disaster
ChildrenInga Legasov[1]
AwardsHero of the Russian Federation
Scientific career
FieldsNuclear physics
InstitutionsKurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy

Valery Alekseyevich Legasov (Russian: Валерий Алексеевич Легасов; September 1, 1936 – April 27, 1988) was a prominent Soviet inorganic chemist and a member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. He is now mainly remembered for his work as the chief of the commission investigating the Chernobyl disaster.[2]

Biography[edit]

Legasov was born on September 1, 1936, in Tula, Russian SFSR into a family of civil workers.[3][4][5] He attended secondary school in Kursk.[3] In 1949–1954, he attended School No. 56 in Moscow and graduated with a gold medal.[3] The school now bears his name, and his bronze bust stands at the entrance. He married Margarita Mikhailovna and had a daughter Inga Legasova.[6][7][8]

In 1961, he graduated from the Faculty of Physicochemical Engineering at the Mendeleev Moscow Institute of Chemistry and Technology[9].

He worked[when?] as secretary of the Komsomol Committee of the Moscow Institute of Chemical Technology.[citation needed]

In 1962, he joined the graduate school in the Department of Molecular Physics of the Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy,[10]:261 first as a junior then senior researcher, and finally as head of the laboratory.[citation needed] In 1967,[citation needed] he defended his thesis at the Kurchatov Institute, under the supervisor Isaac Kikoin, on the synthesis of compounds of noble gases and the study of their properties[citation needed].[10]:261 He received the degree of candidate in 1967 and his doctorate in chemistry in 1972.[11]

In 1976, he was elected a corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.[citation needed]

From 1978–1983, he was a professor at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.[12]

In 1981, he became a full member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, in the Department of Physical Chemistry and Technology of Inorganic Materials.[citation needed]

From 1983 until his death, he worked as chair of the department of Radiochemistry and Chemical Technology at the Faculty of Chemistry at Moscow State University.[12] In 1983,[12] he became the first Deputy Director for scientific work of the Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy.[13]

Legasov studied methods for the synthesis and the properties of new compounds with elements in high oxidation states; nuclear and plasma technology; energy-saving technology, and hydrogen energy.[citation needed] Under his leadership, a scientific school was created in the newest section of inorganic chemistry – chemistry of noble gases.[citation needed]

Even before the Chernobyl disaster Legasov was known to stress the need for new security and safety methods to prevent large catastrophes.[14][15]

Chernobyl disaster[edit]

By the time of the Chernobyl disaster on April 26, 1986, Legasov was the First Deputy Director of the Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy.[16] He became a key member of the government commission formed to investigate the causes of the disaster and to plan the mitigation of its consequences. He took the most important decisions to avoid repeat accidents and informed the government of the situation in the disaster area. He did not hesitate to speak to his fellow scientists and to the press about the safety risks of the destroyed plant and insisted on the immediate evacuation of the entire population of the city of Pripyat nearby. In August 1986, he presented the report of the Soviet delegation at the special meeting of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna. His report displayed a depth of analysis and honesty in discussing the extent and consequences of the tragedy.[17]

Death[edit]

The grave of Professor Valery Legasov at Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.

On April 27, 1988, one day after the second anniversary of the Chernobyl NPP accident and one day before he was due to announce his results of the investigation into the causes of the disaster, Legasov committed suicide by hanging himself (some sources say in his apartment[2][18] or the stairwell of his apartment;[19] others in his office[20]). A personal pistol remained in a drawer, but the professor chose to hang himself. He was buried at the Novodevichy cemetery in Moscow.[21][22]

This was not Legasov's first suicide attempt.[23] David R. Marples has suggested that the adversity of the Chernobyl disaster on Legasov's psychological state was the factor that led to his decision to commit suicide.[9] Before his suicide, Legasov wrote documents revealing previously undisclosed facts about the catastrophe.[20] According to an analysis of the recording for the BBC TV movie Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster,[24] Legasov claims political pressure censored the mention of Soviet nuclear secrecy in his report to the IAEA, a secrecy which forbade even plant operators having knowledge of previous accidents and known problems with reactor design.[citation needed] The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists also stated that Legasov had become bitterly disillusioned with the failure of the authorities to confront the design flaws.[25]

Aftermath[edit]

Legasov's suicide caused shockwaves in the Soviet nuclear industry. In particular, the problem with the design of the control rods in Chernobyl-type RBMK reactors was rapidly admitted and addressed.[24][citation needed]

On September 20, 1996, then-Russian president Boris Yeltsin posthumously conferred on Legasov the honorary title of Hero of the Russian Federation for the "courage and heroism" shown in his investigation of the disaster.[26]

In media[edit]

