HBO’s falsified Chernobyl “documentary”

HBO’s falsified Chernobyl “documentary”

Imagine HBO doing a similar profit-making film about the tragic Chilean rugby team

Dr. Kelvin Kemm

Late in 1972, Uruguayan Air Force flight 571 was taking a college rugby team and family members from Montevideo, Uruguay to Santiago, Chile. It carried five crew members and 40 passengers.

As the aircraft crossed the frozen Andes, the pilot made a tragic navigation error and descended towards what he thought was Pudahuel Airport. The aircraft struck a rocky mountain ridge. Both wings were sheared off, and the aircraft fuselage raced like a toboggan down the steep snow-covered slope, coming to rest on a glacier.

Only 33 survived the crash, and five more died during the freezing night that followed. Seventeen days after the crash, an avalanche struck the wrecked remains and killed eight more. The remaining starving and half-frozen survivors were devout Catholics – highly moral and responsible, but facing certain death, while the dead lay frozen outside in the snow.

After personal agonizing and prayer, they made the dramatic decision to eat their deceased fellow passengers. One team member was a medical student, who explained that brains and certain other organs contained valuable nutrients. So they ate those as well as the human flesh. Two of the strongest survivors set off on an incredible 38-mile (60-kilometer) trek to find rescuers.

After a staggering 72 days on the glacier, the remaining survivors were rescued, two days before Christmas. Despite initially reacting in horror, people worldwide ultimately sympathized deeply with the plight and decisions of those survivors, who prayed over their dead comrades and cut pieces from the bodies only with great sorrow, reverence and respect.

A television program portrayed their agonizing saga honestly, accurately and sympathetically.

However, imagine if decades later another producer decided to make a new “dramatized” version. It begins with the aircraft crash, fractured fuselage ride down the mountain and snowy desolation. But then it descends into “artistic license,” to ensure more horror, more viewers (more profits).

Imagine the new “inspired by true events” version showing callous survivors slashing bodies with axes and using machetes to tear out livers and hammers to smash skulls for the brains. After dinner they play a wild drumming rhapsody on the fuselage, using human bones as drumsticks as they sing.

How do you think TV audiences would respond? With sympathy and understanding for the survivors – or revulsion and disgust? Would they call for forgiveness – or demand prosecution?

If this sounds absurd, it has a very real recent counterpart that took similar liberties with the facts in order to make a more “dramatic” program and attract more viewers. I watched both the Chilean rugby team television program a few years ago and the recent HBO-produced TV series “Chernobyl.”

The Chernobyl tragedy is also an undeniable part of history. People died, though fewer than 60. Things went terribly wrong, for many reasons. But today tourists visit the Chernobyl area and wildlife thrives.

So what actually happened? Did reality come anywhere close to what HBO presented in its program?

The HBO production apparently recorded record viewership figures. That was undoubtedly good for the network’s bottom line. But was it honest income, to be proud of?

As a nuclear scientist, I can tell you the fundamental story of the sequence of events of the 1986 Chernobyl accident as portrayed by HBO was correct. Issues around governance and procedure as portrayed by HBO were essentially correct. But other important aspects were false or falsified.

The blood and skin peeling scenes, for example. Sadly, the producers lied – intentionally or incompetently, it seems, to gain box office income. They succeeded in that goal. But they insulted us nuclear scientists and insulted the intelligence of viewers who knew a bit more science than most of HBO’s audience. The HBO producers also led many viewers down a twisted path to further ignorance and confusion, which certainly should not be the objective of any honest history documentary.

The series tended to show the Soviet authorities of the day as uncaring and unskilled. That was not true. Yes, Chernobyl happened during the formality and rigidity of the Soviet communist system of the era. And yes, the military-type hierarchy of the time did play a role.

However Russian nuclear scientists had actually and for some time worried greatly about that particular Chernobyl reactor design and had voiced their concerns to senior authorities. Albeit slowly, those authorities were responding. Tests of failure systems were being conducted.

Chernobyl had been ordered to carry out one such test, to assess the speed of response to a failure. A test had been set up. Chernobyl staffers were instructed to create a deliberate failure mode situation, to see how the reactor responded. This was arranged and was supposed to have been done in the daytime, when the main skilled team was on duty.

However, high demands for electricity in the district caused them to delay the test until around midnight, when the lower calibre night shift team was on duty. In addition, the more senior decision makers in the line-of-command had gone home.

To clip all the technicalities very short: when the intentional test procedure started to go wrong, worried and inexperienced Chernobyl technicians made some wrong moves and rapidly compounded the unfolding drama. As the reactor spun out of control, the rapid communications line via local headquarters to Moscow did not function properly; the seniors had gone home and could not help.

Moreover, that reactor type had been built to an out-of-date design that contained a large amount of highly combustible graphite. It caught fire. Someone correctly called the fire brigade – which responded quickly, but mistakenly attacked the fire as if it were a burning woodworking factory.

The firemen bravely attacked the flames – without fully realizing that the smoke carried radioactive dust and other harmful material. Lumps of burning graphite that lay scattered around contained radioactive debris from the initial gas blast that blew the reactor to pieces.

Other first responders were also brought in: police, military, helicopter pilots. All did their duty, as they would have in any other major fire. But radioactive dust and smoke were swirling around.

Human bodies do not become radioactive in a situation like that. What can happen is that someone, like a fireman, leaves the scene with radioactive dust on his clothes and maybe in his hair. Any radiation protection officer present would then make him take all his clothes off and take a good shower, before going home.

Firemen were not radioactively contagious, as HBO portrayed. A fireman could not have irradiated his pregnant wife at home, as HBO claimed. Her baby could not have died of heart and liver disease as a result; that too is pure HBO bunk. Something like playing music on the aircraft fuselage in the Andes, using human bones as drumsticks. Very good for viewer horror, but very far from the truth.

A very large dose of nuclear radiation will undoubtedly kill a person. But skin will not peel off one’s face. In fact a human can pick up a fatal dose of radiation in under an hour and not even know it. The person would go home in apparently perfect condition, but then start to feel as if he had eaten rotten fish for lunch. Vomiting would result and flu-like symptoms would set in. Over a couple of hours this would lead to shaky hands and wobbly legs, bad vision and a general breakdown of body functions. Death would come quite quickly, within days. But in reality no viewer-riveting skin peeling off the face, or blood dripping from anywhere would occur.

After the real Chernobyl incident, 29 fire-fighters died – from what medics call “synchronous injuries.” In other words “a combination of factors.” Undoubtedly radiation exposure played a major role. But those brave men also attacked high-temperature flames, breathed in dense toxic smoke and physically exerted themselves under terrible conditions. There were numerous other errors, as well.

It seems HBO producers did not consult any nuclear physics specialists, or medical people knowledgeable in the field. They relied on more dramatic emotional advice.

HBO must have made a lot of money with the series. Their shareholders are no doubt very pleased. But HBO has not done any service to the truth or to the education and enlightenment of viewers.

The series was “fiction inspired by real events” – not a “documentary.” HBO should issue apologies.

Dr Kelvin Kemm is a nuclear physicist and CEO of Nuclear Africa Ltd, a project management company based in Pretoria, South Africa. He does international consultancy work in strategic development.

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Stephen Wilde
July 6, 2019 10:14 am

Many of the animals prospering in the irradiated zone are mammals like us.
Just how dangerous are non-fatal levels of irradiation ?

Reply to  Stephen Wilde
July 6, 2019 11:16 am

The stupid reaction to low level radioactivity is probably way worse than the effects of the radioactivity itself. link The linear no-threshold model for radiation exposure is crap. link

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Yantai
Reply to  commieBob
July 6, 2019 4:22 pm

Agreed. LNT scrap science about nearly everything.

Ira Whitaker McCully
Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo but really in Yantai
July 8, 2019 12:01 am

It’s odd to me that your description of events regarding the Chernobyl incident and the dramatization from HBO seem to be so in sync while you complain of horrible wrongdoing. … By HBO. You didn’t see the part where science saved the day, that scientists tried to overcome beurocracy throughout the program or that acute radiation poisoning was isolated to direct responders? So we’re down to skin flaking and the issue of contagion.
From a cancer study group:
One of the most common side effects is a skin condition called radiation dermatitis, which can range from a mild, red rash (erythema) and itchy, peeling or flaking skin (dry desquamation) to a more severe reaction with blisters and wet, peeling skin (moist desquamation).

From : People who are externally contaminated with radioactive material can contaminate other people or surfaces that they touch. … The body fluids (blood, sweat, urine) of an internally contaminated person can contain radioactive materials. Coming in contact with these body fluids can result in contamination and/or exposure.

Also, with the ball team and cannibalism. O saw that movie too. I was sad for the players. They weren’t celebrating.

Reply to  Ira Whitaker McCully
July 8, 2019 9:35 am

Just thought I’d say I really appreciate the overall candor of your reply.
It was really respectful to a point even though I’m not op.
But I agree with everything you said especially especially the overall tonality.

For my part I really find anything that attacks artistic expression like this to be an even further expression of a person’s agenda.

While the person showcases a broad amount of empathy for the people involved it seems like this is a post that was caused by some internal conflict about the state of American entertainment. Which forgive me for assuming, makes me want to believe that there’s tone here of anti American thought patterns.

My overall Initial thought was when reading this was that this was a Russian sponsored attack on the HBO series. As they seem to be largely against any aggressive depiction of the events that transpired in Ukraine.
And by all rights are still happening to some extent.

All I know is that, all posts like this serve to do is to stir up negative emotions in people and I can’t be bothered with lingering on this emotional tirade any longer.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  commieBob
July 6, 2019 5:56 pm

Yet that is what the EPA uses for household radon evaluations.

Reply to  Stephen Wilde
July 6, 2019 11:35 am

Children, in particular, are at risk for thyroid cancer (from the iodine 131 istope by-product), but that is easily preventable, or cured, otherwise. I have read, though I’ll never find the source I suspect, that the rates in the area of some types of cancers actually fell after the disaster.

I think there are too many confounding factors to give a good answer to your question.

Reply to  jtom
July 6, 2019 12:41 pm

If you flood the body with iodine prior to exposure, the thyroid doesn’t have any room to store the radioactive compounds and they get flushed from the body naturally.

Don K
Reply to  MarkW
July 6, 2019 5:36 pm

“If you flood the body with iodine prior to exposure, the thyroid doesn’t have any room to store the radioactive compounds …”

All true. But Potassium Iodide is not entirely safe for everyone. This is a case where following the instructions and heeding advice from the authorities is probably a good idea.

Reply to  MarkW
July 6, 2019 8:20 pm

“If you flood the body with iodine prior to exposure”.

Good luck getting it in time.

During the Fukushima event the Government of Canada persuaded the pharmacists not to sell thyroid blockers to the public. What the public got was the absurd promise that the government would make sure that they got some when and if required.

Almost certainly there wasn’t enough in stock to meet demand, and the government wanted to keep what there was handy… I heard that they provided thyroid blocker to Canadians in Japan through the embassy. But Canadians in China were out of luck.

The Chinese government used the same line on its citizens.

Bottom line: if you want to protect your thyroid or those of your kids from radioactive iodine, you’d better stockpile some, and make sure you get some sort of radiation alarm too, especially if you live in China, because the government is probably not going to tell you when fallout is coming. They won’t want your car blocking the roads when they’re leaving town.

Duncan Smith
Reply to  otropogo
July 7, 2019 7:00 am

Otropogo, I suspect blocking people getting KI was to prevent overreaction to a non-problem. In 2015, Toronto Canada, Ontario Power Generation provided 200,000 homes with pills within a 10km radius of power plants. I have pills in my house now. So they have fixed whatever wrongs that might have occurred, at least in this area.

Reply to  otropogo
July 7, 2019 9:40 am

But you need to be aware the KI has a shelf-life. After a few years (10, I think) it has to be replaced.

Ferdinand Engelbeen
Reply to  otropogo
July 12, 2019 10:45 am


Officially, every medicine must have a shelf-life printed on it, even if it doesn’t change in eternity as is the case for KI. All what can happen is that other ingredients (some “filler”) can get wet over time, but the active ingredient in this case still is active…

Don K
Reply to  jtom
July 6, 2019 5:23 pm

Iodine-131 is indeed a serious hazard in the days following a nuclear accident. But it has a half life of about 8 days, so even if a lot is released, it’s pretty much gone in a few months.

