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Old 05-07-2019, 07:35 AM
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Chernobyl on HBO


Did anyone watch this last night? I didnít know if I would be into it, but I thought I would check out a few minutes to see, and I found it absolutely riveting and went right through the whole episode.

The very beginning is a kind of framing device from a year later, but itís not long before reluctant technicians and engineers are being sent by disbelieving bureaucrats into the heart of the exploded reactor, coming back blistered and vomiting, and are STILL disbelieved. I am not much into conventional horror movies, but this is my kind of horror.
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Old 05-07-2019, 07:50 AM
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I was similarly enthralled. I'm pretty interested in Chernobyl, so was already looking forward to seeing this.
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Old 05-07-2019, 08:45 AM
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Showrunner Craig Mazin says they were meticulous about accuracy in set and costume design, and it shows. I spent a couple weeks in the Ukraine in 1990, so I can attest to that, at least outside the reactor—but he insists every panel, every rivet, is exactly how it looked that night, and I believe it.

I’m so glad they didn’t try to use Russian accents. I walked out of that Jennifer Lawrence movie last year because I cannot stand that. American accents also would have been weird, so going British was the perfect compromise.
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Old 05-14-2019, 10:07 AM
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Showrunner Craig Mazin says they were meticulous about accuracy in set and costume design, and it shows.
I am absolutely hooked on this show and cannot wait for the next episode. If they are historically accurate as well, then the world was damn close to a disaster of the like never seen before.
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Old 05-14-2019, 03:50 PM
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I am absolutely hooked on this show and cannot wait for the next episode. If they are historically accurate as well, then the world was damn close to a disaster of the like never seen before.
Oh, whatever else they may have done, they unequivocally succeeded in precipitating a disaster of the like never seen before, except perhaps after nuclear weapons tests. IAEA Level 7! Not to be matched until Fukushima.

* re. Fukushima, a couple of people on this very board were arguing that no way, the cores couldn't melt down. And, ok, even if it did melt a little bit, nothing would explode. Next thing you know, people are considering evacuating Tokyo.
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Old 05-14-2019, 04:43 PM
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Right, but what Railer is referring to is the near-miss of a massive cataclysm that would have killed millions and rendered all of Eastern Europe uninhabitable. That was not something I realized was a possibility, much less a near-inevitability if they had not prevented it at the last moment.
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Old 05-14-2019, 05:35 PM
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Right, but what Railer is referring to is the near-miss of a massive cataclysm that would have killed millions and rendered all of Eastern Europe uninhabitable. That was not something I realized was a possibility, much less a near-inevitability if they had not prevented it at the last moment.
This is exactly what I was referring to. Yes, the Chernobyl explosion certainly was something the world hadn't seen before or since, but we were frighteningly close to a disaster of epic and unbelievable proportion.
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Old 05-14-2019, 05:50 PM
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Watched it, and I really like it.
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Old 05-14-2019, 05:57 PM
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I started watching the first episode, which was a little slow for the first "future" scene but then got really good for the next 15 minutes and then the episode ended, which was weird because the DVR said I had been watching for 60 minutes but there's simply no way that much time elapsed. 20 minutes, tops.

This was the most horrifying and shocking thing I've seen to date, including that time I watched both versions of Martyrs, back to back, starting with the original.
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Old 05-14-2019, 06:02 PM
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Apparently the other three reactors at the Chernobyl plant were still operational up until the year 2000. So presumably people were still working there for decades after the accident. How did these people avoid the contamination? Was the surrounding area truly cleaned up to the point where it was a safe work environment?
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Old 05-14-2019, 06:03 PM
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This was the most horrifying and shocking thing I've seen to date, including that time I watched both versions of Martyrs, back to back, starting with the original.
I have to assume then that you haven't seen Threads.
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Old 05-14-2019, 06:08 PM
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Apparently the other three reactors at the Chernobyl plant were still operational up until the year 2000. So presumably people were still working there for decades after the accident. How did these people avoid the contamination? Was the surrounding area truly cleaned up to the point where it was a safe work environment?

I wondered the same.


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I started watching the first episode, which was a little slow for the first "future" scene but then got really good for the next 15 minutes and then the episode ended, which was weird because the DVR said I had been watching for 60 minutes but there's simply no way that much time elapsed. 20 minutes, tops.

