The mini-series CHERNOBYL, a perverse pseudo-fiction
CHERNOBYL, a perverse pseudo-fiction :
the use of manipulations of chronology, facts, science... and emotions
Yves Lenoir1(June-August 2019)
"We live in a time when people seem to be re-embracing the corrosive notion that what we want to be true is more important than what is true." Craig Mazin to The Moscow Times (18 May 2019)2.
A month later, in an interview published on 18 June by the website Slate3, the screenwriter expands on his point: "What I'd like people to understand is that no matter what we want to believe, no matter what story we tell ourselves about the world, the truth is the truth. If you organise your life around a list of things that a political party tells you to believe or a person tells you that they are going to come and save you, you are disconnecting from the truth. And there is a price to pay. "
For those who have seen the series, these two quotes cannot fail to evoke each of the two mirrored 'programmatic' passages that open and conclude it. The author's spokesman (in fact his voice-over), who is supposed to embody the academician Valery Legasov, announces the colour - basically: everything you are about to see is true and I paid for revealing it -, then, in order to lock in the viewers' opinion, reaffirms his courageous line of conduct, while, condemned to ostracism, a KGB vehicle takes him away, like the lone cowboy of a B-movie western, towards a fatal destiny:
First scene4 :
- E1 (00:37) "What's the worst thing about lies?
It's not to confuse them with the truth... The danger of hearing too many lies is that you don't even recognise the truth anymore.
What can we do, then, but abandon all hope of truth and settle for mere stories? In these stories, it doesn't matter who the heroes are. We only want to know who the guilty ones are. "
- E5 (52:11) "We are all on dangerous ground, because of our lies. They are what define us.
When the truth bothers us, we lie to the point of hiding it completely. But it is always there. Every lie we tell increases our debt to it. Sooner or later that debt will be paid. "
- E5 (59:34) "To be a scientist is to be naive. We want to discover the truth so much that we don't see that few people really want us to discover it. But it is always there, whether we see it or not, whether we want it or not. The truth doesn't care about our wants and needs. It doesn't care about our governments, our ideologies, our religions... It remains there for eternity.
And finally, this is what Chernobyl offered me. Before, the implications of the truth frightened me. Now I only ask myself:
What is worse than lies? "
Then, duly chaptered, the spectator can think and conclude everything, except that what has captivated him for nearly five hours is a tissue of alternative facts, scientific misinterpretations, falsifications of the chronology, political untruths, systematic forcing of the line to make the horror and the pressure unbearable, etc., and many other processes incompatible with the restitution, even in the form of a theatre, of an historical drama. Craig Mazin is not William Shakespeare, nor even Stanley Kubrick or Francis F. Coppola. Craig Mazin is a perverse manipulator. His series oozes duplicity, disregard for the truth, intellectual dishonesty, hypocrisy and disrespect for people.
I propose to give as accurate and detailed a critical analysis as possible. But where did I come from to dare to venture against almost all the reviews that have accompanied and amplified the worldwide success of this fiction5 ?
On my familiarity with atomic energy and Chernobyl :
- In 1974-1975, I participated in the work of an interministerial group responsible for evaluating the technical options for managing radioactive waste;
- In October 1978, at the request of the government of Lower Saxony, I was included in an international group of thirty counter-experts charged with evaluating the project for a gigantic nuclear fuel reprocessing plant and radioactive waste storage facility in Gorleben;
- in September 1987, the techno-thriller Chernobyl-sur-Seine, which I wrote with the environmental journalist Hélène Crié, was published by Editions Callmann-Lévy;
- In April 1988, with a group of French journalists and environmentalists, I visited the Chernobyl site and power plant and its surroundings. We were briefed and accompanied by the Director of Communications of the Chernobyl Kombinat, Alexander Kovalenko, one of the six sentenced (to three years in prison) nine months earlier at the end of the accident trial6. The next day I took part in a conference at the Kurtchatov Institute, and then in a meeting with Vladimir Gubarev, scientific director of Pravda and a great friend of Valery Legasov, who had committed suicide the day before. On the fringes of these official activities, I was able to take semi-clandestine radioactive samples (the first that CRIIRAD had received from Chernobyl) and to record the talk on the transfer of radio-elements that the Ukrainian academician Dmitro Grodzinsky gave me for two hours;
- In January and April 1990, together with a doctor and an agronomist, I carried out two semi-clandestine fact-finding missions to the most contaminated territories of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. We met with health officials and victims of the fallout - liquidators hospitalised in Kiev's Hospital 26, and evacuees from Pripyat in flats in the city. We also had a working meeting with officials from the most contaminated district in Russia, Novozybkov in Bryansk Oblast;
- and, since March 2010, I have been chairing the Children of Chernobyl Belarus association, one of the founders of which was the military nuclear physicist Vasily Nesterenko, who died on 28 August 2008, and who was introduced to me at the end of April 1990 at a working meeting of scientists, doctors and association leaders in Minsk. Nesterenko is the great absentee in Craig Mazin's fiction. The role he played during the crisis and his commitment in the following months and years to protect the population living in the most contaminated regions of Belarus could not even be mentioned. The fake dramaturgy concocted by the scriptwriter forbade him to appear!
Concerning the fate of the victims of Chernobyl, of these valiant and modest humanitarian actors who die one after the other in indifference and abandonment, of all these people with whom the association I preside and many others involved in helping the population and disseminating information on the reality of the consequences of the accident, I will say only one sentence:
Craig Mazin does not care about them and has therefore not given them the slightest place in his phoney scenario.
If that were all there was to it! His "construction" makes it impossible to understand the ins and outs of Chernobyl. How can the real story be told, and how can justice be done to the people involved?
The worldwide success of the HBO mini-series "about" Chernobyl raises the problem of how to build a collective memory of this disaster. This 'realistic' fiction challenges the refutation of this.
Since its author shamelessly claims to have worked to defend the historical truth, I decided to take up this challenge.
The rather banal and formatted scenario of CHERNOBYL follows a political-police plot, with its good guys and bad guys tossed about by their destiny in a heavy and worrying atmosphere. Chernobyl is the pretext, or rather the excuse. To make it real, Craig Mazin has punctuated the five episodes with a few scenes taken from a collection of testimonies and stories rather "literarily arranged", collected by the author Svetlana Alexeievich under the title (French) La Supplication. These scenes are introduced, doctored, developed and reinterpreted, stuffed with clichés, and, what is more, dated in spite of any respect for chronology. They serve to prove that the story is telling THE truth. Moreover, he obviously reconstructed the accidental sequence from Grigori Medvedev's excellent account, published in France in 1990 under the title La Vérité sur Tchernobyl, Ed. Albin Michel. These are the only scenes that really stick to the Chernobyl story, and the most spectacular.
More subtly, the lies, alternative facts and untruths are neither accidental nor gratuitous. They feed an explicit or suggested counterpoint. For example, a scientific absurdity developed in a given scene will later lend the weight of truth to several lies and alternative facts that are 'necessary' to the functioning of the dramaturgy and the excitement of the audience. If this were a work of fiction and claimed as such, there would be nothing else to say but bull shit! But this is not the case. We have to see this "pseudo-fiction" as an authentic deception, and analyse it from the angle of intellectual fraud.
Every scam functions according to a logic that is designed to deceive a claimant, a future victim. For example, the "Ponzi pyramid" used by Bernard Madoff to manipulate consenting suckers and extort billions of dollars from them is biblically simple: private investors seeking to invest their money are promised huge interest; the first depositors are rewarded by deducting the deposits of the following ones; the rumour takes hold: it's the deal of the century! And the gogos rush in, seduced in ever greater numbers and with ever greater audacity... until the process is reversed and the impossibility of honouring the contracts reveals the truth. Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison in 2009 for a total of $50 billion in fraud.
The 'pyramid' of lies, untruths and alternative facts that Craig Mazin has designed to combine into a believable narrative is, in turn, the engine of a true intellectual swindle. Scams of this nature do not land you in jail! In this case, they bring you fame and lots of solicitations with juicy promises.
