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Chernobyl, new HBO mini series


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Have watched the first 2 episodes and very good. 

My first job after graduation in the late 80s was working for the UK Atomic Energy Authority and a lot of our time was spent trying to sort out the aftermath of this and just what the hell had actually happened. Even saw a few sheep being scanned in wholebody counters to see how much Cs-137 they'd ingested!

Glad they haven't tried to 'sex this up' and have just let the true story reveal itself.

Would recommend this to everyone.


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25 April – Friday

The test begins.

01:00 – The reactor was running at full power with normal operation. Steam power was directed to both turbines of the power generators. Slowly the operators began to reduce power for the test. The purpose of the test was to observe the dynamics of the RMBK reactor with limited power flow.

13:05 – Twelve hours after power reduction was initiated the reactor reached 50% power. Now only one turbine was needed to take in the decreased amount of steam caused by the power decrease and turbine #2 was switched off.

14:00 – Under the normal procedures of the test the reactor would have been reduced to 30% power, but the Soviet electricity authorities refused to allow this because of an apparent need for electricity elsewhere, so the reactor remained at 50% power for another 9 hours.

Emergency core cooling system switched off.

26 April – Saturday

00:00 – Aleksandr Akimov, the unit shift chief in charge of the test takes over from Tregub, who stays on-site.

00:28 – Control rods transferred from local to global control: Power plummets in the reactor; further rods withdrawn.

The drop in reactor power from 1500 MWt to 30 MWt is disconcerting; Akimov wants to abort the test, but is over-ridden by Dyatlov and forced to continue.

Anatoly Dyatlov, the deputy chief engineer, supervised the test. At the moment reactor power slipped to 30 MW thermal, he insisted the operators continue the test. He overrode Akimov’s and Toptunov’s objections, threatening to hand the shift to Tregub (the previous shift operator who had remained on-site), intimidating them into attempting to increase the reactor power. The power stabilized at 200 MWt at around 1:00 am  and did not rise further, due to continued xenon poisoning of the core.

01:03 – Fourth cooling pump connected to right loop.

01:19 – Shutdown signals blocked from steam-drum separators.

The operator blocks automatic shutdown due to low water level and the loss of both turbines because of a fear that a shutdown would abort the test.

The operator forces the reactor up to 7% power by removing all but 6 of the control rods. This was a violation of procedure as the reactor was never built to operate at such low power. The RBMK reactor is unstable when its core is filled with water. The operator tried to take over the flow of the water which was returning from the turbine manually which is very difficult because small temperature changes can cause large power fluctuations. The operator was not successful in getting the flow of water corrected and the reactor was getting increasingly unstable.

01:19 – Control rods raised.

01:21 – Caps to fuel channels on charge face seen jumping in their sockets.

Valeriy Ivanovich Perevozchenko, the reactor section foreman, was present on the open platform at Level +50 shortly before the explosion. He witnessed the 350 kg blocks atop the fuel channels of the Upper Biological Shield jumping up and down and felt the shock waves through the building structure; the rupture of the pressure channels was in progress. He started to run down the spiral staircase to Level +10, through the deaerator gallery and the corridor heading to the control room, to report his observations.

01:21:50 – Pressure falls in steam drums.

01:23:40 – Emergency reinsertion of all control rods.

As the temperature of the water became too high Cavitation (bubbles) reached the main circulation pumps. The coolant started boiling in the reactor, and the reactor power slowly increased. Toptunov reports a power issue to Akimov. Akimov presses the AZ-5 button, class-5 emergency. The control rods, according to the synchro indicators, seized at a depth of between 2 and 2.5 meters instead of inserting to their full depth of 7 meters. Akimov disconnected the clutches of the control rod servos to let the rods descend into the core under their own weight, but the rods did not move. The reactor was now making rumbling noises. Akimov was confused. The reactor control panel indicated no water flow and failure of pumps.

