Chernobyl #6: Feat of Divers
ICM continues to model the Chernobyl disaster and its side effects, and this is the sixth set in that series.
Unlike the previous, more generic versions of various first responders and/or victims, this is a specific set dealing with a very specific set of men. Here’s the story:
In 1986, the Number 4 reactor at Chernobyl in the Ukraine exploded, heralding one of the worst nuclear accidents in history. More than 500,000 personnel were mobilized to contain the disaster. The total cost of the effort exceeded roughly $68 billion dollars overall. Completion of the cleanup will still not be complete until around 2065 and with the current war going on, is likely to take much longer than that.
However, ten days after the initial meltdown, another potential disaster was discovered lurking under the still-smoldering debris of the collapsed containment shell. Water that had been sprayed on the flames by firemen and other responders had pooled under the reactor along with clay, sand and boron, all of which had been dropped by helicopters previously in efforts to staunch the blaze. In just those few days this slurry had been transformed by radiation to the consistency of lava and was slowly burning through the floor and threatening to mix with the huge reserve safety pool below. If this had happened, the steam explosion would probably have seriously contaminated the majority of Europe.
The only way to stop this horrific event was by opening the flood gates under the reactor to release the pool. The only way to open them was for someone to physically dive into this highly contaminated radioactive water and perform a manual release, all with the clear certainty of almost certain death.
Three men volunteered: Valeri Bezpalov, Alexie Ananenko (both plant engineers) and Boris Baranov, another worker from the same plant. With full knowledge of what they were facing, the three donned scuba gear over Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and with only a single erratically functioning lamp, they stepped through the emergency door and dived down below the water’s surface. Fortunately for the world, they eventually found the proper valve and turned it, releasing 22,000 tons of water from the emergency pool into a nearby water shed.
Reports of what eventually happened to these three men are inconsistent. One report states that Veleri and Alexie died two weeks later in a Moscow hospital, with Boris following shortly thereafter. All three men were then supposedly buried in lead-lined coffins to prevent further contamination.
Another report claims that all three survived, with Boris dying in 2005, although there is no mention of cause of death. The two engineers are reported as still being alive and living in Kiev. Considering the incredible amounts of radiation they all must have suffered (despite the PPE, which is not intended for radiation levels of this magnitude), I personally find it unlikely that they are still with us.
But whichever statement is factual, there’s no arguing over the sheer courage all three displayed in performing -- what at the time they must have regarded as a suicide mission.
ICM’s kit features the three divers associated with this incident, along with a military assistant helping one of the three with his harness. The kit also includes a fold-out backdrop to make a simple diorama, similar to the other kits I’ve built in the Chernobyl range.
Assembly of the figures is generally a relatively straight-forward affair, although I initially had some trouble with the air tanks/hose arrangement. The assembly instructions are quite vague on this area, and I had to determine that the air tanks fit on their frame with the various nozzles facing DOWN rather than UP. Also, be very careful to check which air hose goes on which side of the mask for each figure, as they are specific to one location only. Both hoses then fit onto a microscopic valve piece which attaches to their masks, so I suggest you take your time with getting this properly positioned. Each diver also comes with a clear face mask (a very nice touch), but these can be installed after all the other assembly is complete.
Painting is also fairly simple. The three figures wore essentially the same PPE/diving suit outfits, which are monochrome. Only the fourth figure offers a bit of variant with a military uniform. In any case, between the diving masks and the soldier’s face mask, there isn’t going to be a lot of flesh to paint. About the only thing visible on the two with their diving masks on is the nose.
The assembled figures look good on the supplied fold-out diorama, although since they don’t come with any vehicles or other accessories, the complete backdrop looks a bit bare. I took a second photo more focused on the door they were going to have to go through for their mission, and it looks a bit more to scale.
All in all, this is an especially profound little diorama, especially once you know the story behind what is happening. ICM gives a little thumbnail account of the incident on the side of the box, but I had to go to the internet to discover the full details of this fascinating story. The figures are very well molded, and the backdrop makes a poignant little vignette – a true story of unbelievable heroism in the face of almost certain death. My hat off to ICM for bringing this story to those of us who otherwise would never have heard about it.
Highly recommended. Thanks again, ICM! Kudos to them for making such an interesting kit, and to IPMS/USA for a chance for me to build and learn about this riveting piece of recent history. Happy modeling, everyone!