- Viktor Pavlovich, do you remember the moment when you learned about the Chernobyl accident?

- I found out about her by accident.

I went to visit Academician Georgy Petrov, a prominent scientist in the field of mechanics, at the dacha, and at that moment Anatoly Aleksandrov, President of the USSR Academy of Sciences, phoned him on the "turntable".

I heard his words on the phone.

He said that the station had exploded and asked Petrov who could help.

He replied that Academician Vsevolod Avduevsky would be the most suitable, he could make a model of the station.

At that time, he was fishing on Lake Ladoga, and a plane was sent for him.

He made it on a scale of 1:50.

Instead of fuel elements (TVEL), there were light bulbs, they burned out.

A very good model that showed both how the nuclear power plant worked and the mechanics of destruction.

And I closely communicated with him and helped, so from the very beginning I was aware of his work.

- How were you directly involved in the elimination of the consequences of this accident?

- Soon after the accident, Leonid Bolshov came to my dacha where I live, who for many years has been the head of the Institute for Problems of Safe Development of Nuclear Energy of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

He lives very close.

Bolshov brought me to show his calculations for the future sarcophagus.

They were not entirely accurate, but I wondered.

And since I already talked with Avduevsky, and with the rest of the physicists who were engaged in Chernobyl, I also got involved in the work.

For my calculations, I gathered and headed a group of mathematicians.

- Why did the physicists decide to contact you for the calculations?

- I think there were no other mathematicians who would have understood and understood physics as well then.

I graduated from the Physics Department of Moscow State University, I taught.

As I understand, knowing me well, they did not consider anyone else. 

- What task have you set?


When the disaster struck, the Kurchatov Institute undertook to correct the situation.

Then the deputy director there was Yevgeny Adamov, who at the end of the 90s became the Minister of Atomic Energy of the Russian Federation, and then he supervised the construction of the sarcophagus.

Adamov instructed me to do the final calculations for the sarcophagus before the final closure of the emergency unit.

I had only three days, and I counted both day and night.

He then said: "If Maslov signs a permit, we close the sarcophagus with a lid, if not, then no."

I do not know what would have happened if I had not signed.

But these three days were very tense, I would say extreme.

It was a very difficult moment for me, one of the most difficult decisions in my life, which then haunted me for many years.

- Why?

- Imagine that my calculations would be inaccurate, and because of this there would be a new leak?

Let's say I'm wrong, what should I do then?

We remember how Academician Valery Legasov did in the end.

The worst thing was that my mistake would result in human lives.

- What was the essence of your calculations?

- If very simplified, then one of the main elements in the construction of the sarcophagus was the hole, which was supposed to provide cooling of the formed blockages due to natural suction, and at the same time not allow new emissions to the atmosphere.

We had to, taking into account all possible parameters, calculate the optimal dimensions of this hole, that is, create a mathematical model of convective cooling of the Chernobyl emergency unit.

It was impossible to be mistaken.

There were many difficulties, the main one was that we could not look inside the emergency block, fully understand what processes were taking place there.

The unexpectedness of some of the phenomena that we discovered, the tight deadlines demanded a tremendous exertion of forces, they worked for wear and tear, around the clock.

As a result, we discovered a number of previously unknown regularities of filtration through a heat-generating medium and were able, on their basis, to explain the phenomena that were observed in the emergency unit after the explosion.

  • © ras.ru

- Did you yourself go to Chernobyl?

- No, there was no such need, I'm not an engineer, our task was theoretical calculations.

- But how can all this be done remotely?

- We had a model of Avduevsky, in addition, if we needed something at the station itself, then at our request, experiments were carried out there.

Here I would like to note that Yevgeny Adamov then proved to be a very good organizer.

For example, in the morning I asked him to set fire to checkers with colored smoke at the bottom of the reactor in order to see from above how it would rise inside, how the paints would mix.

And in the afternoon the experiment was carried out, and we had all the data.

But even after the closure of the sarcophagus, the thought of whether I counted everything correctly, did not leave me for a very long time.

There was no firm conviction in this, later, even in my sleep, these doubts tormented me.

There was uncertainty, because then during the calculations it was not possible to solve all the problems that were identified and fell on us, to answer all the questions.

- Despite the perestroika, information from the population was initially concealed, and then it was given out in a very metered manner.

Are you confronted with secrecy?

- At the very beginning of the work, when all this was still kept secret from the population, I was simply amazed when they forced me to sign a paper that I would not tell anyone about diseases and deaths that could occur.

It angered me, but I signed.

Gorbachev did not want to scare people, and they were not given the full picture of the disaster.

- Did you have to solve any other issues related to Chernobyl?

- Yes.

After the accident, radioactive rains took place, a map was drawn up, where the regions in which such precipitation fell were marked, and the question arose: how will these waters affect the soil?

And where will this radiation falling from the sky go further?

The Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR Nikolai Ryzhkov had a question, can we plant winter crops there or not?

He addressed this question to scientists.

First, the head of the State Committee for Meteorology Yuri Izrael, he turned to his friend geophysicist Alexander Obukhov, who, in turn, asked for help from Akiva Yaglom, our physicist and mathematician.

But he said that he had already forgotten everything and planted for the calculations of his graduate student Tsarenko.

They gave him two days to create a model.

And when I later invited him to my place, he told me that he was not an expert in this topic, he had to sit in the library.

Then such a situation was in the country: the authorities instruct other authorities, otherwise they do not do it on their own, but let them down.