Reply to  Don K
July 6, 2019 7:33 pm

Figure 5 half lives as a rule of thumb. So, if the half life is 8 days, in 40 days it’ll be gone.

Reply to  jtom
July 7, 2019 2:52 am

Pretty sure we use radiation therapy to treat cancer!

But it’s perfectly feasible that low doses of radiation encourage earlier elimination of precancerous cells.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Stephen Wilde
July 6, 2019 2:14 pm

If you have a granite countertop, particularly a red granite, it could easily be U- ore at ~$100/lb yellowcake. No worries. The Candian Shield and Coast Range batholith on which people live, no worries!

Some studies of the health of nuclear thermoelectric plant workers have been done and show statistically no evident risk from normal exposure. I recall a few (years ago)) that found these workers statistically had longer healthy lives than average. I tried to find a link but I suspect these are deeply buried or not easy to find.

Doug Huffman
Reply to  Gary Pearse
July 6, 2019 3:05 pm

Genevieve Matanoski’s Nuclear Shipyard Worker Study – NSWS – is the most thoroughly disappeared document of which I know. I am an extreme datum.

Doug Huffman
Reply to  Doug Huffman
July 6, 2019 3:22 pm

Here it is, all 452 pages.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Doug Huffman
July 6, 2019 6:01 pm

Doug, good on you! I think there are one or two others if I recall. There was an accident in the 1950s where several workers, I think on nuclear weapons research got serious exposure and not only had no serious effects but, unaccountably lived to ripe old ages. In Canada, at Chalk River, we had a serious accident that young Navy Lieutenant, later President, Jimmy Carter came up to manage cleanup of. It was messy. Hey, he’s 94!

I think we need a team at some trusted institution (Heartland?) to search out and store the ideologically motivated burial of ‘inconvenient’ data that the electronic search lefties have occluded. The nuclear stuff is a case in point that needs to be widely reported to take away the fear.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
July 6, 2019 4:14 pm

I understand that all granite has elevated levels of radioactivity from trace radioactive elements, some more than others and can vary over the area measured. Our counter top measures about twice back ground.

Reply to  BFL
July 7, 2019 2:31 am

My counter in a Hotel near Brittany in France measured about 25X normal background.
It was so high in my room I went to ask reception WTF their walls were made of!

When you stick your head in a room for the night and find it’s measuring 0.5mR/hr it certainly makes you wonder what’s going on!
For someone living in that 24/7, it’s not insignificant, and oddly enough the owner of the hotel HAD been treated for cancer.
Ignorance is bliss.

Reply to  Stephen Wilde
July 6, 2019 2:28 pm

I visited a lush and vibrant Nagasaki in August 1971; 26 years after Bockscar delivered its devastation. I read on the ground zero obolisk’s plaque that scientists projected it would require 75 years for the area to decontaminate and recover.
So much for scientific projections.
I am now going to get into my atomic powered flying car and visit my 120 year old grandparents – I hope they aren’t playing tennis today.

Frank L Rosario
Reply to  czechlist
July 7, 2019 11:13 am

You guys do realize that HBO/Hollywood/cinema in general take liberties with pretty much anything?

Does everyone cry whenever someone in a movie uses a “silencer” on a firearm and magically makes a gunshot silent? No. It’s accepted as being dramatic and you go with it.

Also, anything “based on true events” is – BY DEFINITION – going to fictionalize many aspects of said story. Knowing that, people still try to pick it apart, almost as they are oblivious to the FACT that it’s done intentially. Don’t like it? Make your own story then instead of complaining of others.

Stop trying to dissect any and every aspect of “science” when it comes to it’s protrayal in cinema. There has *never* been a movie that features “100% scientific accuracy”, why people keep expecting it is beyond me.

Phil Salmon
Reply to  Stephen Wilde
July 6, 2019 2:53 pm

Those animals – I have seen them myself – are a testimony to the falsehood of the linear no threshold theory of radiation harm. HBO are simply proselytising the new popular religion of medieval numinous dread of “Ray-dee-yayshun” which has no basis in scientific fact. There is a clearly established and highly repeatable lower threshold of harmful effects of ionising radiation on animals. It’s no secret – a few seconds on Google Scholar are entropy find a handful of such studies.;2

Phil Salmon
Reply to  Phil Salmon
July 6, 2019 2:55 pm

A few seconds on Google Scholar are enough to …

Reply to  Stephen Wilde
July 6, 2019 2:53 pm

Prospering? Their numbers are up simply because man is not there to kill them. Birds’ brains were found to be smaller in the exclusion zone, among other anomalous things. That’s not what I call prospering.

Reply to  icisil
July 6, 2019 5:12 pm

What were the specific problems with the smaller brain? How did it affect the life span and health of the birds? Just a smaller size in itself is not negative. If that’s all there was, anomalies without any effects, it really isn’t a negative at all.

Reply to  icisil
July 7, 2019 6:16 am

I wouldn’t trust any studies of Chernobyl coming from western “scientists”. You can bet they have an anti-nuke (and anti-Russian) agenda — it’s built into their culture.

Reply to  beng135
July 7, 2019 9:26 am

That’s naive of you to think that Russian scientists wouldn’t falsify their own reports as well. Everytime the Russian government does something wrong and gets caught, it’s like dealing with a pathological liar.

Reply to  Trev
July 7, 2019 9:50 am

I said nothing about Russian scientists — plainly obvious they have their own agendas too.

Andrejs Skaburskis
Reply to  Trev
July 7, 2019 4:15 pm

I would think the opposite. A nuclear scientist would want to protect nuclear energy programs and diminish the costs.

Reply to  Stephen Wilde
July 6, 2019 2:55 pm

Darn it. Used the word k!ll again and first comment went into moderation. Repeat.

Prospering? Their numbers are up simply because man is not there to k!ll them. Birds’ brains were found to be smaller in the exclusion zone, among other anomalous things. That’s not what I call prospering.

Pat Frank
Reply to  icisil
July 6, 2019 4:11 pm

How do you know their brain neurons haven’t become more densely connected?

Gary Pearse
Reply to  icisil
July 6, 2019 4:25 pm

Icisil Don’t trust out of hand the science on politically charged topics like nuclear and climate science without reading a lot of stuff including the biography of the the writer! I was taken in at first by CO2 dangerous warming stuff and I’m a geologist (all are taught paleoclimatology) and an engineer. Hey, why would they lie, right? Well it turned out fame, fortune and politics can be corrupters! Here is article on wildlife research in the exclusion zone. The animals turn out to be thriving:

In another article “babuskas” (бабушкы) ‘ grandmas’ in their 80s have been sneaking into the exclusion zone to pick berries, mushrooms and herbs and they looked healthy and strong. If I were to tell you that before a year was out in the Hiroshima bombing, radiation was back to background levels and they rebuilt the city, would that give you pause to reconsider your “data”.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
July 6, 2019 6:34 pm

Chernobyl released 400 times the radiation of Hiroshima and wasn’t an air blast like Hiroshima was, meaning a lot of the bomb’s fallout didn’t end up in Hiroshima.

As far as wildlife thriving, here’s the “brains” study –

And this mentions a study pertaining to dead trees not decaying properly –

Everyone will have to judge for themselves.

Reply to  icisil
July 7, 2019 4:58 pm

As well as birds with tumors etc… the only thing that is prospering is the fish in Chernobyl area.

Doug Huffman
Reply to  Stephen Wilde
July 6, 2019 3:02 pm

See radiation hormesis against the Linear No Threshold hypothesis.

Reply to  Stephen Wilde
July 7, 2019 5:28 pm

Animals are typically unaffected since their lifespans are often much shorter.

July 6, 2019 10:16 am

Chernobyl was an event that could never have occurred anywhere else. And the death toll was insignificant as disasters go. Chernobyl has about as much relevance as the technology of the Ford Model T has for today’s electric cars. Nuclear remains the safest means of providing power and has for the past 60 years. What is astonishing is the ignorance of the anti-nuclear crowd.pushing a small scale disaster that happened long ago and far away as somehow relevant to the issue of modern Gen 3+ reactors, that are practically walk away safe. But discussion of light water reactor technology is becoming irrelevant, as the future of nuclear is Gen 4, not necessarily because it is inherently safe (which it is) , but because of its economics, environmental footprint, rapid construction , and ability to be sited virtually anywhere. It is also very proliferation resistant. It also can load follow, meaning it doesn’t need any fossil fuel peak load generators as do baseload plants. The feds have just awarded one Gen4 molten salt company (Moltex Energy) with several million to push forward development.

Bryan A
Reply to  ColMosby
July 6, 2019 12:05 pm

There was a race between a Tesla and a Model T. Starting in Chicago and finishing outside the Tesla Science Center on Long Island. The new 2013 Tesla did manage to beat the 99 year old 1915 Ford Model T
comment image
The Tesla pulled up to the science center gates at 7:25 after traveling 765 miles in 22 hours. The Ford arrived at 8:35 but not before requiring road side repairs. Chugging and sputtering eventually lead to carburetor repairs and a torn gasket with no replacement but what could be cobbled together from a local dollar store.
See more at Car and Driver

Greg Cavanagh
Reply to  Bryan A
July 6, 2019 1:26 pm

I’ve driven slightly less distance in an old 6 cylinder 1959 Canadian-Australian Pontiac in 18 hours, driving non-stop. My max speed was 100km/h because the old 6 didn’t have the push, and it was a 40 year old engine at that time as well.

So If the old Model T did that in 22 hours, it was very impressive indeed.

The Tesla stopped twice for recharge. They had some challenges finding the quickest recharge, and it seems like they cheated on the second recharge. But otherwise a good speed by comparison.

Reply to  ColMosby
July 6, 2019 12:23 pm

could never have occurred anywhere else?

Three Mile Island came very close and Fukupshima, though mainly hydrogen explosions did reach criticality and cores did go into meltdown.

Not only soviets are capable of stupid human error, miscalculations and cost cutting errors.

Curious George
Reply to  Greg
July 6, 2019 1:49 pm

Could you talk about things you understand?

Reply to  Greg
July 6, 2019 1:59 pm

Completely different designs, no reactor in the west lacks a containment dome.
So the original statement is correct, couldn’t have happened anywhere else.

Criticality and meltdown are completely different things.

Doug Huffman
Reply to  MarkW
July 6, 2019 3:09 pm

Be careful of your containment dome assertion. Maybe better, no power reactor in the west lacks containment. Research reactors often do not have particular containment, TRIGA e.g.

Criticality and meltdown are completely different things.

Reply to  Greg
July 6, 2019 7:30 pm

A critical reactor describes a normal steady state operation. A super critical reactor is a reactor that is ‘increasing’ power. A subcritical reactor is a reactor that is ‘decreasing’ in power.

Reply to  Greg
July 6, 2019 10:34 pm

Oh my gosh, the reactor reached criticality? The meaning of critical for a reactor is that there is no net change in neutron population per generation; In other words steady state power. As far as Three Mile Island goes, not even close but then you would have to understand nuclear reactors for me to explain it to you. Fukushima got smacked by a tsunami. You should study nuclear power a bit more before you speak on the subject on a message board such as this.

Reply to  Greg
July 7, 2019 4:55 pm

The anti-nuclear crowd need to use these terms correctly. For example:

“chain reaction: A reaction where the neutrons released from the fission of one nucleus of uranium or plutonium go on to fission other nuclei. lf the neutrons from one fission go on to fission exactly one more fission, then the chain reaction is critical and continues at the same rate.”

Nuclear reactors are designed to be super-critical. They run at critical.

Not only soviets are capable of stupid human error, miscalculations and cost cutting errors.

If anything was true, Three Mile Island was over designed–probably to satisfy the anti-nuclear crowd.

“The control room had more than 1000 dials, gauges, and indicators; 600 alarm panels; and hundreds of switches. A minor problem would cause alarms and blinking lights, and there could be 50 alarms at a time.”