The fame is commensurate with the satisfaction of the public, whose expectations were fulfilled, whose prejudices were flattered, whose passions were aroused, and, most of all, whose ideas about the event, however vague, were confirmed. When one hears "Chernobyl", one waits with a certain impatience for the terrifying spectacle of men threatened by an unleashing of radioactive flows, images at least as trying as those of agonizing hibakusha, burned by the heat of atomic explosions and eaten away by radioactivity; one hopes that the story will provide the batch of surprises, strong emotions, indignations, negative and positive reactions that one has the right to demand when it comes to Chernobyl. Craig Mazin did not skimp! The success legitimately sanctions the accuracy of the calculation and largely pays for the mediocre means deployed. There is Madoff in Mazin...! Without the insolvency...
Chernobyl has exploded in the Soviet Union. To be fair, the action will take place in a darkly Stalinist or at least Brezhnevian context. And since we are not far from a cliché, the vodka will flow continuously and everyone will spend their day smoking, which was actually quite true. The audience will feel that they are on marked out ground. The "coherence" of the whole will not encourage them to ask questions. The strength of a series lies in this: cut up like a soap opera and designed to maintain Pavlovian reflexes. This has become the routine of the trade.
And, as we have entered an era in which the degree of 'veracity' of a plausible fictional story depends above all on its audience - and therefore, initially, on the money invested, and then on the 'buzz' that commentators feel obliged to create and maintain - the undeniable success of the CHERNOBYL project will convince the entertainment industry to sign as many contracts with its author as he asks for!
It is now time to get to the heart of the matter. The first task is to describe the gulf between the pseudo-fiction told in the mini-series and the reality of Chernobyl, in the context of the period chosen, from 25 April 1986 to 31 July 1987. I will begin by establishing the degree of falsity of each of the five main components of the "Mazin pyramid":
- the objectives of the intervention and the organisation of the operations at the plant site;
- the character of the 'heroes';
- the physics of physical and atomic phenomena, delusions and reality;
- the effects of radioactivity on living beings;
- the chronology of displaced "real" facts and invented facts.
Then, a somewhat laborious exercise but one that I believe is necessary because there is really a lot to say, we will propose a commented anthology of inventions, lies, untruths, alternative facts, historical or scientific nonsense, etc., in the chronological order of their insertion in the five episodes of the series (following the code in note 4).
The "coda", an afterword in the form of a bonus made up of captioned archive images, placed at the end of the last episode, will be dealt with finally. It is placed there, like a pyramidion that advantageously tops this pyramid of lies, alternative facts, post-truths, inventions, unverified rumours and..., very objectively, advertising arguments for the tour operators who share the market for visits to Pripyat and other "adventurous" walks in the Chernobyl exclusion zone7 !
The five major components of the "Mazin pyramid
1. The objectives of the intervention and the organisation of operations on the plant site.
This is about strategy, the objectives, and tactics, the organisation of operations.
The series shows the two heroes in charge of operations, the pseudo Legasov and Shcherbina, almost passive, terrified of sending men to decontaminate the installations, spending their time procrastinating and only resolving in the autumn of 1986 to launch the preparations for the construction of a sarcophagus. The irresolution would be such that the decision to set up a three-man team to open a valve in the basement of the damaged block would be taken during a tense conference in the Kremlin, in the presence of Gorbachov, who would be asked for his approval! It's absurd, to the point of absurdity... no one has noticed... yet it happens at the beginning and serves to create an unbearable suspense at the end of the first episode, when we are shown the three men, "designated volunteers" in reality, with a good bonus at the end, going through the door that is supposed to lead them to an almost certain death... Let's leave it at that, the setting is set.
In real life, the Chernobyl crisis was not managed in any other way than as a Blitzkrieg, a blitzkrieg imposed by the power and speed of the adversary's assaults, on the one hand, but above all by the decision of the authorities to restore as quickly as possible the environmental conditions that would allow the plant to be put back into service. In the USSR, as in France, atomic energy is a state religion8. Saving the faith when it is seriously threatened imposes many sacrifices: the massive sums invested to the detriment of other sectors of the economy are not only followed by, but also added to, the mobilisation of all the country's active forces with a view to re-establishing the status quo ante, whatever the cost - militarily speaking:
"Basically, the decision of the government to restart the other reactors as soon as possible was crucial. It has been criticised by many, even internally, who believe that it has allowed a major irradiation of many liquidators, not only the roof men but also all those who had to repair thousands of pipes and cables, build a separation between buildings 2 and 3, decontaminate the site in a hurry, build the sarcophagus in an accelerated timeframe.9 "
"We were instructed to prepare the schedule for rebuilding the 4th reactor. Everyone laughed under their breath, but we all pretended to be working on this insane job.10 " He recalls that the Minister of Energy and Transport was not the only one to be involved.
He recalls that the USSR Energy Minister at the time even dared to announce "before scientific leaders that the 4th reactor would be restarted in November 1986" [cf. Legasov Report pp. 45-46, NOA]. It was even planned that "a fifth would be built next to it". This fifth was under construction at the time of the accident. Construction was stopped for good.
In his posthumous account, Valery Legasov, the real one, writes nothing else. We won't spare the expense:
"At the end of all these reports, after we had explained the situation and our own understanding of it, the main measures were taken that would determine the chronology of operations for the whole of the following period, the volume of work and its coordination with all the departments and companies in our country. An operational group was set up under the leadership of N.I. Ryjhkov, and contact was made, so to speak, with the entire Soviet industry. The Governmental Commission then became an administrative cog in this immense work of public salvation which was carried out under the direction of the operational group of the Politburo of the Central Committee".
To drive the point home, let us quote the passage from the book where Marc Molitor describes the strategic decisions and the organisation of the battlefield11 :
"In Moscow as in Kiev, the authorities were informed of the accident early in the night. A first delegation arrived in Chernobyl in the morning; a second very high-level group, political, military and judicial, arrived at the end of the afternoon. It is this governmental commission that will direct all operations in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, until the winter of 1986-1987. Apart from the destruction of the reactor and the first victims, the central problem in managing this type of accident is the danger posed by the level of radioactivity. It determines the way in which the emergency services should be organised, the working conditions of the rescue workers, the difficulty of access to the accident area and the population to be evacuated - or not. Boris Shcherbina, the chairman of this commission, is also the vice-chairman of the central committee of the communist party. From the first telephone contacts towards Yalta [in fact he was in Barnaul in the Altai on a mission to consult with the local caciques who had to be convinced to apply the "acceleration" policy promoted by Gorbachov at the CP Congress in February 1986, a policy whose energy component gave priority to the forced development of nuclear energy...] where he was, and when he was asked to do so by the local leaders, he ruled out the evacuation of the nearby town of Pripyat, 'so as not to create panic'. This entire period was marked by four immediate imperatives:
- to stop the disaster, i.e. to extinguish the fire, to stop the ejection of radionuclides, to contain the contamination;
- to guarantee the continued operation of the three other reactors on the Chernobyl site and, to do this, to decontaminate the site, reduce the level of radiation, and build a temporary containment on the ruptured reactor, which will be called the "sarcophagus";
- evacuate the populations that are too threatened by radioactive fallout and, above all, define the "acceptable" level of this threat.
This immediate management of the disaster was part of a general strategy that aimed to limit panic, refuse to question nuclear power, and limit the economic and social costs of the accident as well as its political repercussions on the Soviet system.
An essential instrument of this strategy and management will be the most extensive secrecy possible, the blackout on information relating to the disaster, particularly on radiation. "
At the forefront of the film, which is supposed to take place in the period October-December 1986, battalions of soldiers are sent to the radioactive scrapyard, i.e. to remove from the roofs of the twin blocks 3 and 4 the radioactive debris whose presence forbids undertaking the "liquidation" of the accident - the construction of a sarcophagus around the ruin of block 4 and then the return to service of blocks 1, 2 and 3. Without claiming to be exhaustive, as there are countless reviews, I have not found any in which this colossal anachronism has been reproached to the director, with all the conclusions that one would then deduce about the quality of this supposedly most truthful reconstruction of the catastrophe.