Right? I keep recommending it to people and telling them that it starts slow but gets intense about ten minutes in and then you will feel like you can't breathe until the episode finishes.
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Old 05-14-2019, 06:14 PM
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Apparently the other three reactors at the Chernobyl plant were still operational up until the year 2000. So presumably people were still working there for decades after the accident. How did these people avoid the contamination? Was the surrounding area truly cleaned up to the point where it was a safe work environment?
Wikipedia says that Reactor 2 was taken offline after being damaged in a 1991 fire, Reactor 1 was decommissioned in 1996, and Reactor 4 finally was shut down in 2000.

Regarding workers at the plant, I'm not sure if it was that it had been cleaned up enough, so much as that it was deemed that workers could be in the area for limited periods of time without suffering excessive exposure.

According to the Wikipedia entry on the "exclusion zone":

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Approximately 3,000 people work in the Zone of Alienation on various tasks, such as the construction of the New Safe Confinement, the ongoing decommissioning of the reactors, and assessment and monitoring of the conditions in the zone. Employees do not live inside the zone, but work shifts there. Some of the workers work "4-3" shifts (four days on, three off), while others work 15 days on, 15 off. Other workers commute into the zone daily from Slavutych. The duration of shifts is counted strictly for reasons involving pension and healthcare. Everyone employed in the Zone is monitored for internal bioaccumulation of radioactive elements.

Chernobyl town, located outside of the 10 km Exclusion Zone, was evacuated following the accident, but now serves as a base to support the workers within the Exclusion Zone. Its amenities include administrative buildings, general stores, a canteen, a hotel, and a bus station. Unlike other areas within the Exclusion Zone, Chernobyl town is actively maintained by workers, such as lawn areas being mowed and autumn leaves being collected.
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Old 05-14-2019, 06:21 PM
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I have to assume then that you haven't seen Threads.
No, but I was one of the 100 million Americans who watched The Day After back in 1983. (I never even heard of Threads until your post.)

Looking at the trailer for Threads on IMDb, it looks like a very good movie but I can see even in the trailer that the cheesy mid-80s effects (same with Day After) couldn't possibly carry the same visceral horror this first episode of Chernobyl did for me.

It was the faces melting that gives me nightmares. Not cheesy Raiders of the Lost Ark face melting; I mean real actual living humans in the real world whose faces melted probably pretty close to what we saw, but it wasn't make believe. It is true horror.

Last edited by Ellis Dee; 05-14-2019 at 06:24 PM.
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Old 05-14-2019, 06:30 PM
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Missed the edit window: Movies like Saw and Hostel are comedies* to me. Movies like Martyrs; Irreversible; Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer are disturbing horror movies**. The first episode of Chernobyl was a whole 'nother level***.

*Love them, and anything like them with half-decent production values.
**Love these too, but here the lower the production value the more I like it.
***Love this too, but good lord it's the most shocking thing I've ever seen. "Go put the rods in the reactor" (or whatever) is up there for worst sentences ever.


EDIT:

Go up top and look down to the reactor.
No.
What?
No, I don't think I'll do that.
Yes, you will...

Oh my god I can't with this. Gah! As a child of the 70s and 80s, nuclear panic is deeply entrenched in my psyche, with radiation burns being possibly the worst way imaginable to die.

Last edited by Ellis Dee; 05-14-2019 at 06:35 PM.
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Old 05-14-2019, 06:46 PM
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Looking at the trailer for Threads on IMDb, it looks like a very good movie but I can see even in the trailer that the cheesy mid-80s effects (same with Day After) couldn't possibly carry the same visceral horror this first episode of Chernobyl did for me.
You might be surprised by Threads. The 1980s special effects aren't really a big component of the whole thing - it's a lot darker than that. If you fancy another dose of nuclear-bleak, then the 1960s BBC production The War Game is worth a watch, and it only had an SFX budget of about three pounds. There's usually a copy on Youtube.
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Old 05-14-2019, 07:00 PM
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Go up top and look down to the reactor.
No.
What?
No, I don't think I'll do that.
Yes, you will...

Oh my god I can't with this. Gah!

Oh god, yes. They insist in a friendly way, but then have a guard escort him (and of course they are too chicken to do it themselves). The guard waits sheltered around the corner, the very reluctant engineer trudges over...and looks back with a face that is burned after just a couple seconds. Oh man.