On the day of the accident, the reactor was “scramed” (the controls rod were inserted to shut down the reactor). The backup cooling pumps were then started. Unfortunately, the backup cooling pump valves were closed due to earlier maintenance (probably one of those 50 alarms going off). It takes days for a reactor core to cool down–it needs to have fresh cooling water circulated through it. A pressure relief valve opened to release the excess pressure. The valve failed to close; however, a faulty indicator said the valve was closed. The cooling water boiled away allowing the core to melt down. The corium–the melted-down core materials–was contained in the reactor pressure vessel. Only gasses escaped. Iodine-131 mostly bonded to the concrete of the containment building. Xenon-133 was released, but that had almost no biological effect; xenon is a noble gas, and it doesn’t bond to anything. Only about 1 extra cancer should result–assuming the very conservative LNT hypothesis. (With an expected 300,000 natural cancer deaths in the area, one more would be hard to identify and blame on Three Mile Island.)


Reply to  ColMosby
July 7, 2019 5:11 am

but that IS the goal of this show I reckon
to renew the antinuke fear in as many as possible to deter new plants and close exiasting ones
gotta all be solar wind and living in the dark again dontcha know.

July 6, 2019 10:39 am

This reads like autistic Russian propaganda.

John K. Sutherland
July 6, 2019 10:48 am

There is but one main point I will quibble with. If a firefighter had gone home and to bed with his wife without a very thorough shower, he could have ‘irradiated her’ from his hair and head. I worked as a Nuclear Health Physicist for many years at a CANDU reactor and I also wrote a position paper on the Health Effects of high level Radiation, for NWMO (and it’s still on that site). I also wrote extensively on Chernobyl. Some of the responses were nothing short of stupid: shoveling fuel fragments off the roof. Remote blasting by water would have made more sense. UNSCEAR had good reports and follow up. I didn’t watch the program.

Reply to  John K. Sutherland
July 6, 2019 11:31 am

After he’s been on a fire fighting call, a fire fighter is going to take a shower, guaranteed. A thorough shower.

July 6, 2019 10:52 am

A time after Chernobyl I saw a Russian documentary in Geman TV about what happend during these tests, with sequenzes recorded in the reactor – it was shown, that an eathquakehappend “just in time”, what, viewing where Chernobyl is locatetd, is not surprisingyl.
Part 1 German:

Part 2 German.

Part 3 German.

Not sure, if there are some subtitles

July 6, 2019 10:54 am

Why does it matter if HBO played a little fast and loose with the facts?

Our democratic system relies on a public which is informed and paying attention. How can the public hold their congress critters to account if they don’t know when they are being deceived.

Lawrence Solomon, a long time critic of the nuclear industry, points out the evidence on human health that is made much more obvious as a result of the Chernobyl accident. link

The linear no-threshold model of radiation exposure says that all radiation is cumulative and adds to one’s risk of cancer. The actual evidence, as confirmed by the Chernobyl data, is that small doses may actually be beneficial. If the public understood that, there would be much less support for stupid EPA rules and much more support for cleaning up the EPA.

We could say that HBO has damaged democracy and has something to answer for.

Reply to  commieBob
July 6, 2019 12:24 pm

Thanks Bob, what is this “data” you are referring to? If low level radiation is beneficial , I’d like to know. Maybe I’m not getting enough !!

Greg Cavanagh
Reply to  Greg
July 6, 2019 1:28 pm

I’m sure a quick Google search will give you lots of hits. It’s been known for a long time that we actually need small amounts of radiation. Also look up bananas and other radioactive fruits.

Reply to  Greg
July 6, 2019 1:32 pm

The Lawrence Solomon article I linked has some interesting links.

Adam Gallon
Reply to  Greg
July 6, 2019 1:57 pm
dan no longer in CA
Reply to  Adam Gallon
July 6, 2019 2:29 pm

Or this study of an apartment block in Taipei that was built with radioactive rebar in the concrete:

Reply to  dan no longer in CA
July 7, 2019 1:03 am

I recently watched a documentary about tourism at Chenoblyl. The guide pointed out that in the hospital, for instance, all the radiators were gone, illegally, collected and sold for scrap. In addition much of he unidentifiable steel had disappeared, several thousand tons, apparently. I suspect irradiated re-bars has a connection. If the steel had been reprocessed who would think to check if it was radioactive. I wonder how many ships were built out of this steel.

dan no longer in CA
Reply to  Greg
July 6, 2019 2:27 pm

Try this link from the National Institute of Health:

Or this introduction to hormesis:

Reply to  Greg
July 6, 2019 2:30 pm

I’ts called radiation hormeisis. A Google search will show a number of references. The DOE has published a background radiation map of the US by county so you can check the maps to see the natural background dose rate where you live. You can also cross reference the DOE map with cancer maps by type and incidence published by NIH, I believe. You will find no correlation between the two. If you wish to increase your dose the natural (non-medical) way, a couple choices are to move to the Dakota badlands or get a job as an aircraft flight crew. You will increase your dose substantially. Working at a US civilian or military nuclear power plant are not among the choices as their dose rates are quite low.

Reply to  Greg
July 7, 2019 8:40 am

EVERYBODY gets treated with low level radiation. It is called “background” radiation. Travel from say Alabama to Colorado. The radiation at ground level is about 2.0-7.5 microRADs. This is a pretty low level, and well below any harmful level. In Colorado the radiation at ground level is about 9.8-34 microRADs. (This is a 1970’s study. The units have changed to make them larger). There is no difference between the two states in the number of cancers, except perhaps skin cancer. The skin is quite susceptible to develop cancer, including dangerous malignant melanoma, in people sensitive to Ultra Violet light. UV light is much higher in Colorado due to it’s altitude.

It’s safe to say that nowhere in the US is anyone daily exposed to any dose of radiation. In many place people visit sites with levels up to 100X average background as a health treatment. Radiation spas are all natural places with higher levels of radiation.

If the linear-no threshold model for radiation exposure was correct there is no place in the US where it is “safe” to live because people are exposed to significant radiation naturally.

July 6, 2019 10:56 am
seems to be the complete video about the havarie

July 6, 2019 10:56 am

Having watched the series, the subsequent “Real Chernobyl” documentary, and having a background in process safety, and somewhat familiar with the time-line I was struck by how close to the events the series was.

I bow to the authors knowledge of the specifics of radiation sickness, but in most other respects, and as a acknowledged by him, the series was pretty accurate.

I was offshore in the North Sea at the time and part of the crew checking the HVAC air inlet filters on our platform for contamination – purely as a precaution as we had been told at a National level there was no cause for alarm.

In fact we found that the filters were contaminated above the levels were trained to deal with, and had to mobilise specialist contractors to deal with it.

This denial of the severity of what happened is an interesting parallel to the same problem displayed by the Russian bureaucracy!

Reply to  Hysteria
July 6, 2019 11:43 am

“…the filters were contaminated above the levels were trained to deal with…”. The thresholds are set so low, and there is so much hype about the ‘bad effects’, that it doesn’t surprise me you are skeptical. In the USA, for the equipment I work on, action must be taken if >0.005microCuries (185Bq) of removable contamination is detected. 0.005microCuries is almost nothing.

Reply to  Hysteria
July 6, 2019 11:57 am

That’s still a very low level of radiation.

Reply to  Hysteria
July 7, 2019 4:15 am

The series was a good watch. However, I never understood how the water beneath the reactor could cause a 3 Megaton explosion. It might release a lot of energy like a geyser, but equivalent to a Hydrogen bomb? That struck me as typical leftist propaganda.

July 6, 2019 10:56 am

The 1974 book Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors describes the events of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571.

Sweet Old Bob
July 6, 2019 10:56 am

Expect a lot more of this nonsense .
Follow the money …these people surely do !

July 6, 2019 10:57 am

No doubt, HBO producers used a lot of falsehoods to “dramatize” events according to their ignorant perception of “what would generate more income” from deplorable idiots they take their audience for.

It doesn’t mean, though, that Soviet authorities were competent or careful. No way. The real story, even as laid out by Dr. Kemm with his inexplicable esteem for these authorities, proves the opposite.

Also, Dr. Kemm doesn’t mention that same incompetent and careless Soviet authorities spent a lot of time and effort dispersing the irradiated people from around Chernobyl by forcibly “relocating” them all over the country, in a cowardly and secret fashion. I suspect that the real total amount of victims, in a long run, was much more than reported.

I’ve talked, in far-away Novosibirsk, with two young women from Pripyat (a town near Chernobyl), forcibly relocated to our area by authorities. They were strictly forbidden (under penalty of losing miserable jobs given to them) to talk about their experience at home but they complained to me that their hair was falling off, and demonstrated this to me. It was horrible, the girls were getting bald. And they were crying.

All in all, I think that Dr. Kemm’s picture of Soviet authoritues is much too rosy, even if the accounts of the Chernobyl’s consequences propagated by the fanatical opponents of nuclear energy are manifestly false. Truth is still out there.

Pietruccio Soraperra
Reply to  Alexander Feht
July 6, 2019 12:59 pm

no way to lose one’s air with those very low doses taken by the population of the nearby towns (about 100-200 mSv), sorry, you have never talked with true witnesses of the incident

Reply to  Pietruccio Soraperra
July 6, 2019 3:42 pm

The doses were high enough to kill trees, i.e., the Red Forest.

Reply to  Pietruccio Soraperra
July 6, 2019 3:44 pm

Did it again. Repeat.

The doses were high enough to k!ll trees, i.e., the Red Forest.

Reply to  Pietruccio Soraperra
July 6, 2019 7:17 pm

They were not “witnesses of the incident,” they were victims of it, just two of the tens of thousands “relocated” from towns and villages around Chernobyl — everyone in the USSR knew about this massive relocation, these victims have become our neighbors.

I was just a young man then, and met these two girls on my way home in a taxi. It wasn’t immediately after Chernobyl catastrophe but a few months later.

How do you know, in Italy, what was the actual dose in nearby towns? Official Soviet data? Yeah, sure. As they say in Russia, don’t make my slippers laugh.

Reply to  Alexander Feht
July 6, 2019 3:28 pm

Here’s an interesting story of a sheep shearing factory in Chernihiv, Ukraine that processed sheep so radioactive a request was made to give 298 mostly-women workers Liquidator status. Women workers gave similar accounts off the record.

Flipping through the large catalogue, I quickly identified whole collections labelled in plain Ukrainian, ‘On the Medical Consequences of the Chernobyl Disaster’. She didn’t know about these records because no one had ever asked for them before. The papers, hundreds of them, contained medical and farm records, statistical reports, transcripts of meetings, official correspondence, petitions and letters.

I soon came across a document that left me bewildered. It was a petition requesting ‘liquidator status’ for 298 people who worked in a wool factory in the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv. ‘Liquidator’ was a term reserved for people who received significant doses of radioactivity while employed to clean up the Chernobyl accident. I was confounded. How could wool workers, most of them women, in a quiet ‘clean’ town 50 miles from the accident have been liquidators? I drove to Chernihiv to find out more.

Reply to  icisil
July 6, 2019 9:07 pm

How about giving us a reliable source.
Given how bad most papers are at getting even basic science right, there’s no reason to trust anything else written.

HD Hoese
July 6, 2019 10:58 am

I knew someone who went over there on a fact-finding trip who told me that the press was only interested in the gore. Specifically, they ignored some of the species evolving tolerance to radioactivity. Not exactly the same but there is a big wildlife refuge around Rocky Flats. What is the situation at Chernobyl?

Reply to  HD Hoese
July 6, 2019 11:50 am

I’ve read a lot of reports, with photos, about the situation around Chernobyl. Radioactive plumes from the “sarcophagus” site moved by winds mostly in NW direction over forests in Western Ukraine and Belarus, where (ineffective) restricted zone is still maintained. However, plants, animals, and fish in this area are simply thriving. Few old women who refused to leave their village houses in the same area, are still alive, while they are still eating their garden produce and gathering mushrooms and berries in nearby forests.

Large amount of radiation is deadly, and people exposed to the initial radioactive smoke, who lived nearby (mostly in the town of Pripyat), suffered forcible “relocation” being dispersed all over the Soviet Union. Many of them are known to have died later of diseases related to excessive exposure to radiation. How many? Nobody really knows. Soviet power was very good at hiding its crimes. As well as the current Putin’s police regime, which continues Soviet lies and secrecy.