Legasov is portrayed by Jared Harris in the Sky/HBO Miniseries Chernobyl (2019)[27] and by Ade Edmondson in the BBC docudrama Surviving Disaster (2006).[28]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Higginbotham, Adam (2019). Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781501134616.
  2. ^ a b The Associated Press (April 30, 1988). "Chemist, investigator of Chernobyl nuclear accident dies at 51". AP News Archive. Retrieved 26 April 2014. [the official Soviet news agency] Tass said Legasov made a "significant contribution in the working out and realization of immediate measures aimed at liquidating the consequences of the accident."
  3. ^ a b c New Times. New Times Publishing House. 1996. p. 58.
  4. ^ Schmid, Sonja D. (2015). Producing Power: The Pre-Chernobyl History of the Soviet Nuclear Industry.
  5. ^ "The Current Digest of the Soviet Press". American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies: 24. 1988.
  6. ^ "Как убивали академика Легасова, который провел собственное расследование Чернобыльской катастрофы". www.mk.ru (in Russian).
  7. ^ Higginbotham, Adam (2019). Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781501134616.
  8. ^ Choiniere, Alyssa (2 June 2019). "Valery Legasov: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Heavy.com.
  9. ^ a b Marples, David (1991). Ukraine under Perestroika: Ecology, Economics and the Workers’ Revolt. p. 21.
  10. ^ a b Josephson, Paul R. (2005). Red Atom: Russia's Nuclear Power Program from Stalin to Today.
  11. ^ Богуненко Н. Н., Пилипенко А. Д., Соснин Г. А. (2005). Герои атомного проекта (3000 экз ed.). Саров: ФГУП «РФЯЦ-ВНИИЭФ». p. 448. ISBN 5-9515-0005-2.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ a b c D. Schmid, Sonja (2015). Producing Power: The Pre-Chernobyl History of the Soviet Nuclear Industry. MIT Press. p. 182. ISBN 0262028271.
  13. ^ "A Soviet Expert Discusses Chernobyl". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 1987. p. 32.
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ [2]
  16. ^ Marples, David (2003-01-26). "Hans Blix: our man in Iraq" (PDF). The Ukrainian Weekly. p. 2,.
  17. ^ Belbéoch, Bella (1998). "Responsabilites Occidentales Dans les Consequences Sanitaires de la Catastrophe de Tchernobyl, en Bielorussie, Ukraine et Russie" [Western responsibility regarding the health consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe in Belarus, the Ukraine and Russia]. Radioprotection et Droit nucléaire [eds.: Ivo Rens and, Joël Jakubec, collection SEBES, (in French). pp. 247–261.
    English translation1:
    Fernex, Michael; Belbéoch, Bella. "Western responsibility regarding the health consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe in Belarus, the Ukraine and Russia". The Chernobyl catastrophe and health care. Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2019-05-26.
  18. ^ "Legasov suicide leaves unanswered questions". Nuclear Engineering International. July 1988. Soviet nuclear industry sources have said that domestic problems played a role, but the timing, 27 April, exactly 2 years after the Chernobyl accident, is clearly of major significance. His death was first officially announced on 29 April, but without any mention of the cause. Subsequently its emerged that he had taken his own life.
  19. ^ Tripathi, Namrata (May 2, 2019). "Scientist who exposed true extent of Chernobyl disaster killed himself a day after second anniversary (As the Deputy Director of Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy in Moscow, Valery Legasov received a distress call on April 26, 1986, asking him to head to Chernobyl. His life was never the same.)". Media Entertainment Arts WorldWide.
  20. ^ a b Neef, Christian (24 March 2011). "'This Reactor Model Is No Good': Documents Show Politburo Skepticism of Chernobyl". Der Spiegel. Translated by Sultan, Christopher. But he did not die of radiation sickness, even though he spent four months in Chernobyl after the explosion there. Legasov hanged himself in his office on April 27, 1988, almost two years to the day after the reactor accident in present-day Ukraine.
  21. ^ "Valeri Alekseevich Legasov". findagrave.com.
  22. ^ "Legasov's tomb". novodevichye.com.
  23. ^ Tripathi, Namrata (May 2, 2019). "Scientist who exposed true extent of Chernobyl disaster killed himself a day after second anniversary (As the Deputy Director of Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy in Moscow, Valery Legasov received a distress call on April 26, 1986, asking him to head to Chernobyl. His life was never the same.)". Media Entertainment Arts WorldWide.
  24. ^ a b Surviving Disaster: Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster. BBC.
  25. ^ Marples, David (September 1993). Chernobyl's Lengthening Shadow. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. p. 40.
  26. ^ de Miranda, Paulo Emilio V. Science and Engineering of Hydrogen-Based Energy Technologies.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  27. ^ "Chernobyl (2019) Full Cast & Crew". IMDB.
  28. ^ Surviving Disaster. BBC.

External links[edit]