In the same vein, Briukhanov, the real one, testifies that the cult of the Plan gave priority to production, not only electrical, but also agricultural:
"In early May, as I drove through the city of Chernobyl, I saw the evacuation of livestock, while people stayed behind. "
Kate Brown describes in her recent book12 the appalling, previously ignored human tragedies caused by the rigidity of economic planning and the submission of actors to the achievement of the objectives assigned to them. It confirms the general climate evoked by Brioukhanov. The CHERNOBYL series completely misses this aspect of the unprecedented human cost of the accident.
In the real Chernobyl crisis, the construction of the sarcophagus began in June-July 1986, after tens of thousands of conscripts and reservists had taken turns to clean up the site. The progress of the work was the subject of a series of projections13 at the first major Conference on Chernobyl, held in Vienna at the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency - IAEA - from 25 to 29 August. The international atomic energy authorities, their national counterparts and the whole world of institutional radiation protection (International Commission on Radiological Protection - ICRP, World Health Organisation - WHO, United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation - UNSCEAR) took part in this blitzkrieg. The non-negotiable objective was to keep humanity in the age of atomic energy. IAEA Director Hans Blix arrived at Chernobyl on 9 May to declare in situ that the situation was under control. On 6 May, the WHO convened a group of experts in Copenhagen, chaired by the presidents of the ICRP and UNSCEAR. On the same day, the report drawn up at the end of their discussions expressly advised that no protective measures should be taken for the populations affected by the fallout from the radioactive clouds14.
Craig Mazin saw no problem in delaying the IAEA conference until March 1987; as if it were not urgent to show the world, the Agency's statutory mission in these circumstances, that Chernobyl could not affect the ongoing global development of atomic energy, an energy that is good for the environment! A major and complementary shortcoming is that no official delegation from UNSCEAR, the IAEA or the WHO went to Chernobyl. Most of it is dealt with in a photo-novel format between the pseudo Legasov and Shcherbina. As they are rather passive and wait-and-see, it may have seemed "normal" to most that there were so few people around to assist them.
This is the moment to show how they are real pseudonyms, false leaders as we would have said before the generalization of the use of the word pseudonym. Pseudonyms invented and docile enough to submit to the fantasies of the scriptwriter, in short, the henchmen/spokespersons at the service of Craig Mazin's fantasies and combinazione, but certainly not of the historical truth.
2. The character of the "heroes".
These are Valery Alexeievich Legasov and Boris Evdokimovitch Shcherbina. Without them, there would be no film! They carry it. Forgive me for asking the reader to take the time to get to know the men they really were and what they did.
The mini-series presents the pseudo Valery Legasov as a deeply moral, courageous person, concerned with preserving human lives and determined to bring the truth to light, even to the point of putting his personal safety at stake when he testifies in the trial of those 'responsible' for the accident.
Trained as a chemist, Academician Legasov, the real one, had been spotted by Valery Soyfer15 as one of the most active promoters of Soviet laxity in nuclear safety. His stance against 'too much precaution' clearly shows him to be a blind propagandist of the forced development of atomic energy in the former USSR at the lowest cost:
"One of these key officials was V. Legasov, a member of the Academy of Sciences and the protégé of the old Alexandrov (who lost his position as president of the Academy of Sciences shortly after the disaster). For several years, Alexandrov and Legasov worked to hammer into the minds of the Soviets the idea that nothing safer, more reliable and more economical than nuclear power plants could be created by man.
In 1985, in an article entitled “A Particularly Valuable Source of Energy” (not “particularly dangerous”) and illustrated with a superb photograph of the Chernobyl plant, Legasov wrote: “Nuclear energy, as a source of energy, is more than competitive. It surpasses other sources in terms of economy, safety and environmental friendliness.”
In 1984, a book entitled “Nuclear energy, man and the environment”, published under the direction of Legasov and Kuzmin, the doctor S. Ilyin and the engineer Y. Sivintsev, stated:
“It is easy to see that the probability of death in a nuclear power plant accident is ten thousand times less than that of death in a car accident and about a hundred times less than that of death by lightning. Comparison with the danger of death in other natural disasters [...] shows that the risk of radiation is roughly comparable to the risk of being crushed by a large meteorite capable of passing through the atmosphere and hitting the earth.”
A year earlier, an article in the journal Energia, published by the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences, of which Legasov is a member of the editorial board, informed its readers that “the probability of death from radiation from a nuclear power plant is comparable to the risk of a single one-hundred-kilometre car journey or to the risk of a person who smokes between one and three cigarettes a day ...”
In an article written jointly with V. Demine and Y. Chevelev, Legasov adopted a particularly cynical attitude:
“Should there be a limit to safety?” [...]
The article began with a peremptory statement:
“Specialists are well aware that it is impossible to cause a real nuclear explosion in a nuclear power plant and that only an improbable combination of circumstances can lead to this kind of explosion, which is no more destructive than an artillery shell.” [...]
In the same article, the authors glossed over the need to pay, even at the cost of one's life, for the comfort and joie de vivre that modern society provides us with:
“Civilisation not only prolongs man's life, despite the new dangers it brings; it also makes that life more comfortable, easier, more pleasant, more beautiful. When sociologists determine the standard of living, they find it necessary to take into account not only life expectancy but also the way and quality of life. This undoubtedly reflects the opinion of the majority of people, who in their daily lives are prepared to trade their health for comfort and convenience. They use dangerous means of transport, go mountaineering, go hunting, do not give up habits they know are harmful and, finally, they risk their lives, not only to save their relatives or strangers, but also to obtain material goods [... ]”.
Another statement by Legasov and his colleagues is equally unacceptable:
“Expenditure on security measures takes funds away from other areas, especially those that are relevant to the quality of life. Therefore, this expenditure should not be excessive. However, this obvious requirement is ignored by security specialists who take as their sole criteria the reduction and minimisation of the overall risk.”
I repeat once again: the race to the bottom, based on amoral presuppositions, on the desire of a supposed majority of people to risk their lives and health for a better life, has taught the "pragmatists" a terrible lesson. Their pseudo-scientific arguments in favour of cheap energy are costing people dearly, not only at home but also abroad, where the radioactive dust from Chernobyl has spread.
The conclusion of the article by Legasov, Demine and Chevelev appears today as impudent, outrageous towards the victims of Chernobyl:
“Thus, there must be a limit to safety. This must be decided, if possible, within the framework of an economic analysis. The refusal of such a limit, the desire to ensure maximum safety, can lead to the opposite result. ‘Everyone knows that security is the number one enemy of all mortals’, says Shakespeare to Lady Macbeth. This idea may seem absurd at first glance, yet by virtue of the dialectical law of unity and the struggle of opposites, it corroborates the main conclusion of this article.”
Holding a high position in the Soviet scientific oligarchy, Legasov of course founded a group where his views were taken up and adopted by others.
I. Kuzmin and A. Stoliarevski, who were close to him, explained in 1985 a recent drop in the pace of nuclear power plant construction in Europe and the United States by the ill-advised desire to raise the level of safety in nuclear power plants. They noted that “[...] the cost of safety systems in nuclear power plants, which began operation in 1975, amounts to 30% of total investment. In plants built today, this cost is almost 50%" and they criticise Western countries for their obsession with maximum accident prevention.
A. Sarkisov, corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences, confirms this analysis:
“People commonly believe that with the wear and tear of equipment weak links can appear. In fact, a single accident can have a major impact on the existing statistics. In order to eliminate unfounded fears once and for all, it is necessary to explain to the public, as widely as possible, in a clear and precise manner, how the safety of nuclear installations is ensured in practice” [...].