01:23:44 – Explosion.

The reactor reaches 120 times its full power. All the radioactive fuel disintegrates, and pressure from all of the excess steam which was supposed to go to the turbines broke every one of the pressure tubes leading to an explosion.

01:23:45 – The 1000 ton lid above the fuel elements is lifted by the first explosion. The release of radiation starts. Air reaches the reactor and the oxygen results in a graphite fire. The metal of the fuel tubes reacts to the water. This is a chemical reaction which produces hydrogen, and this hydrogen explodes: the second explosion. Burning debris flies into the air and lands on the roof of Chernobyl Unit 3. (There was barely any attention paid to this hydrogen explosion in the Soviet report about the accident. In studies commissioned by the US government however, it was concluded that the second explosion was of great significance, and that the original explanation of the accident was incorrect. Richard Wilson of the Harvard University in the US said this second explosion was a small nuclear explosion.)Cross section of Reactor Four

The explosion occurred, the air filled with dust, power went out, and only battery-powered emergency lights stayed in operation.

The night shift main circulating pump operator, Valery Khodemchuk, was likely killed immediately; he was located in the collapsed part of the building, in the far end of the southern main circulating pumps engine room at level +10. His body was never recovered and is entombed in the reactor debris.

Perevozchenko, the reactor section foreman,  ran into the control room, reporting the collapse of the reactor top. Brazhnik ran in from the turbine hall, reporting fire there. Brazhki, Akimov, Davletbayev, and Palamarchuk ran into the turbine hall, having seen scattered debris and multiple fires on Levels 0 and +12.

01:26:03 – fire alarm activated.

Akimov called the fire station and the chiefs of electrical and other departments, asking for electrical power for coolant pumps, removal of hydrogen from hydrogen generators, and other emergency procedures to stabilize the plant and contain the damage. Internal telephone lines were disabled; Akimov sent Palamarchuk to contact Gorbachenko. Kudryavtsev and Proskuryakov returned from the reactor and reported its state to Akimov and Dyatlov. Insisting the reactor was intact, Akimov ordered Stolyarchuk and Busygin to turn on the emergency feedwater pumps. Davletbayev reported a loss of electrical power, torn cables, and electric arcs. Akimov sent Metlenko to the turbine hall to help with the manual opening of the cooling system valves, which was expected to take at least four hours per valve. Perevozchenko returned and reported that the reactor was destroyed, but Akimov insisted it was intact.

Dyatlov ordered reactor cooling with emergency speed, assuming the reactor was intact and the explosion had been caused by hydrogen accumulating in the emergency tank of the safety control system. Other employees went to the control room, reporting damage. Dyatlov went to the backup control room, pressing the AZ-5 button there and disconnecting power to the control rod servo drives; despite seeing the graphite blocks scattered on the ground outside the plant, he still believed the reactor was intact. Kudryavtsev and Proskuryakov returned to report the reactor damage they had seen, but Dyatlov insisted what they had seen was the results of an explosion of the emergency tank, claiming the explosion of the 110m³ tank at Level +71 was sufficient to destroy the central hall roof. Dyatlov reported his assumptions as reality to Bryukhanov and Fomin, the higher-level managers. In the corridor, he met Genrikh and Kurguz and sent them to the medical station. He ran to the control room of Block 3, ordered Bagdasarov to shut down Reactor 3, then returned to control room 4 and ordered Akimov to call the daytime shift and get people to the affected unit; namely Lelechenko, whose crew had to remove hydrogen from the Generator 8 electrolyzer.