After all, there was also panic, and it was not clear who understood this at all.

He was instructed, he does not know whether he is addressing an acquaintance or a colleague.

- And in the end you had to redo?

- No, on the problem of precipitation, I can say, I worked in parallel, together with the military.

Then the head of the Civil Defense of the USSR, General Vladimir Govorov, an amazing man and one of the leaders of the liquidation of the consequences of the accident, was also very interested in how the spread of radioactive fallout would go, in order to correctly understand where it was possible to plant winter crops and where not.

And he attracted me to this work, saying that you need to see everything with your own eyes.

We were given an excellent UAZ car, which had all the necessary instruments, and together with the military we went to Belovezhskaya Pushcha, Tula, Kaluga regions, investigated rivers and currents.

The main object of study was silt.

- Why silt?

- Because it collects radiation very well.

Most likely, it was because of this that I later developed thyroid cancer, which, however, turned out to be not as terrible as the same radiation sickness.

He did not even operate on him, and is still alive.

  • After the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the reactor was sealed

  • RIA News

  • © Igor Kostin

- What else is remembered about that period?

- In the course of our mathematical calculations, we realized that the State Commission for Elimination of the Consequences of the Accident was in vain so afraid of the so-called Chinese syndrome, that is, that the molten radioactive fuel will burn through the bottom of the station, and the radiation will go into the soil, and from there to the Dnieper, which threatened catastrophic consequences.

Then, in order to avoid this, miners were attracted, who, in extreme conditions, made a tunnel under the reactor, an additional cooled concrete reinforced concrete pad was made.

And we, already later, in the course of our work, according to our calculations, realized that this could not happen, the fuel would not be able to reach this pillow.

In the end, it happened, the pillow could not be made, but then, immediately after the accident, no one knew for sure.

- It turns out that physicists did not take into account something?

- Yes. The mechanic plays an important role here, and the so-called fireplace effect worked there. Imagine, there is a grate in the fireplace, the fireplace heats up, but it, despite the very high temperature of the coals in the fireplace, is not. This is because the air carries heat upward into the pipe. And physicists then simply did not take this into account. There, all the hot stream, which was emitted by the TVEL, went up, so nothing could reach down.

By the way, in order to carry out all the measures to prevent this "Chinese syndrome", a huge number of cars and equipment were needed.

The scale of the work was very large, so it was decided to take the equipment from the construction site along the bend of the rivers.

I was involved in this project at the time and actively protested against it.

I think that the withdrawal of all this equipment was one of the significant factors that contributed to the final abandonment of the idea of ​​river turning in August 1986.

- Recently a new sarcophagus was built in Chernobyl.

What is your opinion on this design?

“It was necessary because the old sarcophagus had already begun to crack, cracks appeared, but the design was not perfect.

There is no filtration of radiation, that is, the problem of possible radioactive emissions has not been finally solved.

In my last works, I wrote how you can make a filter that would protect against leakage of radioactive elements.

However, my suggestions were not taken into account in the design of the new sarcophagus.

- You mentioned academician Legasov.

Why do you think he committed suicide?

“I know the reasons, but I don’t want to talk.

I can only say that he felt underappreciated.

He was very upset that, having made a huge contribution to the elimination of the consequences of the accident, no one appreciated his work "above", did not recognize his merits.

Unlike his competitor, academician Yevgeny Velikhov, he did not have such a charm.

Velikhov is generally a very pleasant sociable person, he was friends with Gorbachev.

- They write about you that you predicted the collapse of the USSR with the help of mathematics ...

- Yes, I met with Ivan Silaev, who then headed the Council of Ministers.

He said that in terms of economics, we will follow the Polish path, insisted on this.

And I offered to introduce him a second currency.

  • An insulating arched structure (New Safe Confinement) above the 4th power unit of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant

  • RIA News

- Like this?

- I offered to give out part of the salary in rubles, and part in checks.

The people then got used to food ration cards, and this would not have been some kind of shock for the population.

Accordingly, some goods would be sold for rubles, others for checks.

Thus, it would be possible to raise food prices to their real value and thereby overcome the deficit.

I said that if this is not done, then the second currency will arise by itself, which ultimately happened in our country - in the form of the dollar.

Then, with the help of Igor Golembiovsky, I managed to publish an article on this topic in Izvestia.

It was published under the title "How to Avoid Complete Catastrophe" two weeks before the August putsch.

But they did not listen to me, although I really wanted to preserve the USSR.

- Was there a chance then to change something when you wrote this, or did you already write about irreversible processes?

- Yes, there was a chance.

Nothing is inevitable.

When the second currency is introduced by itself, it is harmful to the economy, and at the state level it would give results.

But what can I say about it now?

To some extent, I really guessed the further course of events.

And there were other examples when, thanks to calculations, I succeeded, for example, several economic crises, in particular the 1998 default and the US financial crisis in 2007-2008.

- You have a huge track record in the scientific world.

Now that you are over 90, do you still have any projects left?

- More recently, maybe a year ago, I handed in articles to two journals twice a month, I worked actively. Now, on the whole, we can say that he has retired in terms of science. Now there are more and more thoughts about the past, memories, memoirs. I want to republish two of my books, one of them in English. I would like to finish some unfinished business. Many people from my generation have already left, although friends, of course, remain. But I am already very tired, and my hearing is lame, so communication, of course, is not what it used to be.