Eight Real-Life Heroes Who Literally Saved The World

Published December 22, 2018
Updated May 30, 2019

Real-Life Heroes: Alexander Akimov

Chernobyl Reactor

Wikimedia CommonsThe immediate aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster.

The Chernobyl disaster is one of the most famous nuclear catastrophes in the world, but not many people know that if it hadn’t been for one man, the damage would have been much worse.

On the night of April 26, 1986, Alexander Akimov was at work as the shift supervisor of the night crew of Chernobyl Plant Unit Four.

When he first received news that something was wrong, Akimov didn’t believe it. He even relayed false information to his superiors for several hours — a terrible mistake that he made up for later that night.

When he realized the extent of the damage to the reactors he stayed behind to remedy the situation as best he could.

Yuriy Andreyev, a worker at the plant, recalls the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster.

Akimov was the one who declared an emergency as soon as the reactor was shut down, though by then the damage had already been done. The reactor had exploded and was exposed, leaking extremely high levels of radiation.

Rather than evacuate, Akimov stayed behind. He had his crew turn on the emergency feedwater pumps to flood the reactor, but the power source was no longer active. Along with several of his fellow engineers, Akimov stayed in the poisonous air in the reactor building, manually pumping emergency feedwater into the reactor without any protective gear.

The work of the engineers ended up costing them their lives, but they dramatically changed the impact of the disaster. Their sacrifice saved countless others.

Katie Serena
A former staff writer at All That's Interesting, Katie Serena has also published work in Salon.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Serena, Katie. "Eight Real-Life Heroes Who Literally Saved The World." AllThatsInteresting.com, December 22, 2018, https://allthatsinteresting.com/real-life-heroes. Accessed June 14, 2024.