Aleksandr Kudryavtsev and Viktor Proskuryakov, the SIUR trainees from other shifts, were present to watch Toptunov and learn. After the explosion they were sent by Dyatlov or Akimov to the central hall to turn the handles of the system for manually lowering of the presumably seized control rods. They ran through the deaerator gallery to the right to the VRSO unit elevator, found it destroyed, so climbed up the staircase instead, towards Level 36; they missed Kurguz and Genrikh, who used another stairwell. Level 36 was destroyed, covered with rubble. They went through a narrow corridor towards the central hall, entered the reactor hall, and found it blocked with rubble and fragments; dangling fire hoses were pouring water into the remains of the reactor core, the firemen not there anymore. The Upper Biological Shield was slanted, jammed into the reactor shaft; a blue and red fire raged in the hole. The minute the two stood above the reactor was enough to darken their bodies with “nuclear tan” and give them a fatal radiation dose. They returned to Level 10 and to the control room, reporting the situation; Dyatlov insisted they were wrong, the explosion had been caused by hydrogen-oxygen mixture in the 110m³ emergency tank and the reactor itself was intact.

Valeriy Ivanovich Perevozchenko, the reactor section foreman arrived at the control room shortly after the explosions, then returned to search for his comrades. He witnessed the destruction of the reactor building from the broken windows of the deaerator gallery. With his face already tanned by the radiation, he went to the dosimetry room and asked Gorbachenko for radiation levels; Gorbachenko left with Palamarchuk to rescue Shashenok while Perevozchenko went through the graphite and fuel containing radioactive rubble on Level 10 to the remains of Room 306 in an unsuccessful attempt to locate Khodemchuk, close to debris emitting over 10,000 roentgens per hour (90 µA/kg). He then went to the control room of Genrikh and Kurguz and found it empty; vomiting and losing consciousness, he returned to the control room to report on the situation.

01:28 (approx) – Fire fighting units under lieutenant Lieutenant Volodymyr Pravik leave the station.

Vyacheslav Brazhnik, the senior turbine machinist operator, ran into the control room to report the fire in the turbine hall. Pyotr Palamarchuk, the Chernobyl enterprise group supervisor, together with Razim Davletbayev, followed him back to the turbine room. They witnessed fires on Levels 0 and +12, broken oil and water pipes, roof debris on top of turbine 7, and scattered pieces of reactor graphite and fuel, with the linoleum on the floor burning around them. Palamarchuk unsuccessfully attempted to contact Sashenok in Room 604, then ran around the turbogenerator 8, down to Level 0 and urged the two men from the Kharkov mobile laboratory, assigned to record the turbine 8 vibrations, to leave; they, however, had both already received a lethal radiation dose. Akimov asked Palamarchuk to look for Gorbachenko and then rescue Sashenok as the communication with the dosimetry room was cut. Palamarchuk met Gorbachenko by the staircase on Level +27, then they together found and recovered Shashenok’s unconscious body.

Alexander Yuvchenko was located in his office between reactors 3 and 4, on Level 12.5; he described the event as a shock wave that buckled walls, blew doors in, and brought a cloud of milky grey radioactive dust and steam. The lights went out. He met a badly burned, drenched and shocked pump operator, who asked him to rescue Khodemchuk; that quickly proved impossible as that part of the building did not exist anymore. Yuvchenko, together with the foreman Yuri Tregub, ran out of the building and saw half of the building gone and the reactor emitting a blue glow of ionized air. They returned to the building and met Valeri Perevozchenko and two junior technicians, Kudryavtsev and Proskuryakov, ordered by Dyatlov or Akimov to manually lower the presumably seized control rods. Tregub went to report the extent of damage to the control room. Despite Yuvchenko’s explanation that there were no control rods left, the four climbed a stairwell to Level 35 to survey the damage; Yuvchenko held open the massive door into the reactor room and the other three proceeded in to locate the control rod mechanism; after no more than a minute of surveying the reactor debris, enough for all three to sustain fatal doses of radiation, they returned, their skin darkened with “nuclear tan” in reaction to the high dose of radiation. The three were the first to die in the Moscow hospital. Yuvchenko meanwhile suffered serious beta burns and gamma burns to his left shoulder, hip and calf as he kept the radioactive-dust-covered door open. It was later estimated he received a dose of 4.1 Sv. At 03:00, he began vomiting intensely; by 06:00, he could no longer walk. He later spent a year in the Moscow hospital receiving blood and plasma transfusions and received numerous skin grafts.

