Chernobyl: Watch Thread

#1

Has anyone started this miniseries?

I watched the first episode last night, and it has been a tense, fascinating watch so far. They’re definitely playing up the horror angle of the event, but I like how they’re setting it up as a mystery. The reasons how it happened to be revealed after the event has taken place.

I have been frustrated at the some of the response to the series though:

I feel like a lot of people are missing the overlying point of the show. That an incompetent government can make a manageable disaster even worse. They take great efforts to show how every facet of the Soviet response to the disaster makes things worse, and the denial that it is even happening saturates every conversation with the major characters.

Sounds pretty familiar to our Climate Change debate, eh?

The tone of tweets like that make me annoyed, because it seems like he’s trying to devalue the whole show due to some idea that the program is trying to sway people against nuclear power. It seems to me it’s looking at how shitty government and bad planning can lead to disaster, not an indictment of nuclear energy.

How are you all feeling on the show?

#2

This is unfortunate timing for this show.

When we need to be leaning hard into nuclear to even hope to pull out of the nose dive, having a show leaning hard into the dangers is… sigh.

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#3

I don’t think it really is though. The creator of the show has said the focus of it is the secrecy and mismanagement around the disaster, rather than the dangers of radiation itself.

#4

Don’t know what this is but seems to be something I would enjoy. On the subject I would recommend Chernobyl Prayer by Svetlana Aleksijevitj. It’s good and harrowing.

#5

Yeah, but ultimately it’s about one of the largest, most well known nuclear incidents.

Barring the inclusion of how incredibly safe modern reactors are, as documentary-style explanations following basically every scene… Which seems unlikely.

It’ll reinforce the fears. Could be a good show. I’m just increasingly nervous about how bad people are as a whole at separating facts and fiction. ‘If it feels scary, I’m against it,’ sorts have a pretty good track record of doing harm, unintentional or otherwise, the past few years.

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#6

I watched the first episode last night. I’m pretty much game for anything that has Jared Harris based on his track record. (pssssssshhh… watch The Terror, it is very good and spooky)

Really enjoyed the first episode though it did feel like maybe they were leaning more towards “exciting disaster movie” than something aiming for more accuracy but it seems like the subsequent episodes will deal even more with the politics of the response, where propaganda meets reality and how they put people in danger in order to further a narrative that they had it under control.

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#7

I am still salty that on my trip to Ukraine I couldn’t visit the exclusion zone because all the tour companies were under investigation for tax fraud

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#8

I stayed in Belarus for about 6 months doing humanitarian aid stuff, mostly distributing bales of clothing and food staples to local aid groups. But one of the more interesting things I did was puppet shows for kids about PSA stuff - smoking, drinking, etc. One place that really liked the puppet shows and wanted me and some of the other volunteers to come back about once a week was a children’s hospital that treated mostly kids from a city called Gomel with thyroid cancer stemming from, you guessed it, exposure to radiation from Chernobyl. It’s a heartbreaking place. One of the guys that helped us with registration and visas there was a first responder to Chernobyl back in 1986. He died of cancer about 8 years ago. He was a very good friend.

That being said, the miniseries has been both fascinating and deeply emotional to watch so far. Of course, there is plenty of dramatic license given here, but the events are presented fairly accurately. My hope is that the disaster’s full impact will be touched on. It still has repercussions to this day, to my deep sorrow.

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#9

There’s a really good documentary series called Zero Hour that did an episode on Chernobyl. Good Russian reenactments, good narration from The Governor of The Walking Dead fame oddly enough, and it takes you moment by moment into what went wrong in a sort of 24 style of countdown.

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#10

That twitter thread is pretty annoying, it vastly understates the health effects. This article talks about estimates of deaths ranging from 9,000 to 93,000.

One of the best arguments against nuclear power is that human error, like in the case of Chernobyl can lead to disasters that contaminate large areas for thousands of years. Even a smaller disaster, like Fukushima has global consequences. A plant operating perfectly is safe, but the point is mistakes will be made and we have to consider how dangerous those mistakes will be.

I liked the first episode, it does a good job of maintaining tension and exuding dread.

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#11

I watched the first episode on Monday, and it’s a hard watch - but I’m gonna stick through it.

#12

There is an official show podcast that sheds light on some of the questions I had about reality vs fiction in the show. If you want to avoid spoilers (are they even a think for historical dramas?) then might be worth holding off listening till the shows run ends.

#13

Last night’s episode was really nerve wracking. I am genuinely curious if that time limit they have, just under two days, was really that bad. They are talking as if the entire area of Belarus would have to be evacuated, and that the radiation spread would be a lot more devastating. And I was curious to see if those men they sent in were alive.

WHELP, it turns out they are.