At the same time, in a report presented to the International Congress of Nuclear Technology in Basel in 1981, Legasov, Ilyin, Kuzmin etc., tried to convince Westerners that they were very concerned about ensuring the greatest possible safety in their nuclear plants. They listed the six points of a programme that was supposed to prove the constant concern of the Soviet nuclear power managers for safety; they mentioned in particular the “consistent application of all technical procedures designed to ensure safety at all stages of the construction and operation of nuclear power plants. ”. "
In the same article, Valery Soyfer paints a chilling picture of the "socialist performance" race that governed the construction of the Chernobyl nuclear blocks, without this having moved those responsible for nuclear safety in the least, quite the contrary:
"The Chernobyl plant was commissioned in September 1977. [...] However, from the moment the foundation stone was laid and from the first day of operation, the climate was such that an accident was inevitable.
In order to get the work done as quickly as possible, the workers deviated from their schedule, disregarding the strict work procedures that had been established. Those responsible for the construction and commissioning of the plant, in order to fulfil the “socialist commitments made by the collective” and to triumphantly announce the completion of the work before the deadline, deliberately ignored the schedule that had been set for them. [...]
Thanks to all this, the first power unit of the Chernobyl plant was put into operation at full power eight months before the planned date. Everyone's “heroism” was rewarded, and not only materially. On 22 January 1978, the Central Committee of the U.S.C.P. sent a special telegram to all those who had participated in the construction:
“The inspired and self-sacrificing work of the collective of all nationalities who built the first nuclear power plant in Ukraine gives a vivid testimony to the implementation of the resolutions of the XXV Congress of the U.S.C.P. aimed at ensuring the wide use of nuclear energy in our country.”
Six months later, on 21 June 1978, a large group of public works personnel and technicians from the plant received the highest official awards.
Encouraged by these successes, the country's nuclear power officials further reduced the construction time for the second power block. It was built and commissioned “in record time”: one year, i.e. “two and a half times faster than the norms”, wrote P. Fomin and V. Liutov, heads of the nuclear power plant, in 1985. Liutov, heads of the Atomic Energy Department, wrote in 1985.
And again, heroism was rewarded by the highest authorities of the country: 26 people received medals or decorations.
In 1979, the Party leadership called on all workers to work even faster and “to celebrate the memorable date of the 110th anniversary of Lenin's birth with new successes in work”. [...]
This was of course only possible by working against the safety regulations, at the critical limit beyond which the nuclear reaction could become uncontrollable. And the cheaper the energy supplied, the more emboldened the technicians became and the more rewards they received from above.
The technicians at Chernobyl celebrated the 110th anniversary of Lenin's birth with joy. Thanks to them, the Chernobyl plant had provided the cheapest electrical energy in the country. Better still, 400 million kilowatt hours had been produced above plan. All the “socialist commitments” were far exceeded.
For its “heroism”, the Chernobyl plant was named after V.I. Lenin, which according to Soviet custom is the ultimate reward.
The same procedure was followed for the third and fourth power blocks. In 1985, the plant's workers proposed a total of 3,049 changes to the plant's construction and operating rules, of which 2,258 were accepted and implemented. The management proudly announced that thanks to the deviations, 4,369,600 roubles had been saved. "
Nothing could dampen the 'socialist' ardour in this environment, not even the partial meltdown accident in the core of Block 1 on 9 September 1982, described in notes 9 to 1416 of the Chernobyl cell of the Ukrainian KGB. Radioactive releases containing hot particles were found up to 14 km to the NNE and very high contamination (1-18 MBq/m2 ) was measured at the plant site. No evacuation took place. A bad omen of what happened to the inhabitants of Pripyat less than four years later, with the real Legasov involved: evacuated far too late.
What information was circulated on this subject - the protection of the population of Pripyat, the one in the front row of a show with massive radioelement releases - during the fifteen months that the CHERNOBYL mini-series "covered"? Many rumours that were only partly confirmed by later testimonies17. The authoritative document at the time was the official report of the State Committee on the Use of Atomic Energy submitted by Legasov, the real one, to the experts gathered by the IAEA in Vienna on 25 August 1986. The exposure values of the inhabitants are presented in Annex 7 (§ 2.2, pp. 38-40). It was clearly a question of announcing the absence of foreseeable health damage by claiming that the population was being protected. This was, as everyone knows (from the images of the American spy satellites showing life as usual in the city), a pure lie, a lie that all the experts hoped to hear in order to reassure themselves and their administrative and political guardians18 . It is so false that, in his will, Legasov, the real one, testifies without ambiguity:
"The physicists, who sensed that the situation would not evolve for the better, insisted on the necessity of a compulsory evacuation. The doctors seemed to agree with them and at around 10-11pm, still on 26 April, Boris Evdokimovich Shcherbina, who had followed our discussions and confirmed our predictions, decided to order a compulsory evacuation. It would take place the following day.
Unfortunately, this news, which was spread by word of mouth, by posters and by shouting in the courtyards, did not reach everyone, so that on the morning of the 27th, one could still see, in the streets of the city, mothers walking their children in prams, small children playing and all the external signs of an uneventful Sunday day. "
Legasov, the real one, had therefore taken it upon himself to tell lies in Vienna! We'll come back to that. But what were these external radiation levels that began to worry the physicists present at Chernobyl on 26 April 1986? The figures provided by the official report indicate a range of 140 - 1,400 µSv/h at 9 p.m. on the 26th, rising to 1,800 - 6,000 µSv/h at 7 a.m. on the 27th, and then to 3,600 - 10,000 µSv/h during the evacuation by car and bus. Let's be conservative: let's take the maximum value of 10 mSv/h for each inhabitant, i.e. a dose of 350 mSv at the end of the 35 hours between the explosion and the evacuation. A question then arises: the four notes 23, 25, 28 and 30 of the Chernobyl cell of the Ukrainian KGB report a total of 135 cases of Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS), including 37 children, recorded in the 10 days afterwards among the evacuees (an underestimated number because it was not possible to follow up on the people who had left by car); however, the dose causing ARS is rather ten times higher than 350 mSv!
So the report lied, and Legasov, the real one, covered up. But did he really care about the fate of the Pripyatans, as he claims in his will? If so, then as a good scientist he would have kept in mind the real values that determined the decision to evacuate and would have mentioned them in his will. However, he repeats, but divides them by almost an order of magnitude (a factor of ten), the value ranges of the official report:
"On the evening of 26 April, the level of radiation was still more or less favourable, oscillating between a few millirems and a few tens of millirems per hour" [i.e. from a few tens to a few hundreds of µSv/h]
Legasov, the real one, was not just anyone, as we understand it. He was a "safe" man, one of those ambitious and opportunistic technocrats, careful to follow the prevailing wind, and therefore always ready to turn his coat: a pure product of the Soviet system; a true apparatchik, permanently concerned with making himself look good in the eyes of the Party, as he rather naively reveals at the beginning of his testament:
"26 April 1986. A Saturday, a beautiful day. I was quite undecided about what I wanted to do: go to university (Saturday is my day for "college"), or to a meeting of party activists set for ten o'clock that morning, or take it easy and go and rest somewhere with Margarita Mikhailovna, my wife... Naturally, because of my character and by virtue of a long-standing habit, I decided on the Party meeting. "19
It was therefore natural to entrust this unconditional lover of atomic energy, a diligent communist activist and authoritarian academician, but also the leading apologist for the pitiful Soviet nuclear safety culture, with the scientific direction of the operations at Chernobyl. And he could only obey. The same was true, and for very similar reasons, of the presence of his political counterpart at the site, Boris Evdokimovich Shcherbina, the Deputy Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers.
Who is supposed to embody the pseudo Boris Shcherbina, this servile and arrogant politician whose experience of Chernobyl would have transfigured him into a political alter ego of the pseudo Legasov, with whom he would have shared many human qualities?
If the real Shcherbina was the alter ego of the real Legasov, it was in the fierce will he showed to hasten the growth of the Soviet nuclear park beyond reason. Gregory Medvedev testifies20 :
"G. Medvedev also recounts a meeting he attended in the Ukrainian Communist Party, at which serious doubts were raised about the choice of location for the Chernobyl plant, in the heart of a major river basin. However, despite these objections, the project went ahead, and this will be of great importance for the future.
