Home » History » The First Victim of the Chernobyl Disaster was Valery Khodemchuk. He Died as the Reactor Exploded. His Body was Never Found and was Entombed in the Wreckage of the Power Plant.
Valery Khodemchuk

The First Victim of the Chernobyl Disaster was Valery Khodemchuk. He Died as the Reactor Exploded. His Body was Never Found and was Entombed in the Wreckage of the Power Plant.

The worst nuclear accident in history, the Chernobyl Nuclear disaster, occurred on April 25 and 26, 1986, in what is now northern Ukraine, when a reactor at a nuclear power plant exploded and burned. The incident, shrouded in secrecy, was a watershed moment in both the Cold War and the history of nuclear power. Scientists estimate that the area surrounding the former plant will be uninhabitable for up to 20,000 years. Did you know who the first victim of the Chernobyl disaster was? 

Valery Khodemchuk, the first victim of the Chernobyl disaster, died as the reactor exploded; his body was never found and is buried in the Chernobyl power plant wreckage.

What Happened to Valery Khodemchuk?

Valery Khodemchuk worked as a pump engineer at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Khodemchuk was 35 years old when the Chernobyl disaster occurred.

He is believed to have died almost instantly after the reactor exploded. Khodemchuk does not appear physically in the Chernobyl miniseries, but his name is mentioned. Staff working that evening can be seen looking for him in episode one.

On the evening of the Chernobyl nuclear explosion, Valery Khodemchuk was at work. He was in a reactor four building’s main circulation pump engine rooms. Valery was dispatched to the engine room to inform the operators of the safety test results.

On April 26, 1986, at approximately 1:23 AM, a series of powerful explosions occurred in reactor four.

Explosions tore through the reactor and the surrounding structure, including the main circulation pump halls. (Source: Express UK

How Did Khodemchuk’s Body Get Buried Under the Reactor?

Khodemchuk’s body was never discovered, and it is assumed that he was entombed in nuclear reactor debris.

According to AP news, the Soviet news outlet Pravda published the following at the time:  

The fourth reactor block will also become his coffin. And, perhaps, someone will write on those concrete walls, that it is not the reactor which is buried here, but Valery Khodemchuk.

Soviet news Outlet

Vladimir Shashenok also died that evening while attempting to save Khodemchuk.

The two men who died on the evening of the disaster were Khodemchuk and Shashenok, with 29 firefighters and first responders dying in the weeks following acute radiation poisoning.

The official death toll in the Soviet Union was 31, but many more are expected to have died due to the long-term health effects of radiation exposure.

The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that 4,000 to 27,000 people died from the disaster, while Greenpeace estimates that 93,000 to 200,000 died.

A memorial to Khodemchuk was erected deep within the Unit 3/Unit 4 Ventilation blocks and is still standing today.

Underneath his portrait, the text reads: 

Valery Khodemchuk’s body was never recovered. He is permanently entombed under Reactor 4.

Apart from the initial 30 people confirmed killed by the explosions and acute radiation exposure, the health effects of the Chernobyl disaster remain unknown. No official government studies were conducted after the blast to assess the impact on workers, liquidators, and nearby populations. (Source: Express UK

Image from Unilad

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