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Chemist, Investigator of Chernobyl Nuclear Accident Dies at 51

April 30, 1988 GMT

MOSCOW (AP) _ Valery A. Legasov, a physical chemist who led the commission the investigated the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, has died at the age of 51, the official Soviet news agency Tass announced.

Neither Tass nor the evening television news broadcast Vremya on Friday gave the cause or place of death.

Tass said Legasov died Wednesday, a day after the second anniversary of the April 26, 1986, explosion and fire at the nuclear power plant in the Soviet Ukraine in which at least 31 people were killed.

It was not known if Legasov was exposed to dangerous levels of radiation while investigating the disaster, the world’s worst nuclear power accident.

Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev and other top Communist Party officials and scientists signed the obituary carried by Tass.

Legasov’s name had been absent from the dozens of Soviet media reports on Tuesday’s anniversary of the accident at the nuclear facility 80 miles north of Kiev.

Legasov’s foreign colleagues in nuclear power research had praised his openness in discussing the causes and effects of the Chernobyl accident, in contrast to initial Soviet delay in releasing information about it.

The accident spread radioactivity worldwide.

Legasov was first deputy director of the I.V. Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy and a member of the Presidium of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. The official obituary praised his work with inert gases and in the use of nuclear reactors to generate electricity.

Legasov headed Soviet delegations to meetings on the Chernobyl disaster of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency.

In August 1986, he made a five-hour presentation of the Soviet investigators’ report on Chernobyl to the agency. The report blamed the accident on human error rather than faulty equipment.

Tass said Legasov made a ″significant contribution in the working out and realization of immediate measures aimed at liquidating the consequences of the accident.″