This forced march is well illustrated by G. Medvedev when he mentions, for example, the meeting he attended at the Ministry, led by the Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Boris Shcherbina. The latter had summoned the directors and site managers of the nuclear power plants under construction. One of them explained that his reactor could not be started within the time limit set by the Minister because he had not received certain equipment and the necessary computer systems.
“Who gives you the authority to postpone the deadlines,” the vice-president shouted at him.
- It is the technology that sets the deadlines,” the site manager replies.
- Keep to your deadlines!
- But I won't receive my equipment until the end of May...
- Get it delivered earlier!
- It's not me who delivers, but the industry. I don't see how you can build a nuclear power plant and put it into operation without equipment...” ", replies the site manager.
So he's there to make sure that everything follows! His position and career are at stake. The pressure is on the underlings. Let them manage!
Anyone who has seen the series can only objectively take note of a serious casting error: the two positive heroes, the ones the public is made to love, share nothing but their names with the men they are supposed to embody (a critic who knew Legasov, the real one, noted that the pseudo Legasov was not really the man he had dealt with).
The gulf is already abysmal: the objectives and the conduct of operations at Chernobyl have nothing in common with what the series shows; and, quite logically, the pseudo-heroes have nothing in common with their historical namesakes, Valery Legasov and Boris Shcherbina.
3. The physics of physical and atomic phenomena, delusion and reality.
The scriptwriter has entrusted the pseudo Legasov with the task of lecturing on atomic physics... The more inane the subject, the greater its importance in the mechanics of the story. It is not a question of unfortunate errors, but of cynical calculation. The viewer is urged to believe in this scenario because the great physicist Legasov has provided scientific guarantees that everything is true.
The most 'fertile' intervention takes place in the Kremlin during a pseudo-crisis meeting chaired by a pseudo Mikhail Gorbachov (we will come back to the significance of this alternative fact). In the 46 years that I have been working on the issue of atomic energy and radioactivity, I have never had the opportunity to hear such nonsense.
- E2 (11:29), "Each atom of U235 is like a bullet. It moves at almost the speed of light and goes through everything in its path, wood, metal, concrete, flesh...
That's an infinite number of bullets in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. "
Interesting: if each atom has the damaging power of a bullet, then it is obvious that the effects are immediate; radioactivity does not kill or injure in the long term, but right away, like a bullet! Bright, isn't it? This pseudo-magical property confers a false truth to all the lies about the effects of radiation that the script is full of. We'll come back to that.
In reality it doesn't really work like that:
- Atomic fissions do not project uranium atoms, they break them into two so-called fission products and emit neutrons that will break other nuclei in a chain reaction;
- the energy released is about 200 MeV, most of which is carried away by the fission products; the indicative initial speed of these fission products is 10 km/s. No uranium atom is therefore fired like a bullet at a speed close to that of light!
- As an example, the large LHC collider at CERN (27 km in diameter) has made it possible to create a few Higgs bosons by giving protons (235 times lighter than a U235 atom) an energy of 7 TeV, i.e. 35 thousand times more than the fission energy of uranium. It would take 235 times more energy, i.e. more than 1 600 TeV, to launch a uranium atom at the speed, very close to that of light, of the protons circulating in the LHC, the most powerful in the world
To make matters worse, these bullets would be almost eternal, roaming through space in search of targets (?):
"Most of these bullets will be dangerous for 100 years. Some will remain dangerous for 50,000 years. "
And that's it! Poor pseudo Legasov, the memory of the real fellow didn't need to be made to say so much crap! But this bullshit is deliberate and really of great use to its inventor. Otherwise, the latter would not have placed this sequence in the Kremlin in the trailer of the series, the teaser as we say in French branché/câblé. Indeed, these sentences are the scientific guarantee of all the exaggerations and untruths on the effects of radiation that the series is full of, these distressing and/or atrocious scenes that are designed to boost the vicious voyeur that sleeps in every human being.
The pseudo Legasov doesn't stop there and plays tutor to the pseudo Shcherbina in the helicopter (an alternative fact, as we shall see) that takes them to Chernobyl.
- E2 (13:30) "the neutron is a ball... that revolves around uranium" ;
we remain at the level of the Kremlin conference (the neutron is a constituent of the atomic nucleus; it is the electrons that revolve around it, a notion acquired during secondary education...)
The magical properties of radioactivity described by the pseudo Legasov are exercised in the scene intended to introduce the third main character of the series, the non-existent (in reality) physicist Ulana Khomyuk, an imaginary employee of the Sosny military nuclear research institute, located near Minsk, the capital of Belarus. The sequence of events is governed by surprising causal laws. However, with a little deduction, one can see that it is consistent with the pseudo Legasov's atomic theory on the one hand, and on the other hand not at all. From a philosophical point of view, this "experiment" (here taken from the screenwriter's mind) falsifies the theory and, very logically, pulverises everything that the screenplay owes to this "theory", namely its framework21. Let us see what we should take at face value.
- E2 (01:59), appearance of Ulana Khomyuk (UK), the physicist imagined to lead the fictional investigation into a non-existent state secret:
- it is 8.30 a.m. on the 26th; UK is asleep at her desk; her assistant enters and wakes her up;
- it's hot; the assistant opens the window and instantly the room's radiation detector sounds the alarm; the assistant hurriedly closes the window;
- then he goes to read the measurement and announces a radioactivity of 8 milliröntgen (sic22) ;
- as a good specialist, UK makes sure that it comes from outside and quickly takes a sample of the radioactive deposit on the window;
- she runs to analyse the sample; the spectrometer instantly gives the result;
- A discussion ensues on the possible origin of the presence of radioactive iodine, I131.
In the real world, at 8.30 a.m. on the 26th, the radioactive plume from Chernobyl barely grazes the suburbs south-west of Minsk23 . Sosny, the research institute where UK is supposed to work, is located 25 km south-east of the city centre. Let's accept the liberty the script has given itself. The effluent entering through the window would then contain between 0.01 and 0.1 Bq/m3 of Cs137. The pseudo-Legasov theory, according to which radioactivity is in the form of uranium atoms travelling at the speed of light, would explain why the detector reacted instantly! The high value of 0.1 Bq/m3 of caesium will be retained and the triple of I131 will be added, which corresponds roughly to the ratio between the concentrations of the two isotopes. To be even more conservative (i.e. as lenient as possible with the implausibility of the scene), we will assume that in the instant the window was opened, all the air in the room was replaced by contaminated air from outside!
Under these hyper-conservative assumptions, the increase in radioactivity in the room would not have exceeded 3 x 10-5µSv/h, according to the IRSN data sheets! The fictitious measurement of 80 µSv/h is therefore 2.66 million times higher than the most implausible value obtained with a calculation of all excesses24.
Of course, no spectrometer can perform an analysis in a fraction of a second. The feat attributed to the one used by Ulana Khomyuk to characterise the presence of I131 would, in other circumstances, pass for propaganda about the excellence of Soviet technology!
The examination of the hypotheses on the origin of this radioactivity is the occasion to egregate scientific ineptitudes: the radioactive iodine could obviously be of military origin, a possibility rejected by our two specialists; it could not come from radioactive waste since it disappears by disintegration in a few weeks; as for coming from a satellite, the question would not arise because, even if a satellite had been equipped with a nuclear reactor, its fall would have been announced and calculated in advance and everyone would have been warned of it! Our two scientists and the script, above all, are floundering.
This rather laborious scientific refutation is in fact unnecessary, because deductive logic is sufficient to settle the matter in the world governed by the imaginary physical laws of CHERNOBYL. The theory of the pseudo-Legasov stipulates two essential properties of radioactivity: it would move at the speed of light and would pass through all materials placed on its trajectory. Therefore, it is not at 8:30 a.m. on the 26th that the detector should have sounded the alarm, but at 1h 23mn 44 sec and 1.6 ms, the window and the walls not having in any way constituted obstacles to its entry into the room. Well, no! Because if radioactivity could travel at the speed of light through any material, then it would pass through the detector without losing energy and therefore without interacting with it! In the real world, the only particles capable of this performance are neutrinos, massless particles.