Small amount of radiation (as in the forests NW of Chernobyl) is obviously salubrious to plant and animal life, which experienced an unheard-of proliferation in those forests. There are, however, some areas of notable degeneration (for example, so-called “Rusty Forest” near Pripyat, where vegetation has partially shrivelled and died).

Don’t believe, though, the photographs of “leafless trees” purposedly taken by anti-nuclear propagandists in early spring or in winter. In summer, the same trees are all green — there are photos for comparison. Simple Google search would give you a lot of photographic material and eyewitness accounts.

Reply to  Alexander Feht
July 6, 2019 12:45 pm

Deciduous trees are leafless in the winter. Yet another thing your average green is ignorant of.
Much of the increase in wildlife is due to the dramatic decrease in the number of hunters in the years immediately following the Chernobyl accident.

Reply to  MarkW
July 6, 2019 1:50 pm

As to how many hunters there were in the same forests before Chernobyl, I wouldn’t know.

I doubt that there were many, because hunting wild animals was limited in the USSR to relatively few individuals licensed to own and use rifles, and to the Communist party big wigs who humted ruthlessly but in certain preserves far from Chernobyl, mostly in Northern Caucasus region.

Reply to  Alexander Feht
July 6, 2019 4:13 pm

Trapping – ever heard of trapping?

When you’re hungry and game is present, one can become quite creative …

Reply to  Alexander Feht
July 6, 2019 9:08 pm

People hunted long before the invention of rifles.

Reply to  HD Hoese
July 6, 2019 3:48 pm

“What is the situation at Chernobyl?”

Birds brains are smaller; wood in the Red Forest is not decaying properly. Scientists from a university in South Carolina did some tests and found that organic matter decays much slower in highly irradiated areas, suggesting that radiation has affected bugs, microbes and fungi.

Joel O’Bryan
July 6, 2019 11:03 am

Hanoi Jane starred in the 1979 movie China Syndrome that also took “artistic license” with the truth about nuclear reactor safety and operations. Pretty much par for the course from Hollywood liberals when they have a political or ideological axe to grind.

In many ways the people they end up deceiving the most thoroughly are themselves.

Tezrian Chernaya
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
July 8, 2019 1:40 am

“Hanoi Jane”? JFC how old are you

Stephen Skinner
July 6, 2019 11:25 am

The same sensational exaggeration was used at Fukushima
Photographing the Nuclear Disaster in Fukushima

At 11:06 is photograph of a unfortunate victim of the Tsunami but with the heading:
‘Post Atomic, Life After Zero Hour, Fukushima Exclusion Zone, Odaka, Japan, 2011’

July 6, 2019 11:29 am

Hbo clearly didnt say it was documentary lol. Why apologize?

July 6, 2019 11:29 am

Well even a retired seismologist is getting all worked up about “climate change”…

The potential for increased weather disasters coming with climate change make the earthquake problem look small. My music on the data of the changing climate: In Nomine Terra Calens: In the name of a warming Earth

Considering the number of victims that major earthquakes can generate almost instantaneously, this statement by Dr. Lucy Jones is simply irresponsible.

Read more here:

July 6, 2019 11:30 am

I knew an engineer from Canada that did some work over at nuclear reactors in the former Soviet Union. He told me the workers over there used to ferment alcohol at the plants. Not sure if they drank it but wouldn’t be surprised.

July 6, 2019 11:48 am

The FAKE film portraying FAKE nuclear horrors The China Syndrome effectively KILLED the nuclear power industry in America. It is sad when Hollywooden Fables determine crucial energy policy.

July 6, 2019 11:48 am

..a lot of animals at Chernobyl have been tagged

and a whole lot of them are living way past their use by dates

John Tillman
July 6, 2019 12:07 pm

The rugby team was Uruguayan, not Chilean, headed to a match in Santiago, Chile.

M Courtney
July 6, 2019 12:10 pm

But this wasn’t a documentary. It was a drama.

Sky (who made the drama with US money from HBO) describe it on their website as “Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgard and Emily Watson star in this hard-hitting Sky Original exploring the truth surrounding Chernobyl – a story of incredible heroism and sacrifice, but also shocking lies and conspiracy.”

Sky Originals are not documentaries.

Reply to  M Courtney
July 6, 2019 2:30 pm

An “Historical drama” according to wiki –

Chernobyl (miniseries)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Chernobyl is a historical drama television miniseries created and written by Craig Mazin and directed by Johan Renck. The series was produced by HBO in association with Sky UK, depicting the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of April 1986 and the unprecedented cleanup efforts that followed.

Reply to  M Courtney
July 6, 2019 2:53 pm

Title: “Chernobyl” –

Jared Harris and Emily Watson star in this hard-hitting Sky Original exploring the truth surrounding Chernobyl – a story of incredible heroism and sacrifice, but also shocking lies and conspiracy. *

Truth? – ALL except the ‘stretching’ of some specifics, like “blast yield”, predicted damage … those kinds of things?

Maybe the use of the full phrase exploring the truth surrounding Chernobyl is exculpating?
truth – noun
— the quality or state of being true.
synonyms: veracity, truthfulness, verity, sincerity, candor, honesty, genuineness; More
— that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.
synonyms: the fact of the matter, what actually/really happened, the case, so; More
— a fact or belief that is accepted as true.

Underlining and bolding mine. – _Jim

Tezrian Chernaya
Reply to  _Jim
July 8, 2019 1:42 am

Oh, we’re using the dictionary now. Because that always makes one the winner in an online argument.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  M Courtney
July 6, 2019 3:45 pm

Maybe by saying “a story of …shocking lies.” they get off the hook!

July 6, 2019 12:18 pm

Forbes had an article about the U.S. doctor who was called to Chernobyl by the Soviets.

The Title: “Top UCLA Doctor Denounces HBO’s “Chernobyl” As Wrong And “Dangerous”:


Michael Jankowski
July 6, 2019 12:20 pm

So that’s what it boils down to…that the Soviets cared more about safety than portrayed, that the skin-peeling was exaggerated, and that people don’t become radioactive?

(1) Not sure the hospital staff and others knew that well about the last one. And after all, the firefighters were actually buried as if they were radioactive as HBO portrayed according to any number of accounts I’ve read. So maybe the show was being loyal to the ignorance of the people surrounding the event at the time. I mean around 1986, people thought you could catch HIV/AIDS just by touching the skin of someone who was infected, too. So no movies about AIDS in 1986 should include this because we know better today?

(2) You said, “A fireman could not have irradiated his pregnant wife at home, as HBO claimed.” The fireman in question never went home in the miniseries. His wife went to him in the hospital. It does not appear that you even watched it.

(3) You stated that, “A very large dose of nuclear radiation will undoubtedly kill a person…Death would come quite quickly, within days.”

What you described as the symptoms of radiation exposure (and that I left-out for brevity) was very much how the show portrayed it. I can’t speak to the skin-peeling issue, although I have seen alleged photos of radiation victims that got pretty nasty skin-wise. Hisashi Ouchi supposedly survived 83 days after receiving a fatal dose of radiation in an accident in Japan. Descriptions of what his body went through seem pretty similar to what HBO portrayed.

(4) As far as the “test” went…you glossed-over the fact that the test was not carried-out exactly as it was supposed to. The intentional test was supposed to be carried-out at a much higher power level. They were not following the protocol from the start.

(5) What is especially priceless is the following: “The series tended to show the Soviet authorities of the day as uncaring and unskilled. That was not true.” Then you go on to note, “…the lower calibre night shift team was on duty. In addition, the more senior decision makers in the line-of-command had gone home…” and “…inexperienced Chernobyl technicians made some wrong moves and rapidly compounded the unfolding drama…the seniors had gone home and could not help…” So not “unskilled” but “lower caliber” and “inexperienced.” Not “uncaring” but the seniors had “gone home.” Not to mention that the Soviet authorities of the day acted like basically nothing had happened. In the miniseries, one of the characters is told a plant in Sweden measured radiation, and he realizes the world now knows there was a nuclear accident. If I recall correctly from my real-life at the time, the Soviets kept denying it further until there were satellite images of the destroyed reactor. Furthermore, the primary scientist portrayed in the miniseries, Valery Legasov, claimed there was political pressure from Soviet authorities that forbade even plant operators from knowing about previous accidents and design flaws. He was frustrated with the failure of Soviet authorities to address the flaws as well. Somehow you disagree with him and find that sort of thing to be “caring” from the Soviet authorities.

(5) As far as the Chilean air crash, you claim, “A television program portrayed their agonizing saga honestly, accurately and sympathetically.” How do you know how honest and accurate it was? Were you on board? Come on.

(6) As for, “However, imagine if decades later another producer decided to make a new ‘dramatized’ version…” Well, this actually happened in 1993. It was called, “Alive” and made $37M at the box office. Having not seen it yourself, apparently, you cannot ascertain its authenticity, but it has been noted that the film and book that it was based on differed on eating human flesh raw vs cooked. Almost all of the names were also changed for the movie. Oh, the horror.

(7) Regardless, what HBO did with Chernobyl is nothing close to being analogous to taking “Alive” or the old miniseries on that disaster and “showing callous survivors slashing bodies with axes and using machetes to tear out livers and hammers to smash skulls for the brains. After dinner they play a wild drumming rhapsody on the fuselage, using human bones as drumsticks” blah blah blah. That’s so illogical and full of hyperbole that you should be ashamed and embarrassed.

Timo Soren
Reply to  Michael Jankowski
July 6, 2019 2:29 pm

Agreed, and arguing whether the hospital treated the patients as radioactive and kept the relatives away may have happened. I am not sure how much is artistic license and how much is reality but your commentary is simply based on pure assumption (generally). In addition, the death of Louis Slotin follows quite closely to the documentary, swollen tissue, general skin burns (like sunburn), gangrene, large number of blisters on the body.

Your article is a disservice.

Don Holbert
Reply to  Michael Jankowski
July 7, 2019 1:46 pm

I was about to rip this article apart, but you did it so much than I could have.
Thank you for putting this guy’s foot in his mouth where it belongs.
And 3828 people died as a result of the chernobyl accident, not 60.
This article seems like propaganda, or ignorant mumblings from a self proclaimed “nuclear scientist”.. which I’m sure he is not.
Also, good on you for including the tragic death of Hisashi Ouchi, not many people know about that man, certainly not this know it all douche.

July 6, 2019 12:52 pm

I’m a nuclear physicist (very different from a nuclear engineer) and decided long ago that the biggest problem nuclear power had was the insanity of the reaction to it. These days we get the same insanity to everything, so wottehell — may as well do nuclear power. It’s safer than most of the other things people freak out about.

Greg S.
July 6, 2019 12:52 pm

AFAIK no one other than the post’s author has claimed the series to be a “documentary” (it’s a dramatization), so this entire rant already started on a false premise.

Curious George
Reply to  Greg S.
July 6, 2019 1:56 pm

A dramatization for sure of “one of the worst man-made catastrophes in history.”

July 6, 2019 1:16 pm

Thunderf00t did a video titled: “HBOs Chernobyl: BUSTED!” on this too …

Michael Jankowski
Reply to  _Jim
July 6, 2019 3:54 pm

Did HBO get it wrong, or did some of the scientists at the time?

It seems to me that it has pretty much been acknowledged that the tank draining and the mining underneath the reactor turned-out to be unnecessary…but they did happen, and they weren’t undertaken out of fun.

Reply to  Michael Jankowski
July 7, 2019 9:38 am

re: “Did HBO get it wrong, or did some of the scientists at the time?”

That would seem to be the next layer ‘down’ in the onion … the first steps in this process involves “gathering statements” and facts and comparing notes, and evaluating the ‘facts’ ascertained up to that point. If something seems to be “Rotten in Denmark” then further investigation would seem to be called for. Everyone is going to have a different ‘pain’ (validity of the evidence) threshold in this process, and until certain minimum criteria or evidence for one case or another is met, doubt will outweigh certainty on any/for any given stated or in-mind conclusion.

Stephen Richards
July 6, 2019 1:17 pm

I studied radiation effects on humans as part of my first physics degree. At that time the only data we had available was from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The doses from those weapons were very high. We had no data for low dose radiation so we extrapolated to zero.

It turns out, following Chernobyl, we wer wrong. Low dose radiation shows no statistically significant effects. However, the data from chernobyl should enhance our knowledge , or fill the gaps, for lower dose radiation.

Joel O'Bryan
July 6, 2019 1:20 pm

The one positive side-effect of Chernobyl was it so shook the confidence of the Soviet government, the people for the bureaucrats, the centralized system itself and its ability to deal with an unfolding crisis it quickened its downfall and the break up of the USSR into the various separate governments.

“That might sound like an audacious proposal, but it’s been advanced by none other than the man who oversaw the dismantling of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev. He states flatly that the Chernobyl explosion was “perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union.” According to Gorbachev, the Chernobyl explosion was a “turning point” that “opened the possibility of much greater freedom of expression, to the point that the system as we knew it could no longer continue.” Gorbachev introduced his policy of glasnost, or “openness” of ideas and expression, not long before the Chernobyl explosion. It was his remedy for widespread censorship and government secrecy. To Gorbachev, Chernobyl proved the wisdom and necessity of glasnost. The explosion and attendant tumult, he claims, “made absolutely clear how important it was to continue the policy of glasnost.” ”

Also to be clear, most historians now contrary to Gorbachev’s claim see Chernobyl as the “trigger and not the cause of the collapse of the USSR.

“Despite the temptation to claim Chernobyl to be the sole reason for the failure of the Soviet citizens’ belief in their state, as well as the fall of the Soviet Union, it would be an oversimplified misjudgement, as Chernobyl was a trigger but not the cause. Its major role was in highlighting the systematic failures of the government, and more importantly, the failure to establish trust between the government and the people of the USSR. The failure of trust may have a contributing factor, but it is questionable whether it was, indeed, the main cause of the breakdown of the USSR. ”

Could we have such a gargantuan failure of government (policy) to bring about a Chernobyl-style collapse of the US government? A Big One Earth quake on the West Coast is about the only disaster scenario that could be conceivable.

But loss of faith in government is how revolutions happen, how governments fall. The people lose trust in their government, the system, and demand to tear it down. That is the Marxist revolutionary credo.
We see the tendency of Left in US doing that with daily political attacks on border control and immigration authorities, on the police (the BLM movement). But the US federal government is seemingly resilient to such because so much government control and police powers are actually in the hands of each state. Even though the Democrats like to blame FEMA for the slow response to the Katrina Hurricane disaster and flooding in New Orleans (mainly because Bush was the President), much of the real problem was the slow response of the state of Louisiana to request FEMA help. So it was Obama who was the real benefactor of the major Hurricane land-fall drought during his tenure, he didn’t get his Katrina, but he did get the disaster of T/S Sandy flooding on Long Island, Manhattan, and the Jersey shore. But election year politics meant everyone was determined to not let Sandy response be compared to the Katrina response. Indeed, we saw NJ GOP Governor Christy and President Obama in a political Bro-mance during the Sandy FEMA response.

And in many ways, it’s the Left that needs and wants the public to have confidence in the government so that the Left can take over healthcare, all energy sectors, and expand Big Government in general. But then everyone saw how devastating it was for the botched roll-out of ObamaCare in 2013. So it is surprising that now today every Democrat Presidential contender is calling for nationalized healthcare in the US. They must think people have forgotten the botched roll-out for just a few 6-8 million people, and now they want to do it for 170 million mostly satisfied people on their employer’s private insurance.
Sadly as we’ve often seen, Democrats rarely learn from their policy mistakes. And when they are forced to confront them, they blame shift. A Big One earthquake on a populated West Coast city though could be a game changer.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
July 6, 2019 4:38 pm


Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
July 6, 2019 7:38 pm

Chernobyl obviously was one of the major factors that accelerated the disintegration of the Soviet power. The other one was the catastrophic failure of the Afghan war. The third one was Gorbachev’s hapless handling of the anti-alcoholism campaign in Russia, where alcoholism was the way of life, the only possible escape for 9 out of 10 people. The whole country was abuzz about these things. I’ve been there, I remember.

We should have a hope to know the whole truth only when Putin’s regime, steeped in lies and blood, will be out.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
July 7, 2019 6:11 am

Things might have turned out differently if not for Gorbachev. The combinaton of Gorbachev and Reagan was the key to the demise of the totalitarian Soviet Union. Gorbachev was willing to travel down a new path. That’s what it took. And I don’t doubt that the Chernobyl disaster had something to do with taking a new path.

Too bad Russia is reverting to its totalitarian past with Putin at the helm. Perhaps when Puting is no longer in power things will improve.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
July 7, 2019 4:35 pm

Perestroika and Glasnost, Solidarity , Boris Yeltsin, Lech Walesa, Pope John Paul II. A few more keys to that era too …

Frederick Michael
July 6, 2019 1:27 pm

The author describes why the test happened at night as if the HBO series didn’t portray it that way.

It did.

Michael Jankowski
Reply to  Frederick Michael
July 6, 2019 4:00 pm

He’s just noting that the crew that was supposed to perform the test could not. He seems to be trying to argue that Soviet authorities were caring enough to assign the test to a skilled crew but ended-up in the hands of a less-skilled and inexperienced crew while senior staff had left for the night. Somehow this is supposed to be defending against suggestions that the Soviets were “uncaring and unskilled.”

John F. Hultquist
July 6, 2019 1:48 pm

About 180** people a day, from mid-June to mid-July each year, seek treatment for fireworks-related injuries;
so I’ve read in the Wash. Post.

**or 280 from another source
often there will be 5 to 10 deaths per season

Deaths via motorcycle are about 5,000 per year; injuries about 90,000.
Stair accident falls: deaths ~ 12,000; injuries => 1 million

Of the various ways for getting hurt or killed — what is more likely going to happen to you?

July 6, 2019 1:49 pm

The series was “fiction inspired by real events” – not a “documentary.”

Where does HBO call it a “documentary”?

In fact, HBO makes it very clear it’s not a “documentary”:

Writer and executive producer Craig Mazin, along with the cast and crew, discuss how the show reimagines the cause and effect of one of the worst man-made disasters in modern history.

Reply to  Mark Bahner
July 6, 2019 2:19 pm

” reimagines ”

Is that a word?

Will I find it in a 1970’s dictionary?

Reply to  Mark Bahner
July 6, 2019 2:58 pm

HBO aired it … Sky (Atlantic) produced it – what does Sky call it? (Hint: I posted on it above.)

Reply to  _Jim
July 7, 2019 2:52 pm

HBO aired it … Sky (Atlantic) produced it – what does Sky call it?

HBO begs to differ! They say it was “an HBO/Sky co-production.” My inclination is to take their word over yours, “_Jim”.

From that HBO webpage “about Chernobyl”:

Chernobyl is written and executive produced by Craig Mazin (The Huntsman: Winter’s War) and directed by Johan Renck (Breaking Bad). Produced by Sister Pictures and The Mighty Mint as an HBO/Sky co-production, Emmy-winner Carolyn Strauss (Game of Thrones) and Jane Featherstone (Broadchurch) serve as executive producers while Johan Renck and Chris Fry (Humans) co-executive produce. Sanne Wohlenberg (Black Mirror) also produces.

P.S. I have no idea what “reimagines” means, but I doubt anyone who was trying to produce a documentary would say that the documentary “reimagines” the historical event. Rather, I assume “reimagines” is similar to what “A Night to Remember” and “Titanic” did with the actual historical event of the Titanic’s sinking. Or what the movie “Lincoln” (starring Daniel Day-Lewis) did with the historical event of the 14th amendment.

In other words, it’s completely false to claim that the HBO co-production “Chernobyl” was a “documentary.” To my knowledge, they never made that claim. In fact, it’s very clear that they were not claiming it was a documentary.

Reply to  Mark Bahner
July 7, 2019 4:14 pm

re: “In other words, it’s completely false to claim that the HBO co-production “Chernobyl” was a “documentary.” ”

Not my dog. Not your dog. Why are you barking then?

re: ” My inclination is to take their word over yours, “_Jim”.”

You go your way, I’ll go mine; If HBO was fully capable of this production alone, why did they involve Sky Atlantic? Any answer on that one?

Perhaps you missed this too (I think you did) from above: Jared Harris and Emily Watson star in this hard-hitting Sky Original exploring the truth surrounding Chernobyl

Hmmm … ” hard-hitting Sky Original ” – what does that mean, “Sky Original”? Any idea? Note, too, no mention of HBO in that statement.

Reply to  _Jim
July 7, 2019 8:00 pm

Not my dog. Not your dog. Why are you barking then?

I always care about what’s true and what isn’t. Kelvin Kemm claimed it was a “documentary.” HBO made it clear that it wasn’t.

If HBO was fully capable of this production alone, why did they involve Sky Atlantic? Any answer on that one?

I have no knowledge of TV production. But it appears that Sky is a British company, whereas HBO is American. So perhaps it was an HBO/Sky co-production to address a bigger market.

Hmmm … ” hard-hitting Sky Original ” – what does that mean, “Sky Original”? Any idea? Note, too, no mention of HBO in that statement.

The HBO statement seems very thorough to me:

Chernobyl is written and executive produced by Craig Mazin (The Huntsman: Winter’s War) and directed by Johan Renck (Breaking Bad). Produced by Sister Pictures and The Mighty Mint as an HBO/Sky co-production, Emmy-winner Carolyn Strauss (Game of Thrones) and Jane Featherstone (Broadchurch) serve as executive producers while Johan Renck and Chris Fry (Humans) co-executive produce. Sanne Wohlenberg (Black Mirror) also produces.

Absent better evidence to the contrary, I’m guessing that the HBO characterization is accurate. As you yourself note, the Sky version both ignores HBO completely (which, since it was a major HBO hit, is clearly not the complete truth)…and Sky’s version also contains the silly “exploring the truth” claim.

Reply to  _Jim
July 8, 2019 3:45 am

Mark Bahner July 7, 2019 at 8:00 pm

I always care about what’s true and what isn’t.

In this case, there is insufficient info provided to make a decisive conclusion either way; this does not, however, seem to deter you in the least, which leads one (such as myself) to conclude that defects likely exist in the “process” by which you ascertain “a truth”.

The statement “I always care about what’s true and what isn’t.” in light of the fast and loose handling of technical facts in this “docu-drama” is also striking; apparently, you only care about specific ”truths’, and not all ‘truths’, or only when said “truth” is in your favor? Selectivity of this order, of this nature, smacks of a disingenuous of sorts, inspired perhaps by mild character disorder perhaps? IDK … this is between you and whomever you have determined is your “god” at this point, and, to use a phrase attributable to Mark Cuban on Shark Tank: “I’m out.”

Reply to  _Jim
July 8, 2019 11:21 am

“In this case, there is insufficient info provided to make a decisive conclusion either way;…”

I think the evidence is overwhelming that HBO never claimed it was a “documentary.” (I notice Kelvin Kemm never provide the source of the quotation marks for the word “documentary.”)

You provided evidence that Sky misrepresented the mini-series, but the headline is:

“HBO’s falsified Chernobyl ‘documentary'”

…so what Sky wrote is not directly relevant.

As far as my interest in the truth, versus your interest…or Kelvin Kemm’s for that matter: I’m guessing that, after questions about the accuracy of the HBO miniseries came out, between Kelvin Kemm, you, and me, only one of us went and ordered books about the accident and aftermath. And I know that I ordered both “Midnight at Chernobyl” and “Voices of Chernobyl.” And I read “Midnight at Chernobyl” cover-to-cover. (I’m still waiting to receive “Voices of Chernobyl.”)

How about you?

Reply to  _Jim
July 8, 2019 7:15 pm

Oh, and another thing. You wrote:

Selectivity of this order, of this nature, smacks of a disingenuous of sorts, inspired perhaps by mild character disorder perhaps?

Let’s look at who is selective, disingenuous, and possibly has a character disorder:

1) I quoted Kelvin Kemm:

The series was “fiction inspired by real events” – not a “documentary.”

…and asked him (not you!) where HBO called it a “documentary”.

2) You injected yourself, even though my question wasn’t directed at you. I have no knowledge of the subject, but that seems like a touch of “narcissistic personality disorder” to me.

3) You brought in Sky, which was entirely selective, since Kelvin Kemm’s comment and my question were both completely about HBO. And again a bit narcissistic, since you responded to a question that wasn’t even directed towards you.

4) When I pointed out that HBO clearly disputes your assertion that it was Sky alone who produced the show (HBO wrote that it was an “HBO/Sky co-production”) you never acknowledged your error.

5) And then you have the gall to say that I have engaged in “selectivity”, have been “disingenuous”, and may have a “mild character disorder perhaps”!

P.S. Your phrase “smacks of a disingenuous of sorts” shows that you could also use a few more classes in English.

July 6, 2019 2:08 pm

For Fukushima, the deaths due to radiation exposure is exceeded by the “stress” related deaths due to fear.

From first hand memory, there were no deaths or injuries at Three Mile Island of 1979, but some accidents and heart attacks from the evacuation stress.

Except for the two large Soviet accidents in 1957 and 1986, very few direct fatalities in the global history of nuclear power. Probably fewer than golfers struck by lightning.

Compare with the fatality statistics for coal mining in the US only.

Reply to  bwegher
July 6, 2019 5:26 pm


Reply to  bwegher
July 7, 2019 8:28 am

re: “Except for the two large Soviet accidents in 1957 and 1986, very few direct fatalities in the global history of nuclear power.”

The SL-1, or Stationary Low-Power Reactor Number One, was a United States Army experimental nuclear power reactor in the United States that underwent a steam explosion and meltdown on January 3, 1961, killing its three operators. The direct cause was the improper withdrawal of the central control rod, [BIG OOPS -_Jim] responsible for absorbing neutrons in the reactor core. The event is the only reactor accident in the U.S. that resulted in immediate fatalities.

During a maintenance shutdown, the SL-1 experimental nuclear reactor underwent a prompt critical reaction causing core materials to explosively vaporize. Water hammer estimated at 10,000 pounds per square inch (69,000 kPa) struck the top of the reactor vessel propelling the entire reactor vessel upwards over 9 feet (2.7 m) in the air.

One operator who had been standing on top of the vessel was killed when a shield plug impaled him and lodged in the ceiling. Two other military personnel were also killed from the trauma of the explosion, one of which had removed the central control rod too far. The plant had to be dismantled and the contamination was buried permanently nearby. Most of the release of radioactive materials was concentrated within the reactor building.

List of military nuclear accidents

July 6, 2019 2:08 pm

A repeat of a former comment plus a bit extra. The design of the rods was bad/flawed. The whole plant was built in an area with rampant corruption. Weakened plant parts and system flaws are to be expected. A large number of workers were summarily monitored/measured past their period of heroic efforts and all got the same no problem/no danger medical examination stamp before they were systematically scattered. To encourage people to come and work with the clean-up, higher post-job pensions and other forms of post events economical benefits were promised, much was never paid. A scientist I know, was part of a group who got a part of the reactor for examination. It was shipped as normal surface package by normal snail mail. Many in the group rushed to examine the part, my contact was strictly ordered to stay away. Those examining the part have suffered premature deaths. My contact is still alive – despite a couple of cancer operations. Nuclear theory and the human factor doesn’t comply in a convincing manner to me.

Reply to  Nutty
July 6, 2019 3:32 pm

re: “Many in the group rushed to examine the part,”

No one had an area-monitoring (facilities) radiation detector/Geiger counter functioning?

July 6, 2019 2:09 pm

While I agree with some of this (nuclear when all said and done is a very good option) I am nervous of taking the word of a nuclear physicist over those of health professionals about the consequences of this accident. I’m particularly sceptical (as we all should be) about a man who is writing an article about misrepresentation of facts and then starts with a school boy error. The rugby team were from Uruguay not Chile. And while I’m sure that was a mistake, it doesn’t fill one with confidence reading forward.
And….The skin peeling thing is in fact very real. From a fact sheet for physicians published in 2019 describing the effect on skin from a high dose of radiation……
“Then, a latent phase may occur and last from a few days up to several weeks, when intense reddening, blistering, and ulceration of the irradiated site is visible. In most cases, healing occurs by regenerative means; however, very large skin doses can cause permanent hair loss, damaged sebaceous and sweat glands, atrophy, fibrosis (mostly keloids), decreased or increased skin pigmentation, and ulceration or necrosis of the exposed tissue.”
I’d say skin blistering and dying would cause peeling. Maybe (or maybe not) as shown in the series, but in the big picture it is a minor thing. Those guys died horrific painful deaths and that needed to be told.

I would urge people to listen to the pod cast interviews with the executive producer Craig Mazin. He explains in detail where they portrayed the facts and where they took licence and more importantly why they did.

I’m sure the author knows about the technicalities of a nuclear reactor, but I’m not convinced he should be telling us about the effect short and long term on the health of human beings. Particularly from an accident where the authorities covered so much up and when the affects (without the cover ups)are so difficult to measure accurately. Call me skeptical but I think I will leave that to the experts in the field.

Reply to  Simon
July 6, 2019 5:35 pm

Skin peeling and blistering like Steven-Johnson Syndrome and TENS, or like the radiation burns from cancer treatments???? There is a HUGE difference in what people mean by “skin peeling and blistering”. In extreme cases, radiation damage may be equal to TENS, but I doubt that is common in any way.

When we talk skin damage, there needs to be some kind of comparison. What about third degree burns all over the body? Is it like that? Without something to compare to, this is all very meaningless. (No, I did not watch the HBO special, which is why I am asking this. All this discussion is irrelevant if there’s no standard to compare to.)

Richard from Brooklyn (south)
July 6, 2019 2:10 pm

Responding to the ‘a little radiation is good for you’ comment, I remind everyone of the Taiwan apartment experience. Ask Google.
That had some good calm research without immediate panic.
The benefits of long term low level radiation were significant at a population level (comparison with a similar population of people living in a nearby apartment measured over the same long time period.
Radiation, give me small amounts and often.

Reply to  Richard from Brooklyn (south)
July 6, 2019 8:22 pm

I ate two bananas for breakfast today, so I got my daily dosage.

dan no longer in CA
Reply to  Richard from Brooklyn (south)
July 6, 2019 9:11 pm

Here’s a link to the Taiwanese apartment experience. Those living there had a cancer rate 4% of the surrounding city:

Jerry Cuttler
July 6, 2019 2:16 pm

Yes, HBO falsified this event, big time!

In all, 237 workers suffered painful, acute radiation syndrome (ARS). 134 of these workers actually received medical treatments. 28 of them died within weeks, but 106 of the 134 recovered during the first year.

The 106 workers who recovered have been studied to learn about the long-term effects of their high radiation exposures. We know that 22 of these 106 workers died during the next 19 years—a mortality rate of about 1.1 % per year. The average mortality for other workers in this age group, in Russia, is higher at about 1.4% per year.

About 25% of these 22 deaths were from cancer. This cancer rate is about the same as for non-exposed workers in Europe. So there was no evidence of an increase in overall mortality or cancer mortality after 19 years.

Now let’s look at the evidence after 30 years. In a conference in Russia on May 17-19, 2016, we learned that 26 (just 4 more) of these 106 workers died. This corresponds to a mortality rate of about 0.8% per year.

Of these 26 deaths, 10 died of heart attack, 3 of liver cirrhosis, 5 of blood cancers, 2 of other cancer and 6 of other causes. There is no evidence of any long-term adverse effects that were caused by the high radiation doses that the workers received. Their deaths were like normal non-nuclear workers—even fewer than expected.

So there were just 28 workers who were killed by the high radiation exposures. The other 106 workers who received medical treatment—they received very high doses, but they recovered.

The elevated thyroid cancer incidence was due to the screening process, which leads to overdiagnosis (of naturally-occurring occult thyroid cancer).

July 6, 2019 2:49 pm

HBO’s Chernobyl isn’t a documentary, it’s a mini-series. In no way shape or form has HBO or the makers of the show ever claimed it was a documentary. They even have a complimentary podcast for the show I’m which they discuss, very openly, some of the things that were fictionalized in the show and why.

Just because something is based on a real event, doesn’t mean it’s a documentary. You don’t think Amadeus and Bohemian Rhapsody are documentaries because they’re about actual people, do you? Cuz if so, I have some bad, bad news for you.

And further, the comparison of this TV show, which has never in any way claimed to be anything other than a TV show, to what happened to that rugby team and what it would be like if these same people made a TV show about them, is extremely hyperbolic and completely undercuts the research that went in to creating this show and making it as accurate as possible, while still dramatizing certain aspects to make it a more interesting show, which you even acknowledge at the very beginning of this essay, because that’s what it is, a TV show. It’s not a documentary

July 6, 2019 2:59 pm

It does not matter what it s, the USA “”Liberals”” i.e. your equivalent of
the Labour Party , will be against it.

Remember that the original politics of the USA before the war of
Independence were identical with that of the UK. The Wigs and Tories.

With no equivalent of the present day UK Labour Party, the Wigs were the
nearest thing to a political party which was concerned with the less well off
in society.

So the USA has today the remains of the old Tories, who are the
UK Conservatives,, are today the Republican Party, and the old Wigs,
which became he UK Liberal Party are the USA Democrats .

Going on the way of thinking within the US Democrats I consider that they
are close to the Australian Labour Party.

A comparison with the UK Labour Party is not possible, its in a bit of a
mess. A better comparison would be the post war UK Labour Party
under Clement Atlee, ex Major WW1, and deputy PM under Churchill.

A very sensible man who was well aware e of the danger from the near
Communist left wing of the Party. He brought in safeguards against any
attempt by the Communists to take over, sadly thy were later removed.

I hope that will help people to understand how politics can and do change
over the years. The US Democrats in the 1950 tees at the height of the
anti Communist feelings ,were I think very different to today’s party.


July 6, 2019 3:11 pm

Dr Kemm is simply wrong to say that acute radiation doses can not cause one’s skin to peel. If he did a simple web search as I just did, he would find a gallery of photos showing blistering and peeling skin in the extreme from high medical doses. Some of the Chernobyl workers received absurdly massive doses to their whole body of a hundred, a thousand, or even more times the minimum fatal dose. They were crisped. Did they suffer like the characters in the HBO drama? I don’t know for sure, but I would not at all be surprised to learn from a source more reliable than an HBO script writer, that the drama’s portrait was sadly accurate.

Michael Jankowski
July 6, 2019 4:04 pm

“…The blood and skin peeling scenes, for example. Sadly, the producers lied – intentionally or incompetently, it seems, to gain box office income. They succeeded in that goal. But they insulted us nuclear scientists and insulted the intelligence of viewers who knew a bit more science than most of HBO’s audience…”

On the other hand, an article that says the series took some artistic liberties noted that they got the radiation effects right:
“…Oleksiy Breus, who was an engineer at the ill-fated plant, said some of the events surrounding the explosion and the effects of radiation on the body were depicted realistically…”

But why believe someone who was actually there?

Reply to  Michael Jankowski
July 6, 2019 5:37 pm

Because he’s in Newsweek?

Andrejs Skaburskis
July 6, 2019 4:20 pm

I had no opinion on nuclear rectors until I saw the hbo series and read a couple books on Chernobyl. But my opinion really hardened after reading the comments in this blog. I do not want nuclear power plants nor trust the opinions of nuclear physicists. To me it looks like they are self serving.

Phil Salmon
July 6, 2019 5:16 pm

The best book on Chernobyl is “Legacy of Chernobyl” by Zhorzhes Medvedev. A straightforward factual and lucid account of what happened by someone close to the situation. And a Russian/Ukrainian, not an alien from an alien culture parachuting in and snatching at illusions.

Michael Jankowski
Reply to  Phil Salmon
July 6, 2019 6:41 pm
July 6, 2019 5:35 pm

I have heard that people, who were at Hiroshima or Nagasaki when the bombs fell, and who lived more than twenty years afterwards, lived longer than their contemporaries who had not been exposed to radiation.

July 6, 2019 5:43 pm

What struck me as ironic was all the smoking in the series. I kept thinking the smoking will kill more people of cancer than the radiation.

July 6, 2019 6:19 pm

I appreciate the reprint here. I had not seen the series and now have saved all that time.

A good representation of radiation poisoning may be K19 – the Widowmaker. At least it sounds like it from this articles description.

July 6, 2019 8:03 pm

I was stationed at Flint Kassern in Bad Tolz Germany at the time. When that event happened my wife and two children were there. I was with my team up in the area of Arlon, Belgium at the time and daily driving around the area from Neufchateau, Belgium.

When an SF team deploys for training team and individual equipment not being taken is pulled from the lockers and packed in plywood boxes to be ready to be palatized and sent by air to wherever the team may be deployed on short notice for a real world situation. Our team room was one floor below ground level in a quadrangle of the typical Bavarian style architecture of block with heavy stucco and tile roof. Above us were three above ground floors all of concrete. There was a single well window that was always closed. The boxes were laid out on the floor of that room.

Included in the team equipment was our radiological kit. Part of that kit included two dosimeters. Devices about the size of a large fountain pen that read dosage in rads. The team commo men who were responsible for maintaining the equipment swore they had, as per SOP, zeroed the dosimeters before we departed for our training exercise. The components of the kit were packed in their individual rubberized canvas bags that were stowed in a small metal air tight case and that case in turn was stowed in a team box constructed to heavy plywood and locked.

When we returned about a week after the event, the dosimeters read almost 5 rads. When I found that out, as Sr. Medic the next thing I checked was a roll of photographic film in the teams KS-99 camera kit that was packed in exactly the same fashion as radiological kit. Developing the negatives (Yes we were trained to do that and had what was needed to do so) of a roll of black and white film revealed it had not been exposed and I was relieved.

However, shipments of all European dairy products to our small commissary at the Kassern ceased for a time. The local hunting guides (Yagermeisters) refused the meat of kills as payment which they had always taken before. And word was, though I can’t verify this, some whole dairy herds were shipped out.

Reply to  rah
July 7, 2019 7:01 am

Your comment is utter nonsense.

“Part of that kit included two dosimeters. Devices about the size of a large fountain pen that read dosage in rads.”
No they don’t they read in mR… that’s millirem. That’s a dose 1000 lower.
They are very unreliable because they depend on charging them with a high static voltage charge.

You probably don’t know what you are on about.
They probably read 5 or 50 mR.

A level of 5R would have exposed your film and made it unuseable, adding to that, clearly you had no idea what you are doing, because in the Nuclear research industry all people are issued routinely with film badges, with a number of different metal shields in the plastic to be able to analyse the kind of ionising radiation you are exposed to, alpha, beta, gamma or plain Xrays.

Anyone that knows anything would tell you that, but I can’t believe the level of ignorance on here.

Patrick MJD
July 6, 2019 8:11 pm

I understand another reactor in the same complex continued generating power for many years and was shutdown maybe 10 years ago.

dan no longer in CA
Reply to  Patrick MJD
July 6, 2019 9:18 pm

From the reference: “Four Chernobyl RBMK-1000 reactors, plus two almost-completed ones, are being decommissioned. Unit 4, which was destroyed in the 1986 accident, is enclosed in a large shelter and a new, more durable containment structure was completed in 2016. The last of the other three shut down in December 2000. In mid-2001 a new enterprise, SSE ChNPP was set up to take over management of the site and decommissioning from Energoatom. Its remit includes eventual decommissioning of all Ukraine nuclear plants.”

Reference is Nuclear Power in the Ukraine:

July 6, 2019 8:18 pm

Oh, BTW, I watched a program just today that described the construction of the huge arched stainless steel containment building that they fabricated/constructed and then moved over the emergency concrete containment of the reactor that Russians had constructed. Quite an expensive an amazing engineering project. There has been a real fear the massive concrete containment the Russians hastily built would structurally fail. This new building that goes over all of that and seals it off will allow them to deconstruct and rebuild that original hastily constructed containment without the potential of an accident that would result in Europe reliving that nightmare. They say the new structure is constructed to last a century and that it needed to last that long because it could well take that amount of time before a permanent replacement of the Russian containment can be completed.

July 6, 2019 10:12 pm

I already dropped HBO from my pay channel list; knowing they are into willingly distorting history won’t get me back – contrary. Way to go HBO!

July 7, 2019 1:04 am

I recently watched a documentary about tourism at Chenoblyl. The guide pointed out that in the hospital, for instance, all the radiators were gone, illegally, collected and sold for scrap. In addition much of he unidentifiable steel had disappeared, several thousand tons, apparently. I suspect irradiated re-bars has a connection. If the steel had been reprocessed who would think to check if it was radioactive. I wonder how many ships were built out of this steel.

Reply to  Chris
July 7, 2019 2:34 am

“for instance, all the radiators were gone, illegally, collected and sold for scrap.”

Save your agonising for another agony website like the Guardian maybe.

The same thing happened ALL OVER the ex USSR. Get over it!

There were mafia wars about scrap metals, the money and the recycling.
Stop repeating bollox, it affects the credibility of WUWT.

July 7, 2019 1:11 am

This goes the same for the recent earthquakes in Los Angeles. People are fearing a mega quake of the magnitude seen in the Dwayne Johnson movie San Andreas. But geologists have been stressing that that movie is just hyped up for Hollywood. The quake in the film is described as being 9.6 +; but geologists have studied the San Andreas Fault and have explained that the fault line is only capable of 8.3 magnitude. Of course casualties would be inevitable, but Los Angeles won’t be completely annihilated like in the film. The city would undoubtedly suffer severe damage, but nothing Hollywood scale. This is proof that Hollywood hypes up drama to sell their movie, and these films usually leave people in a state of paranoia.

July 7, 2019 1:46 am

Why now?
Ukraine’s economy is a catastrophe, and they may not be able to guarantee reactor safety.
So much for Britain’s geopolitical gambit. Is this movie simply for ransom money?
Well, if Brussels brings them into the EU, which after all was the reason they and Obama overthrew the government and put outright Nazis (Azov brigade) in power, it will have to pay for the mess, which means Germany.
Germany trying to denuclearize, go green, will likely buck. Not sure if this has yet appeared on TV.

By the way was there ever a movie about the British Windscale/Sellafield 1958 nuclear fire classified for 28 years?

Reply to  bonbon
July 7, 2019 4:42 am

what more bollox you talking??
“they may not be able to guarantee reactor safety.”
They MAKE reactor parts for the Russians in Kharkov, make aircraft, have a thriving IT industry and do a lot of sub contracting!
They even make engines for Russian military helicopters at Motors SYCH
Heard of Antonov??
I have been to a lot of hi tech forums in Ukraine, and many of them would leave so called “advanced” countries floundering!

Have you ever been there??

If one country is unable to guarantee reactor safety it would be the UK today, cos Teflon Tony and his side kick Gordon threw the entire industry under a bus and flogged it off!!

Reply to  pigs_in_space
July 7, 2019 9:28 am

Ukraine is at war. Its economy is collapsing without Russia. IMF bailouts with conditions, and now 2 lng pipelines bypassing it completely, leaves Kyev in a desperate state. Provocations were expected.
Ukraine has 4 nuclear plants with 15 reactors. Notwithstanding the greenie anti-nuclear tone here:
Neighboring countries have requested nuclear safety data under various treaties, all refused.
I’ll bet some are getting very nervous.
Nuclear geopolitics is toxic.

July 7, 2019 2:13 am

There’s a gigantic amount of mega bollox been washed up on this thread.
I have worked in radiation work years ago (next to Harwell), and my Dad’s best friend was the head of the RPB England no less, attached to the MRC.

I had a friend in the UK recently repeat a whole load of the utter nonsense shown in the film about Ukraine. I had to assure him, most airline cabin staff and passengers routinely get much higher doses of radiation flying around northern Europe than in much of the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

Being as I now in live in one of the most radioactive places in Europe and own a radiation counter, I can assure you Uranium/Thorium isotopes are dangerous, domestic high levels of Radon are also dangerous especially when mixed with the presence of other known carcinogens such as tabacco smoke, and asbestos particles (extremely common all over Europe).

However burning giant amounts of coal particularly in China probably releases more radioactive isotopes into the environment than chernobyl, and then the fly ash gets turned into concrete to build airline runways, housing blocks and motorways.

If you start to look closer the danger is not in Ukraine or Japan, it’s under your feet or already in the food chain!

July 7, 2019 2:51 am

Wow, you are such a tallented writer!
No doubt you have access to all the real and original ststistical facts of the incident.
The number of death resulting in that catastrophical incident – 60, seems to be the close to the Russian official released numbers!

Reply to  Doria
July 7, 2019 6:50 am

NO, I happen to be interested in scientific facts, partly because I have actually worked in the industry (was my student job in holidays) helping to dismantle a proton synchrotron, and partly because most of Dad’s colleagues were working in the early iterations of CERN.

We might just know a little about it, instead of people quoting acres of hearsay and spouting pages full of utter bollox.

Dad’s first comment about the accident at Pripyat, was “the Russians did something really dumb by not having containment buildings and vessels”.
That was self evidently true, and not a policy adopted anywhere in the west.

Let’s talk about the ACTUAL casualties shall we (under 100), most of which were as a result of ignorance, stupidity & plain bad luck.
They also were woefully ignorant of obvious stuff as simple & ancient as the archimedes principal.

Then, the authorities deliberately exposed their population to high levels of radio isotopes, active dust, and failed in a duty to provide children and families with rapid access to medication to limit the ingestion of radio iodine via the dairy and milk products food chain.
That was criminal negligence.

Indeed it was the (late) decision to SCRAM the reactor that led to the operators downfall, although any fool could have told them, doing what they did was suicidal when poisoning the reactor criticality with noble gases.
Hmm if you insist in committing suicide, can you do it quietly and not do a “German wings” style mass suicide please?

Do we have any sequel remotely similar in France, the UK, Germany, Lithuania, Finland?
Answer me please?

Let’s say being as a number of us are from a Welsh background, (as was Idris in MRC) we might make it nice and clear, where were the highest numbers of casulties to be found in the energy transformation and generation industries, (still true today btw).


As people clearly have ADD and Amnesia here it is in all its glory:-
we most remember:-
"Senghynydd at the head of the Aber Valley, …e story of the deep pit explosion of 1913, when 434 men and boys in this village of less than 5,000 met their deaths in the greatest colliery disaster in British history.
We also remember that lots of coal miners meet a painful end thanks to silicosis, with years of horrible loss of breath and weakness.

Does this happen in the nuclear industry?

Now to put it in perspective:-
According to the China daily, China produced 35 percent of the world's coal last year, but reported 80 percent of the total deaths in coal mine accidents, according to statistics with the State Administration of Work Safety

This means that coal mining has become the most deadly job in China, and it doesn't date from yesterday…

On April 26, 1942, a gas and coal-dust explosion in Benxihu Colliery killed 1,549 miners, making it the worst disaster in the history of coal mining.

2013 1049 workers were killed in Chinese coal mines in this year alone.
There are deliberately no more officially released stats.

Alongside ship-breaking, mining has the distinction of being the most dangerous profession in India, as is the case in a number of developing economies such as China and Brazil. Industry insiders….concede that official numbers could be much lower than the actual deaths that take place deep inside the mines.

Can I invite you to confirm to me how many have died directly as a result of the incidents at Fukushima or even Kishtym or Pripyat?

Please be my guest.

Oh btw we have detectable amounts of radiocaesium from Ukraine in the Baltic states, nearby Russia, nearby Finland, and of course over the water in Sweden, to the extent that in some of those places it's forbidden to cut down trees and burn them for heating.
They are already at 1/2 life ONE.

However, the background radiation levels in our part of the world (from that accident) are simply saturated out by the large quantities of natural Uranium and Thorium in the ground who's daughters produce large amounts of pollutants in the drinking water with radium (up to 700% permitted norms) and the radon gas present in apartments at up to 10X the maximum permitted levels.

I guess it's nice to know there are mass media that are more interested in promoting fictional accounts of Chernobyl's so called deadly influence, compared with the radioactive bricks and roofing tiles produced directly from our Ordovician clay every day of the week, with levels of radiation often exceeding that in Ukraine's exclusion zone, incorporated into new buildings in all innocence, and of course airport runways like that of Warsaw airport clearly made of fly ash uranium laden concrete.

Just carry on believing what you like.
I prefer my geiger-muller.

