REAL LIFE

“I Was The Last One To Press The Button”: The Story Of Chernobyl Engineer That Wasn’t Told In The Series

Date June 17, 2019

On April 26, 2019, a number of European countries mourned the worst man-made disaster of the late 20th century. On the same day in 1986, there was an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The tragedy, which they tried to keep under wraps at the cost of thousands of human lives, came to life again in the HBO mini-series.

Even though there are only 5 episodes, just a few days after the last one was aired, Chernobyl’s IMDB rating reached 9.6, beating the legendary Game of Thrones. But not everything in the series was true. For instance, there was no mention of senior engineer Alexey Breus.

Alexey Breus started working at the power plant in 1982, shortly after graduation. After the launch of Reactor 4, the young specialist became its senior operation engineer. Two years later, he was given a modest 1-room apartment in one of the multistoried buildings of the once promising city of Pripyat. Breus’ neighbors were engineer-mechanic Alexey Ananenko and operator Leonid Toptunov, both mentioned in the series.

“I Was The Last One To Press The Button”: The Story Of Chernobyl Engineer That Wasn’t Told In The SeriesHromadske Telebachennya / YouTube

On April 26, Breus was responsible for supplying water to the reactor and together with his colleagues successfully carried out his duty during the full 8-hour shift. In the days that followed, people weren’t allowed to be close to the epicenter of the explosion for more than 1.5 minutes. It was Alexey Breus who was the last one to try and start a failed pump.

Alexey received a dose of radiation that was 25,000 times higher than permissible. A few days after the tragedy, Breus worked on the third unit. On the night of April 29, he was evacuated along with the last operators remaining at the site.

“I Was The Last One To Press The Button”: The Story Of Chernobyl Engineer That Wasn’t Told In The SeriesHromadske Telebachennya / YouTube

Alexey understood that his health had been severely damaged: he clearly felt it. The examination showed that he could no longer work at facilities such as nuclear power plants. From the very beginning, he was told that it was all the workers’ fault, although there had been violations even during the construction of the reactor. This was confirmed during the following investigation of 1991, but the facts went almost unnoticed. Alexey praised the creators of the series for exposing the truth.

“I Was The Last One To Press The Button”: The Story Of Chernobyl Engineer That Wasn’t Told In The SeriesHromadske Telebachennya / YouTube

Alexey tried to become a journalist and wrote about the incident, but he wasn’t published. The topic of Chernobyl was taboo. In 2000, he joined the group of artists called "Strontium-90,” who dedicated their works to the tragedy.

“I Was The Last One To Press The Button”: The Story Of Chernobyl Engineer That Wasn’t Told In The SeriesHromadske Telebachennya / YouTube

The Chernobyl disaster has an unknown number of deaths from acute radiation and other diseases, hundreds of thousands of forgotten liquidators and peaceful people taken from their homes, children born with developmental pathologies, babies who received enormous doses of radiation in the mother's womb, and a vast exclusion zone.

Those who were exposed to the radiation first were heroes who gave their lives or sacrificed their health for the sake of the entire planet. Not for titles, awards or honors, but simply because they knew that there was no time to waste.

Many of them were no longer alive, but the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was already running. The first and second reactors were put into operation in October 1986 after the construction of the sarcophagus over Reactor 4; the third was launched in 1987. In 1991, another fire broke out. After that, the second reactor was closed, and the process of decommissioning began. The plant was finally closed on December 15, 2000. But there are probably so many more untold stories.