01:35 (approx) – Firemen fight fires on roof of turbine hall. Arrival of firefighters from Pripyat, Kibenok’s guard

Grigorii Khmel, the driver of one of the fire engines, later described what happened:

We arrived there at 10 or 15 minutes to two in the morning… We saw graphite scattered about. Misha asked: “Is that graphite?” I kicked it away. But one of the fighters on the other truck picked it up. “It’s hot,” he said. The pieces of graphite were of different sizes, some big, some small, enough to pick them up…

We didn’t know much about radiation. Even those who worked there had no idea. There was no water left in the trucks. Misha filled a cistern and we aimed the water at the top. Then those boys who died went up to the roof – Vashchik, Kolya and others, and Volodya Pravik…. They went up the ladder … and I never saw them again.

However, Anatoli Zakharov, a fireman stationed in Chernobyl since 1980, offers a different description:

I remember joking to the others, “There must be an incredible amount of radiation here. We’ll be lucky if we’re all still alive in the morning.”

Twenty years after the disaster, he said the firefighters from the Fire Station No. 2 were aware of the risks.

Of course we knew! If we’d followed regulations, we would never have gone near the reactor. But it was a moral obligation – our duty. We were like kamikaze.

01:56 – Major Telyatnikov takes command of fire fighting units

02:00 – Dyatlov, deputy chief engineer, ordered Akimov, unit shift chief, to feed water to the reactor, and together with Gorbachenko, a radiation monitoring technician, went to survey the plant from the outside. Despite seeing the fuel and graphite scattered around, he still believed the reactor was intact. They then returned to the control room. At 05:00, he got sick and together with Gorbachenko went to the medical unit. Fomin replaced him at his post with Sitnikov.

02.15 – The Pripyat department of the Ministry of Home Affairs calls a crisis meeting. It is decided to organize a road block in order to prevent cars from entering or leaving the town. Police assistance is requested. Thousands of police arrive; and, as with the fire fighters, they have no knowledge of radiation, no dosimeters or protective clothing.

02:30 – Brukhanov, the plant manager, arrives at the bunker under the administrative block

Akimov reports a serious radiation accident but that the reactor is intact, fires are in the process of being extinguished, and a second emergency water pump being readied to cool the reactor. Due to limitations of available instruments, they seriously underestimate the radiation level.

03:00 – Bryukhanov called Maryin, the deputy secretary for the nuclear power industry, reporting Akimov’s version of the situation. Maryin sent the message further up the chain of command, to Frolyshev, who then called Vladimir Dolgikh, who called Gorbachev and other members of the Politburo. At 04:00, Moscow ordered feeding of water to the reactor.

03:30 – Telyatnikov contacted Akimov, asking what was happening to his firemen; Akimov sent him a dosimetrist.

04:00 – Further fire fighting units arrive from Chernobyl, Polesskoe and Kiev

04:30 – Chief engineer Fomin arrived in the Block 4 control room

Akimov reported an intact reactor and damage to the emergency water feed tank. Fomin ordered continuous feeding of water into the reactor, which was already in progress by emergency pump 2 from the deaerators (a device that is widely used for the removal of oxygen and other dissolved gases from the feedwater to steam-generating boilers). Fomin kept pressing the staff to feed water to the reactor and transferred more people to Unit 4 to replace those being disabled by radiation. After Dyatlov left, Fomin ordered Sitnikov, his replacement, to climb to the roof of Unit C and survey the reactor; Sitnikov obeyed and received a fatal radiation dose there; at 10:00 he returned and reported to Fomin and Bryukhanov that the reactor was destroyed. The managers refused to believe him and ordered that water continued to be fed into the reactor; the water however, flowed through the severed pipes into the lower levels of the plant, carrying radioactive debris and causing short circuits in the electric cableways common to all four of the blocks.

