Chernobyl TV Series

 
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
This mini series concluded last evening in Foxtel.  I believe this HBO series is available on NetFlix and if so I highly recommend watching this show.

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  justapassenger Chief Commissioner

I believe this HBO series is available on NetFlix
bevans
HBO has never licensed any of its series to Netflix.

It is available for streaming on Foxtel Now.
  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE
This mini series concluded last evening in Foxtel.  I believe this HBO series is available on NetFlix and if so I highly recommend watching this show.
bevans

Been there, had the T-shirt (Hard Rock Cafe Chernobyl), but cannot watch the series just yet as only got Netflixs

If you are in this part of the world strongly recommended to go for a tour and while in Ukraine
- have lunch in Chernobyl
- Tour the underground nuclear missile silo site and get your photo pushing the button in the bottom of a nuclear missile silo command centre
- Visit other missile and nuclear missile hardware still lying on the surface
- Drive a tank
- Fire a AK-47
- Fire a 46mm gun
- Visit the world's deepest Metro station and the ride up on the escalator
- Climb the statue in Kiev that faces mother Russia, but had the sword cut down in height because even the Soviets don't F_around with making something taller than a cities main Orthodox church steeple.
- See 400 year old dead people (saints)
- Drink cheap beer
- Recommend go in July, the Ukrainian women are in their best summer attire (read eye candy), every day Macca's breakfast at Kiev city square watching the local talent exit the Metro.


  Aaron Minister for Railways

Location: University of Adelaide SA
Over dramatised and still passing off a clear lack of nuclear knowledge on an uneducated public thinking they’re learning something.

A good series, but actually ruined by the perpetuation of misinformation.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Over dramatised and still passing off a clear lack of nuclear knowledge on an uneducated public thinking they’re learning something.

A good series, but actually ruined by the perpetuation of misinformation.
Aaron

Where do you think (roughly) were factually incorrect?

I put the accident down to:

Overnight shift not being briefed
Poor attention to process
I wonder if Dyatlav actually carried on that way?
Disabiling of some systems protections?
  potatoinmymouth Chief Commissioner

I put the accident down to:

Overnight shift not being briefed
Poor attention to process
I wonder if Dyatlav actually carried on that way?
Disabiling of some systems protections?
bevans
Congratulations, you’ve just nailed most of the things that the show played up at the expense of fact!
  james.au Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney, NSW
Over dramatised and still passing off a clear lack of nuclear knowledge on an uneducated public thinking they’re learning something.

A good series, but actually ruined by the perpetuation of misinformation.
Aaron
Agreed.  There are lots of issues, that the internet is covering in detail.  Basic stuff like how radiation works (ie that the baby wouldn't have absorbed the radiation to save the mum, and that the people on the bridge didn't all die - by some accounts there are people still alive who were on the bridge)

The Russians are talking about making their own version where they say that there were CIA operatives on site that were part of it.

I think that documentary and docudrama makers worldwide need to make sure they stay as close to the facts as possible (and avoid manipulating the truth for entertainment purposes) to avoid other producers taking their own liberties to manipulate the truth for manipulation purposes....
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
James do you have some links for some of the discussions.  Even scientists attending the site have posted on You tube about the bridge of death.
  james.au Chief Commissioner
  Aaron Minister for Railways

Location: University of Adelaide SA
The most important thing the series got right was the guys that went down to evacuate the water all lived. They totally overblew the risks though, those guys were plant operators, water is a moderator, even without that, their suits would have been enough protection. That all three of the them survived (one being alive today, the others passing only recently) is hardly surprising.

Of the roof liquidators I very much doubt any of them, even those who died in the very short aftermath likely didn’t get physically weaker with every shovel of debris, radiation just simply doesn’t get you like that. The guy with a tear in his boot? No big deal, the key thing is to not breathe in or eat the particles, taking off your clothes and having a good shower to remove the dust and those guys would be more or less okay. Maybe some cell destruction but we’re talking the equivalent of bad sunburn, not being the pork on Christmas Day.

The people on the bridge died, but not all of them.

