In a rare interview on the eve of the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl on Monday, Col-Gen Nikolai Antoshkin said he was shocked at how poorly Japan had coped with its own nuclear disaster.
“Right at the start when there was not yet a big leak of radiation they (the Japanese) wasted time.
And then they acted in slow-motion,” he said.
The Soviets had evacuated 44,600 people within two and a half hours and put them up in “normal comfortable conditions” on the same day, he recalled.
“Look at advanced Japan,” he said. “People are housed in stadiums and are lying about on the floors of sports halls in unhygienic conditions.”
Gen Antoshkin said he thought the Japanese were simply unable to cope on their own. “It is clear that they do not have enough strength or means. They need to ask the international community for help,” he said. “I think the Japanese catastrophe is already more serious than Chernobyl. The main thing is that they do not allow it to become three, four or five times more serious.”
Gen Antoshkin, 68, was in charge of Soviet pilots who flew over Chernobyl’s stricken fourth reactor, dropping lead, sand and clay from the air to try to contain radiation. In the ten days after the accident on 26 April 1986, his pilots flew 4,000 such flights, exposing themselves to huge radiation doses.
Gen Antoshkin insisted that his men, many of whom later died from cancer, knew the risks they were taking. “Of course the pilots knew (they were getting high doses) and the consequences,” he said. “But the pilots knew that the reactor needed to be covered as quickly as possible. You’d tell the pilot to leave but he’d come back.”
Radiation levels were so high that they were off the scale, he added, and precautions were as basic as being told to change uniform and have a good wash.
By Andrew Osborn, Moscow 5:49PM BST 25 Apr 2011
Source: The Telegraph