You may object: the Earth's surface is spherical and Legasov's radioactive "bullets" necessarily propagate in a straight line, like all bullets! They cannot follow the curvature of our planet and will not reach Sosny.
Answer: logical fallacy. The theory says that they would have the power to pass through any material. So, like neutrinos, as soon as the explosion occurred, some of the released radioactivity would have passed through 500 km of earth's rock in a straight line, only to emerge less than two milliseconds later in Ulana Khomyuk's office! The physical theory of the pseudo Legasov is very problematic in its application.
In short, episode 2 is off to a great start25 . No reason to let our guard down.
Now it's on to the Tula miners episode, starting in E3 (17:34). Craig Mazin is helped by the legend surrounding the usefulness of their intervention and the extreme danger to which they were exposed. With the theory of radioactivity "bullets from a gun" fired at the speed of light and passing through everything and anything, that miners digging a gallery several meters under the accident reactor run a mortal risk would be self-evident. It is "scientifically proven".
What was the reality?
It is 3 May 1986. Let's summarise what is true and what is implausible, or at least what is most probably invented. Some published that there were 10,000 miners! The film shows a contingent of about 100 but puts the number at 400. The spokesman for the Chernobyl liquidators in Tula, Vladimir Naumov, says there were 140. In fact, at the end of June 1986, they had completed the installation of a heat exchanger under reactor No. 4 (this was a precautionary measure, not necessarily necessary, clearly described in the Legasov Report26). The official cumulative dose from Naumov was 0.7 Sv27 , of which a good part was certainly received during rest periods in the radiating environment of the site (a few tens of mSv/h...). The episode of the request for fans and the explanation of the refusal of the person in charge - the soil would be radioactive and dust should not be put in suspension - is full of implausibilities:
- the soil in the gallery may not be contaminated, so it is possible to ventilate with the only risk being that of inhaling dust, a mining risk par excellence;
- the mere fact of digging raises dust!
- If the site were contaminated, the classic procedure would be applied to prevent radioactive dust from being suspended in the air: watering, as I saw done at Chernobyl in the spring of 1988 and at Hanford in the USA in 2000 when dump trucks dumped slightly contaminated soil into the huge excavation of several hectares that had been built to store it.
- This passage is a pure untruth, a "fake news" characterized to force the issue28. Its scenaristic advantage: it justifies the scene where the miners show off working naked in the middle of the radiation in an atmosphere of goguard fatalism that is quite Russian!
Almost everything else is invented or imagined, in the order of entertainment.
4. The effects of radioactivity on living beings.
The "bulletproof" property is exploited whenever possible and/or dramatically spectacular; ad nauseam for those who are not fooled. Excessiveness and forcing of the line are the rule. At the end of the first episode, a shocking sequence of humanity introduces a hackneyed leitmotiv: the oppressive spectacle of life struck by radioactivity:
- E1 (53:46), a dying bird falls on a pavement in Pripyat, where children have just been seen going to school... 1. a sick bird, on the verge of dying, does not have the strength to fly; 2. birds sense the ionisation29 of the air and fly away; 3. even if a bird had been affected by the radioactive discharges, as it does not fly before daybreak, it would not have shown a critical clinical sign after only a few minutes. This silly, but very suggestive image had already been used to thrill bird lovers in the well-received film "La Terre outragée". One should be amazed at the absence of any sign of fatigue or discomfort in the children... nobody noticed!
But much more impressive images had put the audience in condition from the start. A sort of appetizer before the addictive feeding:
- E1 (12:18), the face of the actor who plays the Valera plant employee is already more damaged after a few minutes than Ignatenko's, the real one, some ten days later (see below).
- At E1 (13:50), his colleague Viktor's, the actor, appears to have been burnt with an oxy-acetylene torch. The terrible damage of acute radiation does not show up so quickly.
- E1 (18:47), it took only a few seconds for the pseudo fireman who had held a piece of graphite in his gloved hands for a short time to have his palms burned to the third degree... should we laugh at this, since it is a big joke?
"Everything that is excessive is insignificant", a statement attributed to Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord. Obviously Craig Mazin takes his place here in the long line of authors and filmmakers who have embroidered on Chernobyl, from whom he is obviously often inspired. Let's illustrate the method with what probably most struck viewers with horror and compassion, the young firefighter Ignatenko in his sterile bubble - on the left a shot from the film, E3 (35:41); on the right an archive photo:
This is what I mean by "forcing the issue" to the point of dishonest excess. Death at the end of a SAR is sufficiently horrible to avoid, out of respect, adding to the "gore"... I have lightened the shot. But one must consider that the systematic semi-darkness of the "disturbing" sequences of the series does not serve the truth, as it is obvious that, like all the hospitals in the world, Hospital n° 6 was correctly lit! I won't come back to the puerile artifice of the abuse of these disturbing or miserable chiaroscuro lights, more obscure than clear, intended to condition the viewer's mind.
Meanwhile, in E2 (09:17), just before launching into the presentation of his atomic theory to the crisis cell gathered in the Kremlin, the pseudo Legasov proposes a description of the reality of the impact of radiation. He began by putting a figure on the radiological risk at the site of the power station, correcting in passing the assessment by the pseudo Shcherbina of information received from Chernobyl at the beginning of the morning, namely that the measured dose of 3.6 Röntgen [i.e. 36 mSv] would be equivalent to a lung x-ray:
"It is not equivalent to a chest X-ray, but rather to four hundred. ...] This fireman was holding [the piece of graphite, NOA] the equivalent of 4 million X-rays! "
This last sentence means nothing, in scientific terms that is. Let's try to decode the message sent to the viewer:
- to begin with, the dose received during a lung x-ray is on average 0.58 Röntgen, or 5.8 mSv (IRSN);
- Our pseudo Legasov claims sixty-six times less... As he is not a radiologist, we will excuse him!
- Based on his highly underestimated hypothesis of this medical dose, he estimates the dose received by the firefighter who held a piece of graphite in his hand at the equivalent of 4 million lung x-rays. Which, hang on, would mean (rule of 3) that the man received a dose of 360 Sv in a few seconds. To set the record straight, the gamma ray dose at ground zero from the Nagasaki bomb explosion was 'only' 250 Sv, let alone 103 Sv in Hiroshima (UNSCEAR), .
Has a good opportunity to keep quiet been lost? The sequence introduces the "scientific" presentation in the Kremlin war room, which we mentioned above: the bizarre atomic theory of the pseudo Legasov. The viewer is convinced (strictly speaking, his common sense is defeated) that he 'understands' the cause of the terrible power of nuisance of which he has just seen a manifestation.
- E5 (08:50), Legasov loses his hair... Grotesque, the pseudo Legasov would lose his hair one year after the accident, like a Nagasaki hibakusha one week after the explosion (cf. Japanese filmmaker Shōhei Imamura's film Black Rain). Hair loss (alopecia) can have two origins: external contamination of the scalp, which is always a bit greasy, by radioactive particles (beta emissions, electrons, are very effective) or strong irradiation of the whole body causing Acute Radiation Syndrome, ARS. Many children in Pripyat and in the villages near the plant have suffered from alopecia as a result of the external contamination. In the photo above, firefighter Ignatenko has lost his hair due to ARS. There is no way alopecia can occur several months later. This stupidly inappropriate image of the action of radiation has often been used to heighten anxiety, notably in the film, a model in this genre, La Terre Outragée, where the main heroine, who years later becomes a tour guide in Pripyat, It is clear that the scriptwriter of CHERNOBYL inserted this scene at the beginning of the last episode, before the trial is put on show, to reinforce the status of the pseudo Legasov as an expiatory victim after his politically incorrect "outing" at the end of the last hearing. But if the viewer has 'got' the pseudo Legasov's atomic theory, he will be inclined to attribute this effect to the durability of the radioactive threat, for the record:
"Most of these bullets will be dangerous for 100 years. Some will remain so for 50,000 years. "
- E3 (02:19), on site, next to Block 4, the three designated volunteers have gone into the basements to deal with the problem of a valve to open and water to drain. Pseudo Shcherbina, anxious, asks pseudo Legasov:
"- Is it possible that the water has already killed them?