There is no reason you couldn’t touch a person with even extremely bad radiation burns for your own safety. The only reason I could think of to say no contact with them is that the irradiated and severely burned would be quite immunocompromised and at incredible risk of infection, but then, like enforcing a non smoking rule in a morgue, there’s only so much damage you can do, to a person that is effectively gone anyway.

There’s a lot more to it than that, but I don’t have a lot of time today.

No NPP anywhere in the would could melt down and be ‘a giant atomic bomb’, Minsk, Kiev, of whatever city they tell you were likely to be levelled is BS, the whole of Europe was never going to be uninhabitable, the radioactive cloud/fallout was detectable all over Europe, that is indisputable but it was also incapable of doing much damage - as indeed we have seen in the 30+ years since.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
I put the accident down to:

Overnight shift not being briefed
Poor attention to process
I wonder if Dyatlav actually carried on that way?
Disabiling of some systems protections?
Congratulations, you’ve just nailed most of the things that the show played up at the expense of fact!
potatoinmymouth

So what link would you suggest PIMM to read about what really occurred?
  potatoinmymouth Chief Commissioner

James’ links are good, bevans.

BTW, I really enjoyed the series, in much the same way as it’s possible to enjoy a train movie without getting too uptight about their inaccurate safeworking practices. One of the things they did well in my view was to distil some of the inherent political tensions in the Soviet sphere into personal relationships. Of course, this comes at the expense of some accuracy, but it’s clever exposition for a five-part miniseries.

The crux of the issue is that the RBMK design – as Legasov’s character points out – was fatally flawed, but not because of individual failings. Rather, it was the result of a social-political paradigm that rewarded “the fruits of labour” as one character says at the expense of the labourers themselves.

Western reactors of this era were relatively unsafe compared to modern designs, but one significant difference is that the West always built heavy containment structures. Had Chernobyl had a more substantial protective shield, the contamination would certainly have been less catastrophic.

One other interesting point that Aaron’s comment reminded me of is that a significant minority of those who have studied the disaster attribute either the first or second explosions to an actual nuclear event – that is, the physical equivalent of a small or faulty fission bomb. I don’t think it was unreasonable then, nor is it now, to speculate on the possibility of conditions developing that would cause the core to re-enter prompt criticality or cause a third explosion by other means.
  james.au Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney, NSW
BTW, I really enjoyed the series, in much the same way as it’s possible to enjoy a train movie without getting too uptight about their inaccurate safeworking practices. One of the things they did well in my view was to distil some of the inherent political tensions in the Soviet sphere into personal relationships. Of course, this comes at the expense of some accuracy, but it’s clever exposition for a five-part miniseries.
potatoinmymouth
Yep me too.  I have taken an approach with movies etc to abstractionalise them to anchor them back into reality.  Said another way, I overlay new rules to remove editorial discretion.   Eg, if I watch a movie about Rome (eg Gladiators), one of the first things I note to my self is that yes they are speaking English but that is some form of Tardis translation being done for me and they are really speaking their own Latin.

With Chernobyl there are a range of factual departures, though some of them are necessary (such as creating the character of Ulana Khomyuk to be the proxy of all the other supporting scientists/engineers) but what I see is a story, which may of course be tainted by my own westernised world view, of a political administration that could not deal with errors and mistakes and struggled to deal with them, even when on the edge of the cliff.

But i do also agree, some of the basic stuff should be done right, like how radiation works.
  Aaron Minister for Railways

Location: University of Adelaide SA
There is no doubt that both explosions were thermal in origin, there just simply isn’t enough highly enriched material in a NPP to generate a ‘nuclear bomb’.

Most of the radiation that escaped did so because when due to the lack of water that which was there superheated, and the graphite overheated and began to combust the heat and steam/gases produced blew the core apart. The temperature was in the order of thousands of C, the fuel components were driven into a state of ionisation, it was this plasma that allowed the isotopes to escape.