A close competitor for horror was when the firefighter picks up the piece of graphite with a gloved hand, wonders aloud what it is, the other guy tells him to drop it, and he does but shakes his hand like "huh, that feels kinda weird now". A few minutes later, he's on the ground writhing in agony from a badly burned, blistering hand.
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Old 05-14-2019, 07:02 PM
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So...this is only on HBO right now? Darn.
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Old 05-14-2019, 07:06 PM
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I don't find it shocking or terrifying at all. If anything, I think they avoid making things too dramatic, even though they easily could. They don't spend much time on the victims, and don't show individual dramas (apart from the fireman and his wife, but it's brief). I rather find the narration cold and detached.

But I find the episodes very interesting. I'm just wondering, as I always do when I watch something supposed to be historical, how faithful to reality they are. For instance in their depiction of the workings of the Soviet bureaucracy.


And by the way Threads is in my opinion vastly superior to The day after, and also much bleaker and more pessimistic.
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Old 05-14-2019, 07:29 PM
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Wikipedia says that Reactor 2 was taken offline after being damaged in a 1991 fire, Reactor 1 was decommissioned in 1996, and Reactor 4 finally was shut down in 2000.
Reactor 4 was the one that went prompt supercritical in 1986.

As for worse scenarios, the accident caused a stupid amount of radioactive contamination to the environment (which was not exactly easy to clean up and contain, as well as that could even possibly be done), but let's say I am not personally familiar, and luckily neither is the entire world, with up-to-date models of the effects of 10x or 100x that amount released into the atmosphere, ground, and water (brings up memories of certain spreadsheets in that happy bedtime story, On Thermonuclear War).

Don't worry; at least 9 or 10 RBMK nuclear reactors are fully operational this very day!
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Old 05-14-2019, 07:43 PM
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...Oh my god I can't with this. Gah! As a child of the 70s and 80s, nuclear panic is deeply entrenched in my psyche, with radiation burns being possibly the worst way imaginable to die.
There are photos floating around the darker corners of the Internet, think ogrish and the like, of aftermath treatment photos of either Chernobyl workers or victims of a criticality accident in Japan. They are absolutely horrifying. Similar in treatment and appearance, to victims of large coverage full thickness thermal burns. A difference is that, in secondary radiation sickness cases, the burns are also on the inside of the body.

A horrific, unusually protracted, way to die.
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Old 05-14-2019, 11:16 PM
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Okay, so I just got around to watching the first episode. I watched the first 20 minutes. Before I continue, I was hoping someone could tell me something. Do they ever show, via a flashback or other methods, what lead to the disaster?

Because so far, it's bullshit. They start at the explosion, and not before, so they don't explain what lead up to it. But what appears to be misleading is that they made it seem like this was just a routine day at the reactor, and it just exploded unexpectedly, and no one had any idea what was going on. In fact, during the last scene I watched, they were in the control room, barking out orders to get the reactor cooling pumps flowing, and one of the control room technicians says "we did everything right"

What? That's complete fucking nonsense. Chernobyl happened after like 25 separate mistakes that the human operators made. Everyone there would know that a reactor meltdown and explosion wasn't unexpected because they just fucking disabled like 6 separate safety systems to try to run their test. They literally bashed some of the safety systems with mauls to bypass them. They had to know they were courting disaster and did it anyway. They basically did everything they could to make the reactor melt down and explode. The way it went down was not at all like a normal day at the plant where something went haywire. It was a day where a crew that was not trained or briefed on a test was conducting a test that they knew was dangerous after spending all day manually disabling safety systems because the plant would not let them do what they wanted to do. None of them would've been surprised or said "we did everything right"

So before I continue, is this addressed at some point? Because if not, this is basically bullshit anti-nuclear propaganda, pretending that Chernobyl was just a run of the mill plant that exploded for no good reason and it could happen anywhere because the people there "did everything right" and that still happened. Absolute fucking bullshit. And anti-nuclear propaganda, if that's what it is, in the age of climate catastrophe is criminal.

Last edited by SenorBeef; 05-14-2019 at 11:20 PM.
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Old 05-14-2019, 11:49 PM
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Reactor 4 was the one that went prompt supercritical in 1986.
Sorry, typo on my part; it was Reactor 3 that was finally decommissioned in 2000.
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Old 05-14-2019, 11:54 PM
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Have they finished broadcasting the series in any region? If not, not many will be able to say what is addressed, though detailed aspects of the reactor design may be a bit too technical for a TV show.

