Viktor Petrovich Bryukhanov (born 1 December 1935, Tashkent, USSR) is the former manager of construction of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and the director of the plant from 1970 to 1986.
Viktor Bryukhanov was born on 1 December 1935 in the city of Tashkent, Uzbekistan (formerly USSR). Oldest son of the four children, his father used to work as a glazier and his mother was a cleaning lady. He later went on to become the only one his brothers to receive higher education attaining a degree from Energy Department of the Tashkent Polytechnic in electrical engineering in 1959. After graduation, he was offered a job at Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan. He worked at the Angren Thermal Power Plant in the following positions: duty de-aerator installer, driver of feed pumps, assistant turbine driver, turbine driver, senior turbine workshop engineer, shift supervisor and became workshop director a year later.
In 1966, he was invited to work at the Slavyanskaya Thermal Power Plant. He started as a senior foreman and rose up to the rank of head of workshop and finally, deputy chief engineer, finally resigning in 1970 to build a nuclear power plant in Ukraine. He was a member of Communist Party of Soviet Union since 1966. Between 1970 and 1986, he was repeatedly elected member of the regional district office of Kiev, Chernobyl, and Pripyat city committees of the party.
Viktor met his wife Valentina at Angren Power Plant. Valentina was an assistant to a turbine engineer and Viktor was a trainee fresh from the university.
Chernobyl Power Plant construction
During the late 1960s and early 1970s the energy minister offered Bryukhanov a new assignment -build an atomic power plant consisting of four RBMK reactors on the banks of the Pripyat River in Ukraine. Initially, Bryukhanov proposed construction of pressurized water reactors(PWAs), but this decision was met with opposition stating safety and economic reasons supporting construction of RBMK reactors, which eventually resulted in the construction of RBMK reactors. At a cost of almost 400 million rubles, Bryukhanov was responsible for building the reactors from scratch. As there was nothing nearby, he would need to bring materials and equipment to the construction site. He organized a temporary village and had a schoolhouse built. In 1970, he was joined in Lesnoy, a makeshift town on the outskirts of the construction zone by his wife, six-year-old daughter and infant son. During construction, deadlines were missed due to tight schedules, lack of construction equipment, and defective materials. Three years after assuming the role of director, the plant still had not been built. He offered to resign, but his resignation was torn up by his Party-appointed supervisor from the Energy Ministry in July 1972. On 1 August 1977, two years later than planned and more than seven years after the planning and the construction of the plant was launched, the first reactor of the Chernobyl Power Plant went online. At 8:10pm September 27 the same year, Ukraine's first nuclear electricity ran across 110 & 330 Kilovolt lines and on to the Soviet power grid. Bryukhanov ignored and failed to acknowledge the radioactive leak that occurred on September 9, 1982 when steam rose through a vent stack shared by reactors 1 and 2, indicating at least one broken pipe. The radioactive contaminants had spread fourteen kilometers from the plant and reached Pripyat. Bryukhanov also postponed an outstanding time-consuming safety test of reactor 4 so as to meet Moscow's launch deadline of December 31, 1983. By 1984, all the reactors of the Chernobyl Power Plant (formerly known as the Vladimir I. Lenin Nuclear Power Plant) were online and functioning.
On 26 April 1986, the head of the chemical division called Bryukhanov to report an incident at the station. Bryukhanov attempted to contact the shift supervisor but there was no answer at the fourth reactor block. He ordered all authorities to meet at the bunker at the headquarters of civil defense. While on a bus passing by the fourth reactor block, Bryukhanov realized the upper structure of the reactor was gone.
The explosion had lifted the 1,000-ton reactor lid. Lacking high-range dosimeters, officials had difficulty determining whether a radiation release had occurred or not and, if so, how much radiation had been released. Bryukhanov, assisted by manager Dyatlov and chief engineer Fomin, kept ordering the operators to add more cooling water.
Based on faulty information from Dyatlov, Bryukhanov continued to deny that the reactor core had exploded. At 3:00 AM, Bryukhanov, contacted Vladimir V. Marin, the official in charge of nuclear matters of the Communist Party at his Moscow home to report the accident and assure officials that the situation was under control.
After Bryukhanov went on a week's leave on 22 May, party officials made arrangements to remove him permanently from his position as director of the power plant. As part of discovery procedures dictated by the law, investigators brought him the materials they uncovered during course of their inquiries, which were used in a case against him. Bryukhanov also found a letter written by one of the Kurchatov Institute experts, which revealed the perilous design faults that were kept hidden from him and his staff for 16 years.
On January 20, 1987, after he sat in isolation for six weeks, the prosecutor's office filed their closing indictment with the Supreme Court of USSR. All of the 48 files of evidence sent to Moscow were classified top secret.
Viktor Bryukhanov was found guilty of gross violation of safety regulations, creating conditions that led to an explosion. Reports also mentioned that he failed to ensure correct and firm leadership in the difficult conditions of the accident and displayed irresponsibility and inability to organize. Bryukhanov was sentenced to 10 years in a labour camp along with five year sentence for abuse of power which ran concurrently . He accepted professional responsibility but denied criminal liability.
On 3 July 1986, the decision of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU for the mistakes that led to the Chernobyl disaster meant that Bryukhanov was expelled from the CPSU.
In September 1991, he was released ahead of schedule. After his release, he continued to work at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant as head of the technical department.
Since August 1992, he lives in the Desnyansky district of the city of Kiev and is an employee of the state company "Ukrinterenergo" in charge of liquidating the consequences of the Chernobyl accident.
- Wife – Valentina, electrical engineer, in the years 1975–1990 – senior engineer of the production department of Chernobyl, now retired
- Son – Oleg (born 1969), the mechanic automatic CHP-5 management systems from Kiev
- Daughter – Lily (born 1961), a paediatrician, a resident of Kherson
- Laureate of the Republican Prize of the Ukrainian SSR (1978)
- Order of the Red Banner of Labour (1978)
- Order of the October Revolution (1983)
- Medals "For Valiant Labour. In commemoration of the centenary of the birth of V. I. Lenin" and "Veteran of Labour"
- Certificate of Honour of the Supreme Council of the Ukrainian SSR (1980).
- Bryukhanov appeared in the documentary Radiofobia.
- In the mini-series Chernobyl, Con O'Neill played the role of Victor Bryukhanov.