Such plasma can only exist above a couple of thousand C, so they cool and solidify within metres of the inferno. Hence, in a properly contained ‘western’ NPP these products condense out on the inside of the secondary containment and TMI style, there is very little ‘fall out’. At Chernobyl, partly because the designers and the state believed that RBMK reactors were ‘so safe’ (but mostly to lower cost and decrease construction time) such a containment wasn’t installed and the isotopes now as solidified particles were free to roam on the convection of heat from the graphite burn.

Chernobyl was never going to be (no NPP can be) a nuclear bomb, and the Corium melting through to hit a pile of water should never have been a concern. Like in the reactor the water would just vapourise, but being in an unconstrained environment it would just result in the liberation of steam, there would be no pressure related explosion.

The series needed some actual nuclear physicists/chemists to help give the script some more credibility - rather than perpetuate the fear (or in some cases pure phobia) of nuclear energy within the less physics educated masses.

The character abbreviation I have no issue with, but abbreviating or misrepresenting the science I do have a problem with. Further examples include why they didn’t explain just how few people died, how few people will die in the future from it, and how it was nearly impossible for many people to die from such an accident.

That will have to wait until I have more time to explain that too.
  apw5910 Deputy Commissioner

Location: Location: Location.
Eg, if I watch a movie about Rome (eg Gladiators), one of the first things I note to my self is that yes they are speaking English but that is some form of Tardis translation being done for me and they are really speaking their own Latin.
james.au
One of the early complaints about the series by the usual "Let's Get Really Upset About Something" crowd was that it was done in ordinary English, not Russian with subtitles or even "Boris and Natasha" accents. Which would have detracted from an excellent piece of drama.
  james.au Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney, NSW
On the accents I do have to admit it was grating that there's ere different ones in there. Ie listening to standard RP english and then throwing in a broad Irish one threw me.

But that was a very minor inconvenience.
  Gman_86 Chief Commissioner

Location: Melton, where the sparks dare not roam!
I just finished watching Chernobyl and thought it was pretty good.

That said, I never watched it thinking it was a documentary, that would be pretty silly.
  potatoinmymouth Chief Commissioner

Aaron, do you think the IAEA/WHO estimate of 4,000 premature deaths is reasonable? It’s considerably less sensational than the 60,000 sometimes quoted, but significantly more than the ~250 acute deaths.

This StackExchange thread is also worth a read for some attempts at calculating the potential energy of the water reserves:

https://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/480113/how-large-would-the-steam-explosion-at-chernobyl-have-been

They come to a figure of 149t of TNT equivalent, which, while being laughably small compared to the show’s claim of 2–4Mt (as someone points out, if you could create megaton explosions with water, someone would have figured that out long ago) is still a massive explosion. The second initial explosion has been estimated at 10t; the biggest US conventional bomb is 44t. So it would have put Reactor 3 in quite serious danger.
  Aaron Minister for Railways

Location: University of Adelaide SA
All those numbers aside from the sensationalised 60k are probably close to true.

I don’t have time to explain the figures now.

250 acute deaths is probably right, 4000 total is inclusive of the non acute, longer term deaths - I don’t feel a reason to dispute either number.

The higher (60k type) figures arise either from blatant lies or scaremongering, with an alleged basis in LNT which at low dose is approaching smeg science.
  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE
Prior to going to Chernobyl, I was carpooling with a young Ukrainian woman in Dubai. I told her I wanted to go and she got quite upset so I never discussed it again. When I was there posting on FB (we are linked), she asked why I didn't tell her I was going to Ukraine because as I posted above we did a number of activities and Chernobyl was 3rd last day, with next day being on a small farm just outside the exclusion one and the final day in Kiev.

She told me her story.

Her Grandfather was a heli pilot in Ukrainian air-force at the time the reactor went bang. His job was to fly in Boron over the hole in the reactor and dump it. His only son's wedding in Kiev, 100km south was late April a few days after the explosion. His Commander expecting this job to eventually kill him told him to fly the helicopter to the base and go to the wedding and come back within a few hours. 4mths later, his only son and wife were expecting. The govt issued a strong recommendation all early term pregnant women to terminate, they refused. The baby was born healthy and was actually my friend Anna in the car pool, hence her being upset, but after seeing this series on TV, she is planning a visit.  