But you are essentially right: the reactor didn't spontaneously go critical and explode, more like the night shift engaged in what was, in retrospect, a ludicrous violation of operating procedures and safety protocols, including disabling the automatic shutdown system, pulling out all the control rods, etc. Note that some of them were threatened with losing their jobs if they refused to go along with the botched test; they weren't all fucking suicidal. It did not help that due to certain features of this early-generation model of reactor it was physically possible to put it in such an unstable state in the first place.

As I mentioned, this exact type of graphite-moderated reactor is still in use at multiple sites today; they are not necessarily inherently unsafe.
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Old 05-15-2019, 12:04 AM
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I don't mean to malign the average worker at the plant. It just seems like they went way out of their way to accurately portray the horror of the incident - and I fully support this - but they should, in the interest of fairness and accuracy, also show what lead up to the incident, which was some crazy shit that you could probably only realistically see in somewhere like the USSR. I don't even think China has such reckless disregard for human life as to do the sort of thing they did.

If the message people get from this series is "oh shit, any nuclear reactor could explode like that at any time even when everyone does everything right!" that's pretty horrific lie.

I wish I could remember where I saw it, but I read a deeply technical article in a magazine - maybe it was national geographic, maybe popular mechanics, something like that - which listed, IIRC, 26 mistakes (or more accurately, reckless and negligent decisions) for Chernobyl to have resulted.

Off the top of my head - they were originally scheduled to conduct a test to see if the momentum of the reactor cycle could keep the core cooled down long enough for the backup generators to kick in. This is an inherently dangerous test, because if the answer to this is "no", you're risking a meltdown. They had no backup plan. During the scheduled time of the test, another power plant went offline and they required that the reactor at chernobyl stay up for another 18 hours. So after that 18 hours, they had an entire different shift at that plant which had not been briefed or trained on the test they wanted to conduct. And the few managerial/supervisory types who were overseeing the test had been running all that time on no sleep. And yet they forced the test to occur then.

The reactor prevented their attempts to operate it in an unsafe way, and then they manually bypassed those safeties, and then another safety system kicked in to prevent them from doing what they wanted to do, and they bypassed that - all the way to the point where I remember that they had to get hammers from the tool repository to physically bash or destroy some of the physical safety features to get the plant to operate in the way they intended. I can't imagine a group that just manually disabled 6 safety systems could possibly think "What's happening!? We did everything right!"

It's actually a lot more detailed, horrifying, and with many more reckless and negligent decisions than I just listed. It's utterly staggering when you read what they did. It's as if they were daring the plant to explode, and the safety systems defeated them 6 separate times, but finally human ingenuity and some fucking hammers to physically destroy safety systems won out.

I'm sure the people working at the plant wanted nothing to do with it, but it was a very soviet "these are what the higher ups say, let's make it happen no matter how fucking incredibly stupid or negligent or unsafe this is" type of affair. Something like Chernobyl would never happen in a first world country. Which isn't to say that other types of nuclear accidents aren't possible, but it's grossly unfair to look at Chernobyl and think "yep, that's what can just happen at a nuclear plant even if you do everything right"

Chernobyl is horrific not only because of the loss of life and contamination, but because it hardened the public's resolve against nuclear power, and here we are, 30 years later, paying the price for that. So if this miniseries doesn't portray that, if it only shows the horror, if it gives the public the impression that this is just something that happens with nuclear power, and it galvanizes and reinforces the public's hatred of nuclear power even as we now know how devastating to our environment such an attitude is, the miniseries itself is negligent and reckless.

I don't normally refuse to watch things on principle, but if that's the way they're going to portray it, I'm just not going to watch it. I turned it off as soon as the guy said "we did everything right" - but I figured I'd come here and see if maybe they did portray all of this and just the first part is misleading.

Last edited by SenorBeef; 05-15-2019 at 12:08 AM.
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Old 05-15-2019, 01:22 AM
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Showrunner Craig Mazin has said they will loop around to what led up to it. He wanted to start with a framing device, then in media res. I like it.

In addition to on the podcast, he has said so on Twitter.

