My Favorite TV Show
I have a lot of favorites when it comes to TV shows. Some are the funny ones, say, Friends, The Big Bang Theory, or the sci-fi ones, Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or even the treasure hunt kinds. So, that’s a lot to choose from. However, I would rate one other show way above these all. Trust me, it is not a matter of comparison, rather that of my choice at the moment.
I am talking about Chernobyl, the HBO series. Back in school, we had learned about Chernobyl and how bad it had been. But learning back in school days was a function of how good the subject was and how well the teacher conveyed it. Since I had at least one of them lacking, I did not shower anything beyond academic interest on Chernobyl. I only understood the calamity much later and how worse it could have been. And when I saw the series way later, I could finally relate to the tragedy. The series was well made, and it brought about emotions the right way. You’ve got to watch it!
*Image: Mangled remains of Reactor-4 at Chernobyl after the explosion*
Let me give you some snippets to pique your interest! 😊
We all know about the worst nuclear bombing of a country. There wouldn’t be many who wouldn’t know about Hiroshima and Nagasaki decimated by two nuclear bombs. Till date, that happens to be the only occurrence, and it may remain so in the future too. However, Chernobyl dwarfs this tragedy by a huge mile. Of course, tragedies cannot be compared, especially when there is a loss of life. Even one life lost is someone's family going bereft of the lost soul. The comparison here is the intensity of the blast.
Mind you, unlike Japan, Chernobyl was not a nuclear explosion. It was an explosion that decimated the structure around the nuclear core and exposed the reactor. And that was the source of nuclear pollution. So intense was the nuclear emission from the core that the fire-fighters who came to the site to douse the fire died within few weeks. Few of them died on the same day, and only a handful survived beyond a year.
Have a look at the trailer of Chernobyl.
Even the trailer is so powerful. You can imagine the entire series.
Also, the nuclear particles emitted from the core were 15,000 Roentgen. That was twice that of the Hiroshima bomb, being spewed out of the reactor every hour. In other words, two nuclear bombs of Hiroshima size firing every hour from the reactor. That would add up to 48 bombs per day for the next 50,000 years!
There was no way the Eurasian continent could have survived if not for bringing things under control.
The series builds up to the day the accident happens at the nuclear reactor. Much of the analysis later reveals that the reactor's design, as much as the stupidity of Dyatlov, the deputy chief engineer at the site, led to the explosion. The lead-up to the explosion is all about Dyatlov choosing to go around the set parameters of working as much as lack of knowledge of the reactor’s functioning under those parameters.
The blast was so powerful that the circular concrete cover of 2000 tonnes was blown away, and it landed upright, leaning on the wall.
That was the beginning of the tragedy. The rest of the series talks about the all-important role of covering the exposed core. Here, the two main characters, Boris, a Soviet bureaucrat, charged with bringing the situation under control, and Valery Legasov, a Soviet inorganic chemist, brought in for his capability to understand the situation start a love-hate relationship.
Boris being the bureaucrat that he is, comes with an air of superiority, while Legasov is grounded and knows the scale of the calamity. Initially, both are at loggerheads, as Boris wouldn’t want any instructions from Legasov unless asked for. Here is one of their heated exchange where the stupidity of power comes head-to-head with the voice of sanity.
Though it may seem like Boris would be a pain in the backside, that is not the case. Even history remembers him kindly as much as Legasov. Most of the series is about how the situation was brought under control, the creation of the exclusion zone, the movement of people from Pripyat (which was three miles from Chernobyl), and the building of the sarcophagus (containment structure). But the eventual respect between Boris and Legasov is what keeps the story afloat. A snippet from the series.
From an accident to despair to getting things done, and eventually, a ray of hope, Chernobyl has it all. The series is exciting if you want to watch it as a viewer with no inclinations to lean back on history. But it gets exhilarating (I know it’s a wrong adjective) if you realize that this is not just a series but a real occurrence. You end up having that much more respect for the people and the events in the series.
The series also covers some real-life challenges which occurred for the people during the actual event in 1986. For example, the core once exposed had to be covered again. How do you do it? The radiation wouldn’t allow you to live more than a week if you went too close. But still, people went over the roof to put the graphite pieces blown away from the reactor back into the reactor. Then another problem was the reactor’s bottom beginning to melt. The mixture of metal, radioactive substance, and the sand put to douse the fire created a lava of super-hot material. This lava melted the bottom of the reactor and started to flow to lower areas. It had implications. If the radioactive lava reached below the ground level, it would contaminate the groundwater and all water sources in and around Eurasia. That water would remain contaminated for at least 25,000 years. What could be done? These were the events that were handled and put to rest.
Nearly 80% of the series is said to be in line with the real occurrence, while 15-20% is made up. For example, Legasov, building the case about the accident near the end of the series, is made up. Legasov was never called for the hearing, let alone present the case. That barring, it is a series I would highly recommend.
What happened to Boris and Legasov? Near the end of the series, they develop a friendly bond and mutual respect. Boris transforms from a knucklehead to a sane and caring man. Maybe, he was always a caring man, but only his position made him egoistic for some time. But it is a fair ending to the series as they become friends. That happens to be the truth as well.
Here is one of the scenes near the conclusion.
That was the friendship, and it was said that this was also the last time they ever met!
Outside the Series – Chernobyl Today
Legasov committed suicide in 1988 after recording his version of what happened at Chernobyl, which was two years after the accident. Boris, on the other hand, passed away in 1990. He played a crucial role during the Armenian earthquake of 1988. As such, he is remembered both in Ukraine (Chernobyl is in present-day Ukraine) and Armenia.
The original sarcophagus or the concrete structure around the core was expected to be effective for thirty years. So, around the year 2000, a call for another sarcophagus around the original reactor was made. It is a semi-cylindrical dome around the reactor. There are enough videos on the net about it. You can check it out.
Also, of the casualties that fateful night, one person was never found. He was in the pumping room and was assumed to have been evaporated by the blast. Imagine the impact of the blast!
Today, there are guided visits allowed to the reactor with proper clothing. The neighboring town of Pripyat is also open for visits, but it is nothing but a ghost town. Of course, the entire area still remains irradiated. So the human presence at the location is limited to avoid large-scale exposure to radiation.
Well, that’s the story of Chernobyl. Do have a watch!
Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.
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