Absurd, is it not? One more use of the image of "rifle bullets" to dramatise any mention of the effect of radiation. Radiation from contaminated water could kill you in minutes. The scene of the pseudo Legasov and Shcherbina gnawing at each other's throats takes on a Hitchkockian dramatic depth! Too bad, everything is wrong, except the anguish felt by the spectator, the desired effect.
One last example to remember, among many others, the pitiful fate of Lyudmilla, the wife of the young fireman Ignatenko. These two people really existed, but their ordeal is told with great fantasy; we follow them - a red "radiation effects" thread (cable?) - throughout the first four episodes, with a reminder-like addition in the "coda".
The introductions take place when the phone rings in the middle of the night on the 26th at the home of the Ignatenko couple, recently married. Lyudmilla is pregnant. Vasily, her husband's first name, is ordered to come urgently to the power station where a fire broke out a few minutes earlier. No worries, although the situation is out of the ordinary.
In the morning, rumours spread that something serious had happened. Lyudmilla panics and starts looking for Vasily. No one is willing to answer her. Finally she forces her way into the clinic and learns that her husband, seriously irradiated, has been taken to Moscow Hospital No. 6. She left Pripyat the next day and, against the advice of the doctors, managed to stay by Vasily's side until his death. Those who have not seen the series will easily imagine how much the viewer is invited to be moved again and again, more and more. The tragedy experienced by the Ignatenko couple would have reached its climax some eight months later on a public bench in the middle of an impersonal building complex where Lyudmilla sat, E4 (51:10). It's winter, a thin layer of snow and the low grey sky are a perfect match for Lyudmilla's bleak and desperate look... great directorial invention, isn't it? Suddenly Lyudmilla goes into labour. Soon afterwards we learn that her child, a little girl with a serious malformation, has not lived four hours.
Then comes a very unexpected dialogue between the two companions, the pseudo Legasov and Shcherbina, in which we are asked to believe that the mother survived after having been with her irradiated and contaminated husband for several days because her baby would have protected her by taking the radiation instead of him...
Let's come to the facts!
The real one: they were husband and wife. But Lyudmilla was six months pregnant at the time of the accident and she felt the first pains of childbirth when she had just arrived in Moscow and, overwhelmed by emotion, was meditating two months after his death on her husband's grave!30 This is far more beautiful and powerful: it revealed the deep love that united the wife to her partner. The scriptwriter did not care to render this profound human truth. Why not?
Because the foetus is hundreds of times more sensitive to the effects of radiation than the adult, because its rate of cell division is extremely high. In addition, Lyudmilla and the child she was carrying were exposed, like all the inhabitants of Pripyat, to high levels of radiation and contamination of air, clothing, buildings, vegetation and soil from the fallout of the accident before being evacuated on Sunday afternoon 27 April31. To these doses of the first 36 hours were added the doses received during the few days spent in the vicinity of her husband, doses that were certainly much lower, even if significant, because he had obviously been carefully decontaminated from the radioelements deposited on his body.
Finally, in the sixth month, organogenesis has long since been completed. A premature baby of this age can be kept alive. The malformations that would have been fatal to the newborn therefore had a pre-accident origin. The doses received before the evacuation of Pripyat were much higher than those caused by the mother's presence at her husband's bedside. On the other hand, these radiations, which were undoubtedly very high, could have caused irreversible organic damage to the child. To my knowledge, he was not autopsied. The cause or causes of his non-viability will remain unknown32. On the unknown, the temptation to embroider comes, irrepressible.
Hypothetically, having placed the child's birth in December makes the presence of radiation-induced congenital malformations credible. It is conceivable that, for the scriptwriter, this big lie is quite venial because of the interest in moving, pitying and frightening. The end justifies the means.
5. The chronology of displaced 'real' facts and invented facts.
We have just identified a clear breach of chronology in the story of the Ignatenko family. The procedure is wretched. Its extensive use by the scriptwriter could make a complete list of all such cheating really tedious.
The content of this sub-chapter therefore inevitably interferes with the listing of all the untruths, alternative facts, inventions, lies that can be generated by the "basic" chronological untruths, which we have already noted above, those that affect the account of the course and purpose of the operations at the power plant site. We will therefore make a selection and retain only those passages where the importance of the chronological lie outweighs the other possible selection criteria.
- E1 (26:09), it's 3:30 on the 26th; the pseudo Brioukhanov arrives at the power station; the real one claims to have arrived 10 minutes after being called... which is really plausible!
- E1 (50:20), the pseudo Legasov is woken up, sleeping alone in his bed33, by a phone call from the pseudo Boris Shcherbina; the pseudo Legasov is presented as a specialist, which he was not, of the RBMK reactors; he is summoned to the Kremlin at 14:00 to answer questions from the governmental commission created by "Mister" [not "Comrade"] Gorbachov, and of which he is automatically a member. But..., as we have seen, the real Shcherbina was in Barnaul that morning, in charge of leading a meeting of Party militants! Legasov mentions in his will that the commission will wait for him until around 4pm at the Moscow airport of Vnukovo before taking off for Kiev.
So everything is false, except that the real Legasov was appointed ex officio to the commission sent to Chernobyl. This is what we learn from the beginning of his will, which has already been quoted:
- he spent the night with his wife and woke up as usual on a Saturday, a day off;
- he decides to go to the weekly meeting of the Party cell (probably that of the Ministry of Energy) on which the Kurchatov Institute depends, of which he is the deputy director and not the director as his pseudo is presented to us (Alexandrov was the director);
- He then learns that there has been a "breakdown" at Chernobyl;
- At noon he goes to the office of the scientific secretary where he learns that a governmental commission has been created, that he is a member of it and that it will meet at 4 pm at Vnukovo airport;
- He then went to Kurchatov in search of an RBMK specialist to assist him and learned that four coded warning messages had been sent by Chernobyl during the night ("1 - 2 - 3 - 4", see below);
- It is only in Vnukovo that he learns that the real Shcherbina will head the commission and that he will arrive after the end of an ordinary meeting of militants of the Party he heads...
The lie is obviously to spare himself the vain pleasure of shooting a scene in a Kremlin-like setting.
- In E2 (13:30), the pseudo Legasov and Shcherbina take off, alone in a Mi8 helicopter on their way to Chernobyl. Here again, everything is rather stupidly wrong. The Mi8 does not have sufficient operational range to reach Chernobyl, 700 km away. Worse, we remember that the pseudo Legasov took advantage of the trip to give a stupid physics speech to the pseudo Shcherbina, claiming in passing that a "neutron is a ball... that revolves around uranium". The real Legasov flew in with a whole delegation of specialists and officials, landed in Kiev, then drove to Chernobyl in the late afternoon in a long line of black cars (Shcherbina would arrive later that evening). It was only in Pripyat that the first meeting of the commission was held. Thanks to this alternative treatment of the sequence, there are no other major players in Chernobyl than the pseudo Legasov and Shcherbina. Not having to deal with the complexity of the relationships within the numerous staff present at Chernobyl, by reducing the debates to singular exchanges between his two heroes, Craig Mazin can allow himself all the inventions and lies that pass through his head.
- E2 (25:01), on the afternoon of 26 April, a dosimetrist was given the mission of measuring the radioactivity as close as possible to block 4, sheltered in a tank. Two factual errors: historical, there was no dosimeter capable of measuring the very high radiation levels at the power plant (in any power plant in the world for that matter); technical, it was above all the value of the radioactivity on the roof that was needed, in anticipation of sending men to evacuate all the debris left by the explosion34.
To treat this crucial episode with respect to the truth would have required the introduction of Vasily Nesterenko. The scenario, barring the intervention of a lie of interstellar scope, would then have taken a different direction.