Her Grandfather visited Chernobyl only 1-2 years ago after 30 odd years, so no it didn't kill him.

Kiev itself was reasonably protected as the winds were heading across the border (the power station is very close to the northern border, maybe 25-50km) to Belarus and Minsk reportingly had numerous health and farm animal issues, because unlike Ukraine, there was minimal evacuations or response.

The video we saw of the nearby city the next day, Pripyat, in the car trip to the power station had these specs in the film, we were told was the radiation damaging the film inside the camera. The local population was evacuated fairly quickly and hence radiation exposure was limited. Actually the city hotels were used as a command centre for a number of years.

The exclusion one was basically swept clean. All timber structures, trees etc removed and buried along with much of the top soil. An exercise few can comprehend the scale. All concrete and bricks structures were water blasted. The exclusion zone is actually getting smaller as background radiation levels drop. The former villages (If I recall over 100 were demolished) we went to had a few hot spots on the geiger counter. The exclusion zone is unlikely to ever be fully returned to agriculture as its become a wildlife sanctuary and the tourism for this is growing rapidly and likely exceeding the farming income and jobs. Also Ukrainians farm old school, ie the house is near the field as few have cars and Ukrainian population is in free fall anyway so the land isn't needed.

To visit the site, you must be accompanied by a local and pay a fee that was well over US$100 each and that was 6 years back. Even back then before the Russian's killed the Ukrainian economy, the average wage is US$300/mth. So the fee we paid for our 6h visit paid for our Miss Ukrainian (none of them are ugly) tour guide's monthly salary. Plus we paid additional fee to the tour operator for the driver and car. You need Govt approval to enter and must provide passport details well in advance. Obviously if Miss Ukraine is going in daily, the health risks are low. The exclusion one is banned to children and pregnant women but we know it doesn't take much for these two groups to be banned from anything.

We got within 400m or so of the reactor building, but was time limited to
  justapassenger Chief Commissioner

All those numbers aside from the sensationalised 60k are probably close to true.

I don’t have time to explain the figures now.

250 acute deaths is probably right, 4000 total is inclusive of the non acute, longer term deaths - I don’t feel a reason to dispute either number.

The higher (60k type) figures arise either from blatant lies or scaremongering, with an alleged basis in LNT which at low dose is approaching smeg science.
Aaron
I agree that 60k is ridiculous.

I would suggest that it would be prudent to double the 250/4000 estimates to 500/8000 though, to account for the Soviet Union tendency towards covering up negative news.
  Aaron Minister for Railways

Location: University of Adelaide SA
Those numbers are IAEA and WHO expectation values, which is why they’re rounded figures not exact numbers like 248 and 4136. They don’t come from the Soviet ‘data’ on deaths but from observable (measurable) data, statistical analysis and probability.

Soviet data on Chernobyl deaths I have never seen. If they (Russia) did publish data today I don’t think I would consider it inaccurate.
  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE
The 60k is BS as there the entire workforce peaked at around 100k.

The deaths from the explosion and initial high levels of radiation is less than hundred.

The shortened life span deaths is guessed to be around 4000 and its a guess and not because of the USSR or anything political but simply because around half the work force and civilians affected have yet to die and until they mostly die and hence its only a guess on who's life was shortened.  As mentioned before the two control panel operators, one died of a heart attack within 10 years and another of Leukemia within 20 years. Neither of these can be conclusively linked to the event and no one knows how much radiation they were exposed to prior to the explosion.

From what I've read, the Australian underground coal mining industry stats as of 1986 had a higher death rate and reduced life span than Chernobyl. For example Moura Mine alone was killing 10-13 people a decade in a single once in a decade event before BHP finally shut it down.
  Aaron Minister for Railways

Location: University of Adelaide SA
Why can no nuclear power plant (NPP) EVER be a nuclear bomb?

Well the simple technical answer is there is 'insufficient neutron flux' - due to:

- The wrong fuel.

- Incorrect 'arrangement' of fission materials.

- Time.

