Chernobyl’s ‘Suicide Divers’ Saved Europe And Didn’t Die From Radiation Exposure Like Expected

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Chernobyl, the limited miniseries, has turned into a massive hit for HBO. Viewers and critics alike have applauded the program that explored what happened during the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that occurred in 1986. While a realistic version of events, there is one thing that has been reported since the disaster occurred in 1986 that is actually incorrect.

The “suicide divers” tasked with turning off the water valves within Reactor 4 were expected to die pretty much immediately after their task. However, news has since come to light that these three divers did not die immediately of radiation poisoning. In fact, two of them are still alive today.

During the early days of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, it became apparent that the meltdown in Reactor 4 was about to become even more dangerous as the core melted through the ground and was rapidly approaching a massive water storage unit. If the core reached this water supply, a steam explosion could occur and this had the potential to make a large part of Europe a dead zone for at least 500,000 years.

In order to prevent this disaster, three men were tasked with suiting up and heading into Reactor 4 in order to release valves that would allow the water to drain away. It was believed at the time that these divers would die fairly quickly as a result of the radiation they would be exposed to, even after wearing protective gear.

However, as The Mirror points out, these three fearless men, dubbed the suicide divers, did survive their trip into the bowels of Chernobyl days after the disaster occurred.

Engineer Alexei Ananenko, senior engineer Valeri Bespalov, and shift supervisor Boris Baranov were given the job of releasing the valves.

Alexei states that he wasn’t scared of the job assigned to him, instead, he was more focused on the job at hand.

However, his wife tells a different story.

“He was more scared of being fired for not fulfilling his duties. This was Soviet times, and such a fear was real,” she said.

Once inside the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, Alexei explained the dangerous procedure the three men were instructed to perform.

“I entered the water with Bespalov and it was knee deep. We were trying to move as quickly as possible. The corridor was flooded with radioactive water, which merged from higher levels. I was worried that we would not find the right fittings but that fear quickly disappeared when the valves were marked. They opened relatively easy. We just opened the latches and immediately there was a noise. We understood the water was gone and we just had to go back.”

These three men were given a job that was known to likely result in their deaths. According to The Sun, they were given the option to refuse the task. However, the men went ahead and performed their duties.

And, all these years later, two of those men are still alive, despite initial reports that they had died.

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While Boris Baranov died of a heart attack in 2005, Valeri Bespalov and Alexei Ananenko are still alive to this day. However, the two men have not kept in contact since their dangerous task at Chernobyl.

“It is a mistake to think we were close friends,” Ananenko explained.

“We were just colleagues on the same shift and never kept contact outside work. We don’t have much in common. I know Bespalov lives not far from my home but we are not in contact at all.”

Ananenko also disputes that people cheered when the trio emerged from Chernobyl’s Reactor 4, or that a lot of vodka drinking occurred afterward.

“I didn’t drink at all,” Ananenko said.

The limited miniseries, Chernobyl, is currently airing on HBO.