And I didn't interpret those technicians' insistence "we did everything right" to mean "we were just hanging out checking levels in routine operation" but more like people who are throwing up psychologically protective mechanisms against the massive guilt implicit in having juiced it up too far past the redline. Seems this belief that it was theoretically impossible for this type of reactor to explode (which appears IIRC to be the prior of every scientist shown so far) gave them the feeling that they had guardrails on the side of the cliff.
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Old 05-15-2019, 03:43 AM
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I don't normally refuse to watch things on principle, but if that's the way they're going to portray it, I'm just not going to watch it. I turned it off as soon as the guy said "we did everything right" - but I figured I'd come here and see if maybe they did portray all of this and just the first part is misleading.
There's only been two episodes so far, so it's not possible to say exactly. However, there's a bit of a theme developing of bureaucratic coverup, and growing realization by scientists and some of the more savvy Party people that something has gone very badly wrong indeed. I'd stick with it - there's a dramatic moment of incredible tension in the second episode that is well worth experiencing.
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Old 05-15-2019, 03:50 AM
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I'm sure the people working at the plant wanted nothing to do with it, but it was a very soviet "these are what the higher ups say, let's make it happen no matter how fucking incredibly stupid or negligent or unsafe this is" type of affair. Something like Chernobyl would never happen in a first world country. Which isn't to say that other types of nuclear accidents aren't possible, but it's grossly unfair to look at Chernobyl and think "yep, that's what can just happen at a nuclear plant even if you do everything right"
It's not that unfair. Gross incompetence is always a possibility. Planners have been known to oversee risks. Physicists have been known to be mistaken in their assumptions. Engineers have been known to make errors in their calculations. Contractors have been known to cut corners for profit. Workers have been known to be poorly trained or incompetent. Not even counting deliberate sabotage, terrorism and, of course, military attacks.

I think it's rather the attitude you're displaying here that is problematic. Tchernobyl? Well, doesn't count because they were incompetent. Fukushima? Doesn't count because a peculiar risk was ignored. Next time what? Doesn't count because someone mistook feet for meters and it was monumentaly stupid?

Nuclear plants are potentially extremely dangerous. You can't rely on the idea that if everything works the way it was intended, if nobody is incompetent, mistaken, careless or corrupt, then they're totally safe. Humans are faillible, highly so, and in a lot of ways. Inevitably, another serious accident will occur, for some new reason. Maybe something worst than what we've seen so far. Assuming that it won't happen is like assuming that cars are 100% safe because if you're a good driver, are sober, follow all traffic regulations, respect the speed limits, aren't distracted, drive defensively and it doesn't rain you won't have an accident.
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Old 05-15-2019, 01:21 PM
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Just started and it's absolutely terrifying storytelling. Just wonderful.

I enjoy the way it's rolled out as a mystery (how did it happen) that will eventually be solved/uncovered. i don't know any of the details of why this happened, so maybe that helps.
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Old 05-15-2019, 02:17 PM
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This is exactly what I was referring to. Yes, the Chernobyl explosion certainly was something the world hadn't seen before or since, but we were frighteningly close to a disaster of epic and unbelievable proportion.
I watched the first episode and I don't understand what was the near-miss or how it could have been worse, in your opinion.

Maybe if the fire had reached reactor 3, is that it?
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Old 05-15-2019, 02:26 PM
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Nuclear plants are potentially extremely dangerous. You can't rely on the idea that if everything works the way it was intended, if nobody is incompetent, mistaken, careless or corrupt, then they're totally safe. Humans are faillible, highly so, and in a lot of ways. Inevitably, another serious accident will occur, for some new reason. Maybe something worst than what we've seen so far. Assuming that it won't happen is like assuming that cars are 100% safe because if you're a good driver, are sober, follow all traffic regulations, respect the speed limits, aren't distracted, drive defensively and it doesn't rain you won't have an accident.
It's more like saying "cars are unsafe because someone removed the brake pads, cut the brake lines, removed the seat belts, disabled the air bags, and then drove it 90 miles an hour down an incline at a brick wall to see if the parking brake worked, and it didn't."

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Old 05-15-2019, 02:27 PM
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I watched the first episode and I don't understand what was the near-miss or how it could have been worse, in your opinion.



Maybe if the fire had reached reactor 3, is that it?


The second episode clarifies this.


