Three weeks ago, HBO started showing a series called Chernobyl about the infamous 1986 nuclear reactor explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Pripyat, Ukraine, Russia.
10 out of 10 stars. This has turned into one of the best series HBO has ever produced.
On April 26, 1986 at 1:26 am, an explosion at at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant near Pripyat, Ukraine, Russia causes homes in Pripyat to shake as if a 5-point earthquake is taking place. Inside the plant, the man in charge, Dyatlov, refuses to believe that the nuclear reactor has exploded. He insists that nuclear reactors don’t explode and that it’s simply the roof that’s on fire. Even as he walks the upper floor and sees huge chunks of glowing radioactive graphite from the nuclear reactor core lighting up the ground outside he still insists its the roof that exploded (which makes no sense). Dyatlov keeps ordering his men to examine the reactor (which means certain and almost immediate painful death) and to pump water around the core. That dumped water will come into play in a later episode. Dyatlov even has the day shift supervisor pulled in and forces him to go to the roof with an armed escort to see for himself that the reactor is fine.
If Dyatlov had looked himself and immediately ordered the evacuation of the plant and nearby Pripyat the number of dead and dying from radiation exposure would’ve been in the dozens, not the hundreds of thousands.
Dyatlov has the local fire brigades called in from three neighboring towns including Pripyat and in nearby Pripyat families come out of their homes to watch the play of lights in the sky above Chernobyl not realizing that they are being exposed to massive doses of radiation as well as radiation dust which they and their children are inhaling. They can taste the metal in the air but still they are not alarmed because, according to the Russian government, RBMK nuclear reactors never explode.
Dyatlov orders several men to measure the radiation output and the only dosimeters they can find have a maximum measure of 3.6 roentgen. The one man who comes back with a more powerful dosimeter says his dosimeter maxed out at 200 roentgen then stopped working. Dyatlov dismisses this and reports the radiation at 3.6 roentgen which is the equivalent of 400 chest x-rays. This amount of radiation is emitted every hour and yet he still doesn’t evacuate the plant.
The Pripyat firemen who arrive on the scene are surprised to find that building 4 is completely blown open. One of the men, Misha, picks up a piece of glowing graphite and asks what it is. Less than two minutes later his hand is literally melting in front of him and there’s nothing he can do to stop the pain or the liquidation of his flesh as the other firemen watch. Inside one of the plant workers props open a door so two other workers can get through and when he steps away from the door, every point of contact with the door is now bleeding. He has blood oozing out of skin from inside.
The Executive Governing Committee for the power plant is called in, including Comrade Fomin and Comrade Bryukhanov. They report that the roof is on fire, that the radiation exposure is only 3.6 roentgen, and that the fire is under control. The head of the executive committee, Comrade Zharkov, immediately orders the phone lines to be cut to stop the dissemination of any information about Chernobyl and the explosion.
- The explosion occurred at 1:26 am on April 26, 1986 during a test.
- The explosion felt like an earthquake in Pripyat 3 kilometers away.
- A column of blue glowing light led straight up from the plant into the sky as nuclear radiation was emitted into the air.
- Everyone could taste metal in the air and see radioactive dust particles in the air.
- Instead of evacuating, they ordered in fire brigades from all the neighboring cities and the day shift exposing more people to the radiation.
- There were glowing chunks of graphite from the nuclear reactor core on the ground outside the building.
- 3.6 roentgen is the highest measurement on a low level dosimeter; when that reading is reached the protocol is to measure with a higher level dosimeter which they failed to do.
- The control tank was 100 cubic meters. If it had exploded as Dyatlov assumed, it would not have created nearly the same amount of destruction as the nuclear reactor core.
- The governing body, the Executive Committee, cut the phone lines to prevent people from finding out what had happened and from warning others.
- It’s a standard protocol in areas with possible nuclear radiation to keep dosimeters on to measure ongoing radiation exposure. There were no dosimeters on. They had to get them from the safe to use them.
Kudos to HBO for including such a large amount of information in such a small amount of time. The writing is spectacular, the cast is incredible, and the authenticity of the set is remarkable. You feel like you are there.
Chernobyl airs every Monday evening at 6pm on HBO.
10 out of 10 stars for a series everyone should watch.