05:00 – Militia commander general Berdov arrives from kiev

06:00 – Akimov, already nauseous, was replaced at 06:00 by the unit chief Vladimir Alekseyevich Babychev, but together with Toptunov stayed in the plant. Believing the water flow to the reactor to be blocked by a closed valve somewhere, they went to the half-destroyed feedwater room on Level +24. Together with Nekhayev, Orlov, and Uskov, they opened the valves on the two feedwater lines, then climbed over to Level +27 and almost knee-deep in a mixture of fuel and water, opened two valves on the 300 line; due to advancing radiation poisoning they did not have the strength to open the valves on the sides. Akimov and Toptunov spent several hours turning valves; the radioactive water in Room 712 was half submerging the pipeline. Smagin went in to open the third valves, spent 20 minutes in the room, and received 280 rads.

Vladimir Sashenok, the automatic systems adjuster from Atomenergonaladka (the Chernobyl startup and adjustment enterprise), was supposed to be in Room 604, the location of the measurement and control instruments on the upper landing across from the turbine room, on level +24, under the reactor feedwater unit; he was reporting the states of the pressure gauges on the multiple forced circulation circuit to the computer room by telephone. The communication lines were cut during the explosion. Shashenok received deep thermal and radiation burns over his entire body when the overpressure spike destroyed the isolation membranes and the impulse pipes of the manometers in his instrument room just before the explosion, which then demolished the room itself. The landing was found damaged, covered with ankle-deep water, and there were leaks of boiling water and radioactive steam. Sashenok was found unconscious in Room 604, pinned under a fallen beam, with bloody foam coming out of his mouth. His body was severely contaminated by radioactive water. He was carried out by Gorbachenko and Palamarchuk and died at 06:00 in the Pripyat hospital under care of the chief physician, Leonenko Vitaliy, without regaining consciousness. Gorbachenko, a radiation monitoring technician, suffered a radiation burn on his back where Sashenok’s hand was located when he helped carry him out. Khodemchuk and Sashenok were the first two victims of the disaster.

Nikolai Gorbachenko, having found Sashenok, returned to his post and changed clothes and shoes. He was then ordered to look for Khodemchuk, but the search was unsuccessful. He went to the control room and with Dyatlov went outside to survey the reactor building. At 05:00, he began feeling weak and vomiting and was transported to hospital, from where he was released on 27 October.


06:35 – 37 fire brigades, with a total of 186 fire fighters, have by now been called in. All fires extinguished with the exception of the fire contained inside Reactor 4

08:00 – New shift clocks on at all four units

286 men continue to work on the construction of 5th and 6th reactors

20.00 – A government committee is established, led by Valery Legasov. They are surprised by the bits of graphite they see lying around when they arrive. None of them suspect a graphite fire.

Following the explosion many inhabitants of Pripyat gather on a railway bridge just outside of the city that provides a view of the nuclear power plant. They spoke of beautiful flames in all the colours of the rainbow (the burning graphite) and how the flames reached higher than the pillars of smoke.  Sadly what they didn’t konw, was that the wind that swept over them carried with it a dose of radiation equivalent to 500 Roentgen (exposure to 750 Roentgen/h, 7,5 Sv, is deemed a lethal dose).

Of the people standing on the bridge that night no one survived, it is now often referred to as the “bridge of death”.

Lyubov’ Kovalevskaya was in Pripyat the night of the accident. When she woke up late the next morning, her mother had reported strange sounds coming from the power station during the night. In an interview layer published in June 1987, Kovalevskaya told of what she saw when she went outside that Saturday:

“All the roads were covered in water and some white liquid. Everything was white, foamy, all the curbs…I walked further and saw a policeman here, another there, I had never seen so many policemen in the town. They weren’t doing anything, just sitting in various places, at the post office, the Palace of Culture. As if there was martial law. It was quite a shock. But people were walking about normally, there were children everywhere. It was very hot. People were going to the beach, to their country cottages, many people were already there, or sitting by the stream next to the cooling reservoir. That’s an artificial water reservoir next to the nuclear power station.