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Old 05-15-2019, 02:29 PM
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I imagine future episodes will make clear what the worst case scenario was. We've only seen what, 6 hours after the meltdown?

EDIT: Doh! Ninja'd.

Last edited by Ellis Dee; 05-15-2019 at 02:30 PM.
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Old 05-15-2019, 02:35 PM
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The second episode clarifies this.
Thanks, I'm gonna watch it tonight.
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Old 05-15-2019, 02:45 PM
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Are these future episodes available On Demand, or did they just start broadcasting it a week earlier in Europe or something?

Here in the 'States, the premiere was 3 days ago and the second episode airs this coming Sunday.
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Old 05-15-2019, 02:58 PM
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Are these future episodes available On Demand, or did they just start broadcasting it a week earlier in Europe or something?

Here in the 'States, the premiere was 3 days ago and the second episode airs this coming Sunday.
As far as I can tell HBO and Sky are showing the episodes on the same schedule (taking timezone differences into account). Both have shown the first two.
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Old 05-15-2019, 03:14 PM
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Sweet, I'll definitely watch the second episode tonight then, woohoo!

Not sure what happened there; I guess I was busy last week and spaced out.

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Old 05-15-2019, 04:54 PM
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Think about how it took over 30 years to build a stable containment structure. And how it was barely possible to construct a temporary one, even with robots and kamikaze liquidators. And how three more operational reactors were on site.

Now imagine the area with additional subsequent explosions, stuff collapsing, damage to adjacent buildings, everything unstable + impossible to get near, an order of magnitude more radioactivity released, the exclusion zone expanded by a factor of whatever, contamination of food and water not merely in the immediate area, and so on, if you want to start imagining all kinds of worst-case scenarios. Idem concerning Fukushima.
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Old 05-15-2019, 05:30 PM
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In the second episode, they say they are on the verge (a day or two away) from a massive, I don't know how many megaton explosion that will instantly incinerate everything within a pretty large radius, unless they drain the water tanks. Sounds worse than an H-bomb. I had no idea they were anywhere close to anything like this.
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Old 05-15-2019, 05:38 PM
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Events in episode 2 are historically true but seem somewhat exaggerated and fictionalized by artistic license. Just somewhat because the real events are really truly dramatic. But I'm still skeptical of the figures being mentioned (and the way the steam explosion risk is presented as a near-miss).

Last edited by Pedro; 05-15-2019 at 05:40 PM.
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Old 05-15-2019, 05:41 PM
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Is that what they said? Steam explosion (and subsequent further release of radioactive materials), I can see that, but critical assemblies have a tendency to... self-disassemble, in the worst case like a nuclear fizzle, so if you want your "multi-megaton explosion" you need to construct a staged H-bomb.
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Old 05-15-2019, 05:52 PM
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Originally Posted by SlackerInc View Post
In the second episode, they say they are on the verge (a day or two away) from a massive, I don't know how many megaton explosion that will instantly incinerate everything within a pretty large radius, unless they drain the water tanks. Sounds worse than an H-bomb. I had no idea they were anywhere close to anything like this.
No, they don't say that. They say the explosion will make uninhabitable for 100 years a very large area and kill a lot of people. I think by spreading radioactive material.
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Old 05-15-2019, 05:54 PM
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In the second episode, they say they are on the verge (a day or two away) from a massive, I don't know how many megaton explosion that will instantly incinerate everything within a pretty large radius, unless they drain the water tanks. Sounds worse than an H-bomb. I had no idea they were anywhere close to anything like this.
2 to 4 megaton explosion with a 30 km radius, if I remember correctly. More destructive than most nuclear weapons.
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Old 05-15-2019, 06:04 PM
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2 to 4 megaton explosion with a 30 km radius, if I remember correctly. More destructive than most nuclear weapons.
If I understood correctly, the explosion would not have been from the radioactive material in the wreckage of Reactor 4, per se, but from the fact that that material (which was being referred to as, effectively, radioactive lava) was on the verge of burning through the floor of the facility, and falling into a large water storage tank beneath it.