For the relation of the sequence of real facts would, from the start, have raised unbridgeable contradictions in the imagined scheme. Indeed, the human cost of the emergency operations (extinguishing the roof and turbine-generator room fires and starting to clean up the site) had immediately assumed terrifying proportions (more than a hundred SAR). This could not continue. However, it was necessary to continue as required by the order to restore the operating conditions of the three remaining blocks as soon as possible. So they continued until, on 30 April, four days after his arrival in Chernobyl, Legasov, the real one, realised - or was told - that the military nuclear research centre in Sosny near Minsk had counters capable of measuring the most extreme levels of radiation. He ordered its director, Vasily Nesterenko, to come to Chernobyl with one of these famous meters. During a 30-minute flight over the reactor on the night of 30 April to 1 May, Legasov, the real thing, and Nesterenko mapped the radioactivity on the roof of the facility. Nesterenko concludes his account of this frightening experience with these words:
"We measured 120 to 140 Sv/h at the reactor roof. When exposed to 6 Sv, a human being dies within a week. Of course, it went without saying that we professionals would be exposed to this level of radiation, even though we knew only too well the danger we were exposing ourselves to. Thanks to these measuring devices, many firefighters were saved from being exposed for shorter periods of time."35
The scenario thus completely misses the major significance of Chernobyl: an all-out, but also blitzkrieg, war against an agile, surprising, opportunistic, invisible, odourless radioactive enemy that leaves no respite, a ruthless and merciless adversary. But the scenario needs the "heroes" selected to carry it to spend several months dithering and dispersing. The choice of sentimentality, of psychologizing, of the display of states of mind as a counterpoint to a police investigation in a "totalitarian" political context leads to a total historical contradiction. There is no longer any real urgency... except to hesitate and investigate.
Blitzkrieg was also on the agenda at the UN: the IAEA, UNSCEAR, ICRP and WHO had to light all possible counter-fires to calm down an overheated public opinion. Were we going to wait until March 1987 to organise a solemn conference on Chernobyl as the scriptwriter asks us to believe? Of course not. We had to act as quickly as possible, and we did. The first major conference on Chernobyl took place from 25 to 29 August in Vienna, after an intense and well-coordinated soothing preparation that started on 28 April36 when fallout from the accident was detected in Sweden. All those who matter in the field were on hand to navigate as closely as possible37.
Text of the banner: "The strength of friendship between the Peoples of the USSR is stronger than Atom".
- E4 (06:25), the pseudo Legasov is in Pripyat during August, inactive and smoking, in a kind of Algeco! In August 1986, the real Legasov had a lot to do and was preparing the report to be presented on the 25th in Vienna to the IAEA! It was a collective work involving all the major Soviet administrations. So it took place in Moscow.
- E4 (08:01), this little dialogue serves to justify the stand-by situation prevailing on the site, one of the scriptwriter's fundamental lies.
Pseudo Shcherbina: - Why is the heart still exposed? Why wasn't it covered?
Pseudo Legasov: - We would like to, but we can't get close enough. The debris on the roof is made of graphite. As long as we haven't managed to push it into the reactor, anyone who gets close will die...
And shortly after, E4 (08:28),
Pseudo Legasov: - ... Katya, 1,000 Röntgen/h are detected there. It is estimated that staying there for two hours is fatal...
Let's start with the end: at this dose rate, it is in 30 minutes that one receives a lethal dose. What is the point of this dialogue? Nothing, except to justify the technological circus before sending men on missions lasting a minute or so. But the most important thing is not that.
The clean-up operations had been completed several weeks ago. The graphite pieces had not been the most irradiating debris... but since they were put in the "killer spotlight" at the beginning of this "beautiful and horrifying story", we won't tire the viewer's attention with the rest, pieces of nuclear fuel, for example. Moreover, as he doesn't know much about it, the scriptwriter didn't see the inconsistency between the sentence "Why wasn't it covered" and the long scene at the beginning showing the implementation of the drop operations intended to extinguish the reactor fire and stop the radioactive releases (we'll deal with the helicopter crash below, a semi alternative fact, quite revealing of one of Mazin's cheating ways).
The construction of the sarcophagus was in fact well underway. The post-truth gallops along with the bit in its teeth.
- E4 (23:40) and E4 (40:00), the two sequences totalling 14 minutes (!) are devoted to the hunting of domestic animals. The manipulation of the viewer is provocative here and it worked. I haven't read any criticism other than the cries of frightened virgins screaming about the violation of their sensitivity towards our animal friends. But nothing holds. Let's say we waited until August to remove all the animals from the evacuated area. More than three months after the departure of their masters, did dogs and cats remain wisely in the area? In the houses themselves? Didn't they go hunting (those who didn't die of hunger and the effects of radiation) in the surrounding forests? And what about the well-fed dog suckling her puppies inside her master's house, the most unbearable sequence for many... Fantasies about radiation on the one hand and the extremes to which a nuclear disaster leads have completely annihilated everyone's judgment. Mazin is really a great manipulator.
- E4 (37:39), after two glasses of vodka to give courage, we hear the pseudo Legasov and Shcherbina, in a poorly lit room, exchanging the following imaginary words with an officer:
"Why don't we leave the roof like this?
- It has to be cleaned. As it is, we can't build a sarcophagus.
- Without a sarcophagus we are still at 12,000 Röntgen [120 Sv... probably per hour, the value measured on 1 May by Nesterenko, partly obsolete since the core was buried under 5,000 tonnes of sand, lead, dolomite etc!]
- This is almost twice the Hiroshima bomb" [sic! A sentence that makes no sense scientifically speaking, probably inserted so that images of hibakusha come to the mind of the spectators, just to keep them in condition].
The rest is so stupid that we can't comment on it... no comment!
And that's it! This is how Mazin imposed a total misunderstanding of what had been undertaken at Chernobyl, without wasting a single hour, to stop the releases, isolate the core, decontaminate the site as best as possible and cover the ruin of Block 4. Very logically, the episode shows "human robots" arriving at Chernobyl in October with the mission of decontaminating the roof, while in reality the sarcophagus is finished and the preparation of the re-commissioning of Blocks 1 and 2 is well underway!
In English, the exercise could be called a "worst off"...
The second theme of the series, the investigation led by the imaginary Ulana Khomyuk, is an invention, an alternative fact par excellence. Here is the reason:
all the information on the specificities and weaknesses of the RBMKs is in the Legasov Report - or can be easily deduced from it when one masters the basic notions of the neutronics of fission reactors - presented for five hours by Legasov, the real one, at the IAEA Conference in Vienna on 25 August 1986! Here are the passages detailing the physical elements and characteristics that combined with the operators' errors to lead to an uncontrollable runaway chain reaction:
- "The possibility that there may be a positive void coefficient of reactivity during a phase transition in the coolant, which governs the power determined by the neutron flux during accidents; the high sensitivity of the neutron field to different types of reactivity perturbations requiring a complex control system to stabilise the energy density distribution in the core; [...]"
Chapter 1, Description of the Chernobyl plant with its RBMK reactors, p. 4.
- The AZ-5 button was pressed at 1h 23mn 40sec and the insertion of the shutdown rods started. By this time, the automatic control system rods, which had been used to partially compensate for the previous power rise, had already been lowered to maximum, but the fact that the team was operating with an unacceptably low excess reactivity meant that virtually all the remaining absorber rods were in the upper part of the core.
Under these conditions, the team's violations had seriously reduced the effectiveness of the emergency protection system. The overall reactivity of the core began to increase. Within 3 seconds the power exceeded 530 MW and the total excursion period lasted well under 20 seconds. The positive void coefficient made the situation worse. The only thing that partially compensated for the reactivity induced at that moment was the Doppler effect. "
Chapter 3, Analysis of the accident using a mathematical model, p. 20.
- To prevent neutron and gamma radiation scattering and to reduce the activation of structures in the area under the reactor, the displacers in the SCP38 channels are filled with graphite. (Figs 2.17 and 2.30). "Figures are missing from the copy of the report available on the internet
Appendix 2, Reactor Design - p. 10.
Nothing was hidden, although the role that displacers could play in particular sequences was not really well understood. And for good reason, a situation such as the one in which the operators had put the reactor was neither conceivable nor envisaged. As Nesterenko later remarked in summing up the drama: "You can't beat the fool". