On August 25, 2008, Vasily Borisovich Nesterenko the world known scientist, prominent specialist in the field of nuclear power energy, nuclear and radiation safety, corresponding member of the national Academy of Sciences of Belarus, honoured worker of science and techniques of the BSSR, the BSSR State Prize laureate, the Deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the BSSR from 1980 to 1985, Doctor of technical sciences, professor died.
We lost an unique and extremely gifted person whose life was marked by significant achievements in the creation of defence nuclear power energy and later (after the Chernobyl accident) in the field of development and realization of systems of radiation protection of the population, foremost the children affected by, and living in vast territories of Belarus contaminated as a result of the Chernobyl accident.
Vasily Borisovich Nesterenko was born on December 1934 in the village Krasny Kut of Lugansk district, Donets Basin, Ukraine. His early but conscious childhood was seared by the horrors of war.
In 1958 Vasily Borisovich graduated from the Baumann Moscow Higher Technical School (at present Moscow State Technical University) and began working as a research assistant of the world known Institute for Engines of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.
In 1963 he was invited to Minsk as a specialist in the field of nuclear power energy in order to develop the corresponding defense scientific and technical sphere as a head of the laboratory of the Institute for Heat and Mass Exchange of the Academy of Sciences of Belarus. In 1965 starting with at the moment of establishment of Belarusian Institute for Nuclear Power Energy he was appointed deputy director for scientific activities of that Institute and was chosen as the head of the scientific department. From 1977 to 1987 Vasily Borisovich worked as a director of the Institute for Nuclear Power Energy of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and at the same time, starting in 1971, he was the chief designer of the mobile nuclear power plant created at the Institute for Nuclear Power Energy for military objectives in the interests of the state. Specifically in the position of chief designer, his scientific and engineering talent, huge erudition, inexhaustible energy and extraordinary managerial abilities emerged. Working as director with the team of two thousand scientists, designers and workers of the pilot factory, he headed and completed the scientific and technical substantiation of that principally new NPP on dissociated gas heat-transfer material. At the same time as chief designer of that NPP, he implemented the coordination and scientific and technical guidance of more than hundred of the largest organizations in some republics, Moscow and Leningrad which were responsible for elaboration of some unit of the mobile NPP. By 1987 this work guided by V.B. Nesterenko was completed, there were two pilot models of the mobile NPP “Pamir” (the name of the mobile NPP) created. One of them was started and produced electric power.
Unfortunately, the perestroika and then the Chernobyl accident led to the suspension of that work and later – to the full dismantling of both pilot models of the mobile NPP that could be used for peaceful purposes.
The mobile NPP created under Vasily Borisovich Nesterenko’s guidance was started and produce electric energy soon than expected so it was not his fault that the state leaders of those times did not allow the completion of that elaboration.
In April 1986 when the whole world was shocked by the largest ever human-caused accident in Chernobyl, the government ordered Vasily Borisovich Nesterenko to fly by helicopter over the burning reactor and together with the academician Legasov they analyzied the radiation situation above the damaged fourth power-unit. This led to a large inevitable radiation intake, which then had a negative influence on his state of health.
The events in those first days following the Chernobyl accident, such as the urgent evacuations of both children and adults, the misunderstanding of current events and the uncertainty in making decisions shocked him in the same manner as the events that occurred in the beginning of the Great Patriotic War that he remembered from his childhood. At that time he decided to donate the rest of his life along with his scientific and professional skills, to overcoming the effects of the Chernobyl accident, through the elaboration and the realization of protective measures concerning the health of the population especially the children living in contaminated territories. The Chernobyl accident resulted in the contamination of 23% of the total territory of Belarus with a population of 1.5 million inhabitants which include 500,000 children. Within the first few months after the Chernobyl accident, the Institute for Nuclear Power Energy of the Academy of Sciences of the BSSR guided by Vasily Borisovich, worked the whole day through measuring radiation contamination in a huge number of soil samples from all over Belarus in order to work together with other organizations. This was performed successfully.
As a specialist in the field of radiaton safety, Vasily Borisovich understood in first days following the accident that for many decades to come, that foodstuffs would be the main contributor to the dose of radioactivity of the population in contaminated territories. But at that time there were no devices capable of accurate measuring of radiation in foodstuffs. There was a lack of skilled staff or system for such measurements and no corresponding protective measures had been established.
Taking into account the urgency in solving these problems as well as others in the field of radiation protection, Vasily Borisovich Nesterenko, supported by Andrey Sakharov, a prominet Belarusian writer, Ales Adamovich and Anatoly Karpov, created and permanently headed the non-governmental Institute of Radiation Safety “ Belrad” in 1990.
After the establishment of this Institute, under Vasily Nesterenko’s guidance within two years (1991 to 1993), a strong system of radiation control of local foodstuffs produced and consumed on private farmsteads in the contaminated territories of Belarus was created. There were 370 local centres for radiation control which made it possible to address and determine on a regular basis, the amount of radiation contamination and to correspondingly preform adequate protective measures.
Because of lack of funding, the number of local centres slowly started to reduce. the Institute BELRAD received a significant data base consisting of more than 400,000 measurements which is a good memorial to this self-sacrificing man
Under the director’s guidance the Institute organized a mass output of the necessary measuring units intended for local centres for radiation control and training the specialists from the local population at the training centre of the Institute.
Receiving the data of radiation and often high contamination of foodstuffs, Vasily Borisovich understood clearly that it was important but insufficient for the organization of radiation protection of every existing inhabitant and every child. In connection to that, starting with 1997 in the framework of the Institute, he developed a new work sector: measurements of Caesium 137 present in the inhabitants of contaminated regions in Belarus, mainly children.
Here Vasily Borisovich Nesterenko spent a lot of his strength, organization and creative energy in order to establish and to equip the laboratory for human radiation spectrometry (WBC). By the way, the great assistance in equipping the laboratory organized by Vasily Borisovich was provided by the Ukrainian Institute for Medical and Ecological Systems. Nowadays such a laboratory exists in memory of Vasily Borisovich, it was certified by the Belarusian State Committee for Standards and consists of 7 mobile WBC complexes. Starting in 1997 about 400,000 measurements of radionuclides in children were performed thanks to them. That permitted the Institute to build maps of Caesium 137 deposits in children for 13 districts of Gomel region as well as to conduct, by Vasily Borisovich Nesterenko’s proposal, necessary protective measures for the elimination of radionuclides from the organism, namely by applying pectin preparations.
Over the last several years the Institute BELRAD, due to the same inexhaustible of Vasily Borisovich Nesterenko’s energy, the production and distribution of the dried pectin vitamin preparation “Vitapect-2” that can decrease by 30 to 40% the Caesium in the organism with one treatment (about 20 days) was put in place.
One last good memory of Vasily Borisovich Nesterenko is the fact that in the same year as his death, 2008 the mobile laboratory for parallel measurements of radionuclides contained in foodstuffs of villages was created by his initiative and began its activities. This will permit an increase of the corresponding addressed measures.
Vasily Borisovich Nesterenko is an author of more than 300 scientific works, including 15 monograph, and 320 inventions. From 1990 to 1994 V.B. Nesterenko was the chairman of the United Advisory Council of Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine for the problems arising from the Chernobyl accident. As a result under his guidance and co-authorship there has been published the expert conclusion consisting in four volumes “Chernobyl Accident: Reasons and Consequences” describing the influences of the consequences of Chernobyl on the population and environment in the affected regions in Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine. This four-volume book is factual and useful today in many respects. We are extremely thankful to Vasily Borisovich for his guidance and participation in its creation.
The great force of persuasion and confidence in the correctness of his thoughts, ideas and civic position, helped Vasily Borisovich Nesterenko to enter into creative relations and to find technical and material support in solving the problems arising from Chernobyl with the Chernobyl initiative, public and charitable organizations and embassies of some countries: Germany, France, Ireland, Japan, Spain, Canada, Italy, Slovakia, Lithuania, the Ukraine and Russia.
One last word in gratitude to Vasily Borisovich, the vast army of people he worked and communicated with, would like to say with a single heart that we dealt with a unique many-sided person of great energy, erudition and soul.
The strict exactingness to himself and other people in solving the tasks he faced, the straightforwardness and uncompromisingness in upholding his ideas and positions was combined in him with the extreme fairness and kindness in relation to people, with the readiness to meet and to help any person in his or her difficult situation.
He loved children and during his last years was happy helping a many of the Chernobyl children in keeping their health. The active continuation of his work will be the best memory of this unusual man and citizen.
Team of the Institute of radiation safety BELRAD