I found this:

The bubbler pool could be drained by opening its sluice gates. However, the valves controlling it were underwater, located in a flooded corridor in the basement. So volunteers in wetsuits and respirators (for protection against radioactive aerosols) and equipped with dosimeters, entered the knee-deep radioactive water and managed to open the valves. These were the engineers Alexei Ananenko and Valeri Bezpalov (who knew where the valves were), accompanied by the shift supervisor Boris Baranov. Upon succeeding and emerging from the water, according to many English language news articles, books and the prominent BBC docudrama Surviving Disaster – Chernobyl Nuclear , the three knew it was a suicide-mission and began suffering from radiation sickness and died soon after. Some sources also incorrectly claimed that they died there in the plant. However, research by Andrew Leatherbarrow, author of the 2016 book Chernobyl 01:23:40, determined that the frequently recounted story is a gross exaggeration. Alexei Ananenko continues to work in the nuclear energy industry, and rebuffs the growth of the Chernobyl media sensationalism surrounding him. While Valeri Bezpalov was found to still be alive by Leatherbarrow, the 65-year-old Baranov had lived until 2005 and had died of heart failure.

To be fair, we haven’t seen how the men who went into the plant faired in the show, but I wonder how they’ll address this.

I was blown away to see that helicopter crash was real… You can look it up if you wish, but I won’t post it because I believe people died in the crash.

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#14

I watched the first episode last night and thoroughly enjoyed it even if its infuriating when higher up’s just wont listen to employees.

Plus I will never look at Martin from Friday Night Dinner the same again Paul Ritter is phenomenal. Not to mention im used to seeing Con O’Neill as a strip club owning trans woman hard ass in Uncle.

#15

There is a looped video of that helicopter crash in the Chernobyl museum in Kiev. Its captivating in how horrific it is.

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#16

Do you think the podcast is worthwhile for someone who doesn’t have HBO so can’t watch the show?

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#17

I’ve been fascinated with Chernobyl and TMI ever since I was a kid.

I remember when I was 7 or 8 or so, I was playing SimCity 2000, and I told my dad, “I put my nuclear power plant on an island, so if it blows up, it won’t hurt anything.” “That’s what they said about Three Mile Island,” dad said. He then began to tell me all about the TMI meltdown accident, and I started learning more about nuclear testing and accidents.

The debate about the use of nuclear power with regard to climate change is more interesting than ever. Modern reactor designs (pebble bed reactors seem particularly promising) are much safer than the generation II reactors that are so prolific and at the center of all the major disasters. The energy component of the climate change problem is a tough nut to crack. It doesn’t seem like civilization is going to be using any less energy any time soon, and we need base-load power.

I’m quite wary of people like Michael Shellenberger (linked in OP). The so called “environmental pragmatism” seems just as short sighted now as the assumption of absolute safety of gen II was in the 60s. The number Shellenberger cites (200 total deaths) does not include those who contract cancer or other side effects, and it completely disregards those who don’t die, but still suffer incredible pain and sickness. It doesn’t include those born with birth defects or other maladies from contaminated air, soil, water, and ground water.

I think the question becomes not, “is nuclear power relatively safe compared to other options?” but “is it worth the inevitable accident?”. If we do decide to rely on nuclear power as a carbon-neutral base-load power source, are we willing to accept that there will be another massive accident. There will. No system is perfect, and as the Chernobyl miniseries demonstrates in dramatic fashion (not to mention the TMI accident) that the biggest imperfections in systems are the humans in them. No matter how safe the reactor design, or how rigorous the safety protocols, there will be another mistake. That mistake, or natural disaster, aside from direct and indirect deaths it will cause, will also most likely render entire swaths of land uninhabitable for generations, at least. Also, there’s the whole thing where we have no safe way to store an ever increasing stockpile of nuclear waste from enrichment and spent fuel that won’t be safe for 50,000 years?

Kinda got off track there. The miniseries is fantastic, when it was announced I was annoyed it was on HBO and not Netflix because I wanted to just mainline the whole thing.

(Edited because I forgot to finish an entire sentence)

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#18

It is definitely one of the most well known nuclear accidents, which is wild, because have you heard of Kyshtym? They ran experimental nuclear reactors with open air cooling systems. They dumped nuclear waste from enrichment directly into nearby lakes. Two lakes were so contaminated that they were eventually filled with concrete. 20 Russian villages were wiped off the map.

#19

Maybe? It explains a lot of the events and history but it’s all in the context of the show so it might be a bit confusing. You could always read episode summaries on Wikipedia or read about the actual events to understand the pod better

#20

Jeez… That last shot of Vasily.(The Firefighter)

Whoever is doing the makeup on this show got us to scream at the TV with that shot.

Also, that naked miner detail has to be true it’s so ridiculous.