February 13 is the 100th birthday of Anatoly Alexandrov, an outstanding Russian scientist, designer of nuclear power plants for ships and submarines and nuclear reactors for NPPs, President of the USSR Academy of Sciences.
When after the 1917 revolution Alexandrov worked as an electrician, he did not think he would dedicate his life to science. But while studying by correspondence at Kiev University, he carried out his first, but very bright, scientific work. Professor Ioffe who familiarised himself with this research suggested that Alexandrov move to Leningrad to study dielectrics there. The young engineer consented, and thanks to this, polymer physics appeared in the USSR in the 1930s.
But in fact, the whole research of the young scientist was related to the sea. At the very beginning of WWII he was nicknamed "sea academician" though he was only a Doctor. Alexandrov was in charge of protecting ships from magnetic mines - a weapon against which ships were at that time unprotected. He developed a unique technique, and thanks to that no ship of the Soviet Navy was destroyed by such mines.
At that time, the famous physicist Igor Kurchatov was working under Alexandrov's direction. Soon their positions were reversed and in 1943 Alexandrov became Kurchatov's lieutenant on the "Atomic project".
During the nuclear test programme in the early 1950s, the Soviet and American leaders realised that a sudden nuclear strike required principally new carriers of nuclear weapons, whose range of action was at that time very limited. The submarines were regarded as the most efficient means of delivery, as they could approach the enemy's coast undetected. But in this case the submarines' cruising range was to be substantially increased.
The U.S. with its historically strong navy potential soon became the leader in atomic submarine designing and its navy was the first in the world to receive an atomic submarine, in early 1954.
Despite the high risk of emergency, the USSR started to test its first atomic submarine K-3 Leninsky Komsomol in September, 1957. Its power plant was totally designed by Alexandrov.
Once, Deputy Chairman of the Soviet Council of Ministers came to Severodvinsk, the main Soviet sea shipyard. He wanted to accelerate the reactor's trial launch. Alexandrov refused to precipitate matters and, moreover, asked the top official to leave the deck.
The outraged Ustinov left the ship the next morning, and the nuclear submarine's reactor was launched immediately on his departure.
Alexandrov's last word was also a guarantee of order, when the first atomic icebreakers - Lenin, Sibir and Rossiya were being tested.
The Chernobyl catastrophe on April 26, 1986 was a personal tragedy for the 83-year-old scientist. Unjust accusations and simply mud was thrown at Alexandrov as the head of the entire Soviet NPP programme. The reactor was said to be obviously inferior to American and European analogues.
The old scientist bound by a "vow of silence" could not say at that time that it was the Chernobyl reactor's reliability that made it a "testing-ground" for new energy equipment. The reactor was for a long time employed in extreme regimes.
When a documentary dedicated to Alexandrov's 90th anniversary was being shot in 1992, a Black Sea Fleet officer told the scientist that he deserved to go down in history thanks to the solution of ship degauss problem alone.
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