So to create a fission bomb we need a very high proportion of U235, better than 90%, that is high enrichment, getting U235 and isolating it from the rest of the Uranium isotopes is not cheap or trivial, but it's also not needed for a nuclear power plant. Most NPPs operate with something like a 5% (or less) level of U235, some operate with effectively no enrichment, 'Uranium dug from the ground' kind of proportions of U235 under 1%.

Once sufficient U235 exists to generate a fission weapon we need all of the atoms to be in very specific arrangements. Some U235 atoms are going to be triggered into fission by some induced neutrons (from a so called neutron spark plug - something else missing in a NPP) the U235 needs to very specifically paced such that as many of the liberated neutrons as possible collide with subsequent U235 atoms and so on. If you don't have this special, planned arrangement most of your neutrons will sail into vacant space and nothing much is going to happen.

When atoms fission, HUGE quantities of of energy are released, in the order of MeV per fission. Standard chemical explosions occur due to energy releases in eV per reaction (millionths of the energy released from a fission). When a million times the energy per 'reaction' is released what you get is a truly epic rate of temperature increase. The fission fuel goes from a 'warm' solid, to hot solid, to exceedingly hot solid, to liquid and then to gas/plasma in microseconds, if I had to guess, probably two of them, maybe less. Now remember what I said about that special orientation we need to keep our fission fuel in, that's achievable in a solid, but impossible in a liquid and even more impossible (yes, in this case, that is a thing) in a plasma state. The induced 'uncontrolled' fission is all over by the (incredibly short) time the fuel turns to a liquid.

That means that in every photo, in every video you've likely ever seen of a nuclear explosion the fission is well and truly stopped and all your looking at are photons if the flash is still there, gas plasma and pressure waves.

So for a nuclear power plant to become a nuclear bomb (and Khomyuk aka 'the conglomerated scientist' and Legarsov both referenced Chernobyl yielding 'megaton' sized explosions which are strictly the domain of thermonuclear ie 'hydrogen bomb' devices) they were clearly implying that the fuel could somehow concentrate itself from less than 5% - 3% for RBMK IIRC, to better than 90%, then arrange itself into a desirable shape, self trigger and all within a couple of microseconds. The fuel was already 'melted'...

Consider it for yourself, consider 100x 0.5g dark chocolate chips evenly distributed in 950g of white 'chocolate' such that you have a block of chocolate 1000g in mass with a 5% concentration of dark chocolate. What are the chances of those chocolate chips migrating to conglomerate such that they all come together in a single location within the block to create a spot where all 50g of dark chips are encompassed in a mass that is less than 10% white 'chocolate'? - Sufficiently close to zero.

If you think that's not zero, then suppose the perfect structure for a chocolate 'nuclear' bomb is a ball of 1000g mass. Without using an appropriately shaped container (NPPs are not likely to be the right shape for a nuclear weapon) form, or otherwise maintain (preferably by accidental means) that shape whilst the chocolate is in a melted state. - It's ridiculous.

The first explosion at Chernobyl was thermal, nothing more than a gas being heated to the point where it generates a force capable of breaching the sealed environment containing it. See the numerous 'documentaries on YouTube of idiots putting dry ice into Coke bottles - that's all the first explosion was.

The second explosion was probably not the hydrogen explosion that is claimed, it was I think most likely the largish amount of either very hot solid, or more likely even hotter, molten Zirconium hitting water, like sodium or potassium hitting water. Zirconium burns with a very pretty yellow/green sparkly flame, it's quite vigorous, I bet it being really hot and hitting water would yield quite a reaction.

When I say I have a problem not so much with the 'story' but with the physics in HBO's Chernobyl, this is largely why.

They used a character playing a leading physicist/nuclear scientist and a character representing a conglomeration of physicists, nuclear scientists and engineers to perpetuate a myth of danger that just didn't/couldn't exist - there or in any NPP anywhere.
  ANR Assistant Commissioner

Maybe we should come up with our own version here in Australia, like "Maralinga", or "Wittenoom"? Who knows, in 50 years time there could be a series titled, "Adani"....

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