Anya, my daughter, had gone to school. I went home and said, ‘Mama, I don’t know what has happened, but don’t let Natasha (my niece) out of the house, and when Anya returns from school, take her straight into the house’. But I didn’t tell her to close the window…I went back to the central square…The reactor was quite visible, one could see that it was burning and that its wall was broken. There were flames above the hole. That chimney between the third and fourth blocks was burning hot, it looked like a burning column… We knew nothing all day. Nobody said anything. Well, they said there was a fire. But about radiation, that radioactivity was escaping, there was not a word. Anya came back from school and said, ‘Mama, we had physical exercise outside for almost a whole hour.’ Insanity.”


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On 5/18/2019 at 12:47 PM, Martinnfb said:

custom seat in Mi-6


Lining a Helicopter seat with lead and flying through radioactive clouds, sounds very much like walking through a Cyclone and expecting an umbrella to keep you dry.

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I watched the first two episodes. Apparently the only ones out? 

The bravery of those men and women is mind numbing. They willingly gave their lives to save their families, and by extension, a good portion of the world.

And they did this all in the face of mind numbing bureaucracy that did all it could to justify its existence by inventing new rules, regulations, and red tape. Sort of like here.

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It is reminiscent of the British Nuclear tests conducted in the Montebello Islands and Maralinga in South Australia in the 1950's and 60's, where Australian Servicemen were required to fly and march through the blast areas without any protection whatsoever.

Often Servicemen and Women are required to do things in Peacetime that the general public would never be subjected to. I'm sure that nothing has changed in the 21st Century in that respect.

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1 hour ago, Martinnfb said:

Third episode is out. 

Try to imagine the same situation now. And the  " no way , I am going home" attitude.

I know. That kept running through my mind the entire time.  There are good kids in the military today, but other than them, it’s all about ME these days.

Those guys who went under the reactor core to drain the reserve pools. Unbelievable.  My mind then races to another name. The Kursk.  My blood runs cold over these men dying due to simple bureaucratic bungling and finger pointing.

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1 minute ago, Wumm said:

It is reminiscent of the British Nuclear tests conducted in the Montebello Islands and Maralinga in South Australia in the 1950's and 60's, where Australian Servicemen were required to fly and march through the blast areas without any protection whatsoever.

Often Servicemen and Women are required to do things in Peacetime that the general public would never be subjected to. I'm sure that nothing has changed in the 21st Century in that respect.

There are rumors of Canadian nuclear accidents in the early days of the 40s and 50s when Canada was at the forefront of nuclear research.  The labs were up north on the solid rock of the Canadian Shield, so they were inaccessible to the public. Rumors leak out, but mouths were slammed shut then and records are buried deep today.  Canada was once at the very pointy end of nuclear weapons and power research.

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Wumm, I remember reading all about the lost Mustangs that were recovered and brought out of the test sites in Australia. Blew my mind!

The US Military had Service Members out in the open during the Nevada and Bikini tests.

I’ll never, ever, EVER forgive the US Military for what it did to the Prinz Eugen.  The last surviving German capital ship.  Can you imagine her as a museum today? 

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5 hours ago, Clunkmeister said:

I know. That kept running through my mind the entire time.  There are good kids in the military today, but other than them, it’s all about ME these days.

Those guys who went under the reactor core to drain the reserve pools. Unbelievable.  My mind then races to another name. The Kursk.  My blood runs cold over these men dying due to simple bureaucratic bungling and finger pointing.

Possibility of 5 megaton explosion, pitch dark, dosimeter going off charts ? We owe them everything,

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