HBO’s Chernobyl is the Best Kind of Compelling. I am continually surprised at how badly the film industry has been totally turned over. There are the ultra-massive box office hits, and those are still well under Hollywood’s control. But it would seem that the rest of the industry is involved in one massive scrum after another as the rest of the world topples the old guard and establishes the new. And the heavies in this new world are still so hungry, and still so desirous of the spoils, that they are willing to try anything to secure their place on this battlefield. So, even though Netflix’s stock value has occasionally superseded the value of all of Disney, they are still operating out on the edge of the creative continuum. And HBO too is grasping how out of luck they will be if they don’t continue to create amazing content. Heck, many are saying the end of Game of Thrones will single-handedly doom them. And yet, they bring us today our next must watch TV. But what is the story? What actually happened?
The Story of Chernobyl Dissected
I remember the disaster. I remember the angst that ran through Europe. I remember Gorbachev and his ducking and weaving the world’s disdain and hatred for almost burning it down entirely. But, outside of that, I really don’t remember it well beyond the geopolitical cauldron (literal and metaphysical) that it created. So this show, absolutely blew my mind. I was shocked. And then I was dumbfounded. And then I was chagrined. And mind-blown.
The Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion occurred on the 26th of April, 1986. The nearly cataclysmic event occurred during a safety test on the RBMK reactor. The show basically kicked off with the operators stating “We didn’t do anything wrong, we did it all right.” And for the rest of the show we are hanging on to the edge of our seats as we wait to see what actually caused the explosion to occur. And all the while, the reactor is nearly always at the verge of just one more, even worse disaster.
“Spoilers” to History(?)
What was the real threat that caused the nuclear reactor to explode? Chief, if you haven’t watched the show, or you don’t know your history – I’m about to spoil this for you. And I don’t want to spoil this for you. Go watch the show right now. You’ve been warned.
Right, so what was the cause of the Chernobyl nuclear explosion?
It was the safety test, right? The test was attempting to simulate an electrical outage. The hope was to create a successful plan for continuing the cooling water circulating until the reactor’s emergency generators could come back on and continue providing power. But it was a known issue that it was only about one minute – a window of one minute. And the smallness of that window was a potentially perilous safety hazard for the reactor. In the past, three other tests had failed to create a solution.
The key though, the doomsday fact, was that the test had been delayed by ten hours, and the team that had prepared for the test was replaced by the next shift. Which left the Chernobyl team unprepared to handle the complexities involved in this test. Worse yet, the supervisor of the test failed to follow the test procedure. These actions caused a completely unstable environment for the reactor. And that, combined with inherent design flaws within the RBMK reactor, and the fact that during the test a number of safety features were actively turned off…it was all of these things that combined to caused the uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction. The reaction caused an enormous amount of energy being released all at once, which totally vaporized the coolant water. And that, in turn, split the pressure vessel in a massive steam explosion. Following that, an open-air reactor fire sprung up from the core. And for nine days, the fire spewed toxic, radioactive gas throughout a large swath of Europe and Russia.
Spies and Russia’s Disinformation
It would seem that Russia is not happy at all about HBO’s television show. So much so that they have started planning their own television series that explain away the reactor failure by saying it was a spy at the facility, and not a failure of process, and not a failure of their failed safety test. And an interesting point being that no one denies that there was an American spy at the facility the day the reactor went up. But to blame it on spy games seems highly duplicitous. But I look forward to watching Russia’s version of events. It should be an entertaining experience.
Final Thoughts on HBO’s Chernobyl
I didn’t know anything about Chernobyl really, I realized. I didn’t get just how dangerous this experience was for the world. I didn’t understand the heroics that were necessary – and the resulting, horrific health collapses that happened. And worse, I had no idea just how horrible the Russian apparatchiks were in actively working against the recovery efforts. They worked so hard to hide the size and scale of the disaster that they made the situation worse every single day. I just have to say that this is one of the most amazing stories I’ve ever seen.
Edited by, CY