Had it done so, as I understood it, it would have caused a very large steam explosion, which would have then ejected radioactive material high into the air, and leading to it spreading over a very large area.
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Old 05-15-2019, 06:09 PM
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2 to 4 megaton explosion with a 30 km radius, if I remember correctly. More destructive than most nuclear weapons.
My Dr Strangelove calculation says that even a 4-megaton explosion (which we are not going to have, not even a 0.001-megaton explosion), would induce third-degree burns out to 20 km, tops, so if that's what they said it makes me not want to trust them.
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Old 05-15-2019, 06:10 PM
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If I understood correctly, the explosion would not have been from the radioactive material in the wreckage of Reactor 4, per se, but from the fact that that material (which was being referred to as, effectively, radioactive lava) was on the verge of burning through the floor of the facility, and falling into a large water storage tank beneath it.

Had it done so, as I understood it, it would have caused a very large steam explosion, which would have then ejected radioactive material high into the air, and leading to it spreading over a very large area.
That's correct, it was a steam explosion, not a nuclear core explosion, and it could and most likely would eject extremely hazardous radioactive material over a large area.

That's historically accurate, the numbers are just exaggerated. And the claimed 30km radius was for the blast. The fallout would cover a much wider area (also said in the episode).
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Old 05-15-2019, 06:11 PM
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If I understood correctly, the explosion would not have been from the radioactive material in the wreckage of Reactor 4, per se, but from the fact that that material (which was being referred to as, effectively, radioactive lava) was on the verge of burning through the floor of the facility, and falling into a large water storage tank beneath it.
That would be the "elephant's foot" - the "radioactive lava" is called "corium" and the concern was it reaching the water table beneath the plant. Fortunately, it never got that far but the thing is still in the bowels of the building. Solidified now, but still warm from its inherent radioactivity. The radioactivity has dropped off thanks to the phenomena of half-life, but standing next to it for more than a few seconds to a few minutes would still almost certainly be fatal. Eventually it will all decay into bismuth and lead. Eventually. So far in the future you might as well consider it deadly forever.

Last edited by Broomstick; 05-15-2019 at 06:12 PM.
  #48  
Old 05-15-2019, 06:28 PM
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That would be the "elephant's foot" - the "radioactive lava" is called "corium" and the concern was it reaching the water table beneath the plant.

Actually, the tanks under the plant. Here's some of the dialogue from that emergency meeting, which I transcribed just now:


Quote:
ULANA KHOMYUK: We estimate between 2 and 4 megatons. Everything within a 30km radius will be completely destroyed, including the three remaining reactors at Chernobyl. The entirety of the radioactive material in all of the cores will be ejected, at force, and dispersed by a massive shockwave, which will extend approximately 200km and likely be fatal to the entire population of Kiev, as well as a portion of Minsk. The release of radiation will be severe, and will impact all of Soviet Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Byelorussia, as well as Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and most of East Germany.

GORBACHEV: What do you mean, "impact"?

VALERY LEGASOV: For much of the area, a nearly permanent disruption of the food and water supply, a steep increase in the rates of cancer and birth defects. I don't know how many deaths there will be, but many. For Byelorussia and the Ukraine, "impact" means completely uninhabitable for a minimum of 100 years.

He then says they have only 48 hours, or 72 at most, before this happens--unless they send some workers on a suicide mission to drain the tanks. Those guys, who volunteered, are true heroes.

But as I say, I had no idea anything this extreme was on the table.
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Old 05-15-2019, 07:33 PM
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Apparently some scriptwriter is bullshitting for dramatic effect, which is the exact opposite of what one needs with a serious subject like this. Even an actual 4-megaton bomb detonated on the ground or underneath would fail to destroy "everything within a 30 km radius", though it would definitely be fallout shelter time for everyone in the path of the debris plume.

Actual risks seem to include the aforementioned steam explosion as well as the melted core reaching the water table, further nuclear chain reactions, cleanup of the immediate area and erecting a containment sarcophagus ASAP to prevent further release of highly radioactive materials. Even so, a lot of long-lived, dangerous radioactive isotopes were released into the environment.

"Ulana Khomyuk" is what we might call not a real guy, but Legasov was, and I think all of us remember the news after he topped himself.

Last edited by DPRK; 05-15-2019 at 07:34 PM.
  #50  
Old 05-15-2019, 09:50 PM
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Yeah, the idea that a nuclear reactor could explode like a nuclear bomb is bullshit. The way it works is not similar at all. The risk was a steam explosion that could release much more radioactive material into the surrounding area and that would've been horrific enough, there's no need to make up bullshit about the plant going off like a multi-megaton bomb.
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