Review Example: Chernobyl - HBO Miniseries

The series Chernobyl was about the power plant in Ukraine that had a catastrophic failure, from both the engineering standpoint and from the staff working that night. To begin with, the power plant was running a safety test to check if the plant can run with the generators instead of the constant inflow of water. When the employees on shift that night started the test the power levels dropped to an unsafe level causing them to terminate the test and shut the machine down, but instead of shutting down the reactor, it caused the core to explode. This caused mass casualties and many other symptoms that affected people for the rest of their life. It was determined that the reactor malfunctioned because the type of reactor Chernobyl was (RBMK) had a fatal flaw, when pushed to the brink of collapse if they hit the terminate button called the AZ-5 which dropped control rods into the core causing it to cool down immediately. Instead, the control rods had graphite tips that reacted with all the water that has been cooling the core causing it to immediately evaporate which lead to a buildup of pressure, thus the core exploded causing radiation beyond anything we have seen before. The radiation given off by this explosion was so immense that it burned out 3 dosimeters that were not equipped to handle such high levels of ionizing radiation. It took weeks to get the fire out in the core.

When the core exploded firefighters came and tried to put the fire out, the firefighters on duty were subjected to skin erythema (reddening of the skin)  within minutes, one firefighter who grabbed a piece of concrete on the ground underwent severe desquamation and his hand was burned from the radiation given off. The Nuclear physicist at the time registered radiation using a dosimeter at the time at 3.6 R only because that was as high as the dosimeter went, later on when Dr. Legasov a deputy director of the institute of atomic energy came to investigate the events of Chernobyl he got a dosimeter that went much higher. The dosimeter that the soldiers registered was 15,000 R, which was 40 times the radiation from Nagasaki. Because of this exposure, the people who were exposed underwent severe early tissue reactions, such as Nausea and fatigue and fever, within a day the firefighters started having symptoms of epilation (Hair loss) within days the firefighters died from radiation. The death of these firefighters provided an example of what high levels of radiation can do before they died, they underwent skin necrosis and complete epilation, their teeth rotting out and the radiation was eating them inside and out. Dr. Legasov discussed how the firefighters went through the prodromal stage (the beginning stage), within a day or 2 they would go through the latency period where they felt alright and almost it looked like it would be cured, then the manifest stage would kick in and cellular damage would manifest and the bone marrow would die, the last stage is death with occurs within days after getting exposed to extreme radiation. The citizens who saw the explosion thought the fire looked pretty so they wanted to get a better look at the fire, they went to a railway bridge now known as “The Bridge of Death” this is because the citizens on the bridge got rained on by ash from the fire it looked like snow, kids were playing in the ash and no one knew the consequences of this, no one knew this was radiation fallout no one survived who was on the bridge.

Because of all the events of Chernobyl and all the work that went into figuring out what exactly happened we have learned a lot about radiation exposure and radiation safety. When the firefighters went into the hospital, the first thing the nurses did was take off their suits because the radiation was immense coming off them. They are still unsafe to this day. The staff of the Soviet Union knew the radiation level was higher than the dosimeter previously stated, when measuring the amount of radiation given off with the high-level dosimeter they put lead all-around a truck and attached the dosimeter to the front of the truck, he was also in all hazmat gear. When the team was getting the debris off the roof of the sections, they would equip the volunteers in full lead suits trying to limit the amount of radiation they received as they limited the time of the cleanup team to 90 seconds. The citizen-soldiers that were tasked with killing all the animals around the area exposed to radiation traded for lead to make a gonadal shield since the exposure was so great, they didn’t want to be sterile. Today we use time, Distance, and Shielding all are examples of what were in effect when investigating Chernobyl.

 I thoroughly enjoyed the film one of the main takeaways from this is that the level of coverup the Soviet Union went through to not "Be embarrassed", they started by keeping it under wraps and not telling anyone, then when the world found out they lied about how much radiation was being released when the dosimeter read 15000R the soviet union was telling people 200R. If anyone tried to talk about what happened in Chernobyl, they arrested them and or killed them. I believe the content was great for our course because we learned many things such as how dangerous ionizing radiation is. Many people believe we just push a button and take a picture so there shouldn’t be that much schooling involved, but this isn’t the case. We learned that we need experience/ training to use ionizing radiation because the staff working that night did not know how to start the safety test and they didn’t know if they were doing it wrong. Because of this mistake many people died and many more had life-changing consequences such as cancer.


Renck, J. (Director). (2019). Chernobyl (Miniseries) [ Miniseries]. United States: HBO. 



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