Reply to  pigs_in_space
July 8, 2019 3:19 am

Odd, still no mention of Sellafield/Windscale, 1957, a 5 out of 7 major UK incident. 28 years classified, and Normandy given no warning. Makes the Soviets look like angels. Apparently a very similar graphite pile burned like the Pripyat version. And flying plutonium north in Cesna’s beggars the imagination!
Not known if HBO or anyone else ever did a movie…
Of course this, like Pripyat , is used to terrorize anyone who even mentions nuclear power in the region.
Result, insane green 100% nuts running around spouting nonsense.

Worse, Hiroshima terror was used to push a kindergarten solar model (homogenous H ball) which is really damaging fusion research, and the main reason the sun is discounted in climate. It most definitely is not a quiet H ball.

Chris K
July 7, 2019 6:57 am

This show never pretended to be a documentary. In a documentary you have the narrator explaining events. This was in the style of historical fiction. There will always be some dramatic license there. The author admits it. You should listen to the podcasts where he explains changes that were made to the story.

However, “Guest Blogger” has “Falsified” way more than the HBO story did.

The firemen did in fact become radioactive. The contamination was not only on their clothes and skin, it was also in their lungs and gut. Ludmilla’s baby did in fact die. I understand she wrote a book about her experiences.

Radiation burns do in fact cause blisters and peeling skin. You can find pictures on the internet. For example, take a look at Harry Daghlian’s injuries.

I don’t understand why “Guest Blogger” was so hyper-negative about this, and why he (purportedly a nuclear scientist) is so ignorant about facts that are well documented. Given the title of his post “HBO Falsifies …” I would call this FAKE NEWS.

Chris K
Reply to  Chris K
July 7, 2019 9:50 am

Another purported “fact” from “Guest Blogger” is that fewer than 60 people died. That’s neatly close to the Soviet propaganda number. How many deaths can be attributed to it is very controversial, and somewhat statistical. (That is, of the 50,000 evacuated from Pripyat, some number of them would have gotten cancer even without the explosion. The difference between what statistics would have expected and what actually occurred, could be attributed to the explosion, but all the figures are difficult to collect. Pripyat’s residents have been spread around, and finding how many of them died from cancer is difficult. The Soviet Union didn’t want to count them anyway.)

It is widely reported that all of the helicopter pilots died from radiation, and they are never counted. It is widely reported that a quarter of the miners died within ten years. The premature deaths of Liquidators is never counted.

In conclusion — “fewer than 60” is nothing more than an ignorant propaganda number.

And “Guest Blogger” accuses HBO of “falsifying” things? Who is this guy?

Andrejs Skaburskis
Reply to  Chris K
July 7, 2019 4:18 pm

Vested interests

Katherine Hedges
July 7, 2019 7:41 am

You say this can’t happen the way they said it happened. Reality says otherwise.

You say nuclear safety officers would have been on site, having the firefighters take off their gear and decontaminate immediately. Reality says no such thing happened, and that they were in their radioactive equipment all the way to the hospital. The equipment is still in the basement.

You say Ignatenko’s wife wouldn’t have absorbed radiation from him, and their kid would be fine. Reality says she was indeed irradiated, and lost the kid. Sure, there was an inconsistency in saying the baby would have absorbed the radiation but she’s ok, but what you’re saying is downright false.

Finally, you say the incident had nothing to do with the shortcomings of the soviet system. This is patently false, and is an insult to the memory of Legasov, who killed himself to bring attention to a system that routinely hid hard truths from even its own people.

This whole article reads as a hit piece against a good piece of television by people who want to continue presenting the illusion that radiation is, as a whole, harmless.

July 7, 2019 10:31 am

“This whole article reads as a hit piece against a good piece of television by people who want to continue presenting the illusion that radiation is, as a whole, harmless”

Oh dear a piece spouting mountains of rubbish.
Did you read anything I wrote?

“From the horses mouth”, Idris would never have held anything like the sweeping opinions you are broadcasting all over your pile of unproveable blather.

He (head of radiological protection for the UK), would maintain ANY dose of radiation is TO BE AVOIDED.
In the case that accidents happen (which invariably do) thanks to… the strange and interesting properties of heavy metals like Plutonium, we have to have what’s called a MITIGATION STRATEGY.

It is a highly professional area, quite contrary to the expressed opinions of many shown here.
RPB people are very aware of the dangers of high energy ionising radiation, and prolonged exposure to high doses.

They are even more aware of the dangers of finely divided particles and ingestion into places that the body finds incredibly dangerous and remain there to cause major long term damage.

These are totally different things, which is probably why Chernobyl despite it’s enormous “pomp and circumstance” trumpetting and lambasting of the soviets passes by the collossal mass poisoning of the American people by more than 200 US atmospheric nuclear weapons tests over a period of nearly 2 decades in Nevada.

Chernobyl maimed and injured relatively few people and despite the total disregard shown for human life in the USSR , many are still alive today.

US servicemen were nowhere near so lucky!
GO look yankees what was happening on your doorstep, and stop looking up Ukraine’s A.. ss
You have done MANY MANY times worse!

Now, dear!
If you knew 1mg about this complex subject instead of spouting all kinds of junk science, you would know, YES, contaminated clothing and garments are a serious hazard, especially to the levels you would find all over a serious nuclear accident site….


ingestion of a TINY qty of say, Polonium 210 is into the body (a normally harmless alpha emitter) is a far far more dangerous poison than being irradiated by say 200R of strong gamma flux.

Why is this?

Finely divided dust with heavy metals embedded in it, attracted by static electricity (typical of radon and it’s daughters), fine dust from DU exploded munitions found all over Iraq and in some places in Serbia… thanks to our yankee friends again….

It gets into the lung linings much as does asbestos and causes a slow an lingering death decades later without being able to establish any obvious cause.

Not establishing causes for the 1000s of cancer deaths was deliberately perpetrated on US soldiers in Nevada, evacuating the islanders from Bikini and making believe all would be fine, when the biggest nuclear accident of all time happened on America’s watch when testing the first H bombs…

Hey let’s get this straight guys!
Chernobyl was just a “drop in the bucket” compared with the nuclear filth the US test scientists poured on unsuspecting US army personnel with the BAKER test, and the disastrous castle BRAVO.

read it and digest:-

“The test resulted in nuclear fallout that rained down on inhabitants of the atolls near the site of detonation and serviceman working on Operation Castle.

Critical fallout occurred in the Rongelap, Rongerik, Alinginea and Utirik atolls in the Marshall Islands. Evacuations organized by the United States were too slow to limit the lethal doses of radiation and, in many cases, inhabitants did not know about the nuclear test or the consequences of nuclear fallout.

In one tragic example, around five hours after Castle Bravo detonated, radioactive powder began to fall on Rongelap Atoll.
Believing that this powder was snow, many inhabitants played in and ate the powder.

For years later, inhabitants of the island experienced numerous health problems, including birth defects. An estimated 665 inhabitants of the Marshall Islands were overexposed to radiation. ”

An hour and a half after the detonation, nuclear fallout reached a Japanese fishing vessel, the “Lucky Dragon No. 5,” which was around 80 miles east of the test site. Ultimately, one of the 23 crew members died of acute radiation poisoning, while many others faced serious health effects.

So please stuff that up the CHERNOBYL program pipe and smoke it!

Reply to  pigs_in_space
July 7, 2019 3:07 pm

re: “fine dust from DU exploded munitions found all over Iraq and in some places in Serbia… thanks to our yankee friends again”

Let’s see what kind of “munitions” this may involve, because, the term “munitions” is a rather broad term and one may be inclined to think that ANYTHING that the military ‘threw’ at an enemy target contained DU.

On page 4 we find the reason for, and the purpose of, DU use:

Depleted Uranium (DU) Munitions
o Due to its extreme density (1.7 times the density of lead), DU is used as:
– The armor plating,
– Penetrator kinetic energy munitions for its mass and pyrophoric properties under conditions of extreme temperature and pressure.

On page 14 can be found a table labeled “The following ammunition contains DU cartridge penetrators” indicating which munitions contain DU.

July 7, 2019 3:53 pm

People. It’s drama. And very well done drama. And technically far more accurate than most if not all the nuclear disaster fairy tale dramatic films out there.

July 7, 2019 4:20 pm

As TV movies based on reality goes, Chernobyl was excellent. Sure there was artistic license taken and composite characters… but, heck, Obama had more probably “composite characters” in his autobiography than Chernobyl did.

Chernobyl was not an indictment on Nuclear power, it was an indictment on big government, Bernie Sander’s style socialism. Not one “Big Corporation” or “Billionaire” was blamed for Chernobyl. This makes it unique for most “man made disaster” TV movies based on reality.

Nuclear Scientist’s and a military General were the hero’s of Chernobyl, the movie. How can a movie be anti-Nuclear, if Nuclear scientists are the hero’s? If Chernobyl was anti-Nuclear, they would have made some composite journalist be the hero’s.

July 7, 2019 5:31 pm

Uruguayan. The rugby team was Uruguayan.

Nat Rudulph
July 7, 2019 8:13 pm

Don’t nitpick.
It was NOT a documentary, not supposed to be a documentary, you are just being a whiny baby.
Besides: nobody in the show ever said the “face-peelings” were from the radioactivity. These medical situations DID occur, but it was from exposure to the heat and flames, high-pressure steam, etc. The audience is meant to see this and wonder the same things that the witnesses did: “is that from the radiation!?!”, Which is exactly what the firemen and other townspeople feared at the time. They didn’t know, so we, the audience, is left with the same curiosity …even though, as it turns out, it was from flames, heat, etc.
It was a very entertaining show and that is the sole purpose of entertainment – to entertain. It’s not supposed to be a video class on the effects of radioactivity. And as far as accuracy, they got so many details correct, as far as home life in Chernobyl in that era (vehicles, clothing, phones, license plates, street lamps, etc), that what they did was impressive.
And the purpose of the story was to portray the terror the people experienced and the heroic response that was pulled together – courage in the face of terror. And that show succeeded in such an endeavor admirably.

July 8, 2019 8:26 pm

Hang on sir. Yes, HBO overdramatised and exaggerated certain aspects of the event but it wasn’t a documentary and never claimed to be. You even said yourself: “I can tell you the fundamental story of the sequence of events of the 1986 Chernobyl accident as portrayed by HBO was correct. Issues around governance and procedure as portrayed by HBO were essentially correct.”
The series was not even about the disaster, it was about communism. “Chernobyl” was supposed to show what a disgrace, an absolute pile of shit, a black stain on humanity communism was. And it showed it spot on.
As a person born one day after the incident in what was then Peoples’ Republic of Poland I can assure you that the show perfectly depicted not only the political climate of that time but also the way people, cities and everyday items looked and how ordinary people behaved. In my opinion it was a very, very good show.

Kyle in Upstate NY
Reply to  Kael
July 9, 2019 4:38 am

The people of Pripyat in the show actually seemed to have a higher standard of living than the averagec Soviet from what I have read.

Kyle in Upstate NY
July 9, 2019 4:36 am

According to the wife of the firefighter portrayed in the show, his skin came off repeatedly as white film. Apparently he and some others had crawled around the reactor core itself. The one guy’s face actually had partially rotted off, which the makers of the show said they did not want to show as they did not want to be too overly-graphic. They also said the purpose of the show was to educate about Chernobyl and the Soviet system’s lies, not frighten about nuclear power.

As for this claim of the Soviet authorities being caring or competent at all, I find that very hard to believe. They repeatedly lied to their own people, and even allowed a major celebration to go on while telling the Soviet authorities in the area to get out.

I also am curious about the claim of saying Chernobyl had no protective shell for containment. The thing is, given the two explosions which occurred, would a shell have made any difference? Or would it have just been blown apart?

Johann Wundersamer
July 10, 2019 9:45 am

“Late in 1972, Uruguayan Air Force flight 571 was taking a college rugby team and family members from Montevideo, Uruguay to Santiago, Chile. It carried five crew members and 40 passengers.”

Similar story with settlers trekking Donnerpass – the yellow pages were always greedy for punch lines.

The same Pulitzer that pushed horror stories for money funded the “honorably” Pulitzer-Preis did this with money “earned” with yellow pages.

And “satires”.

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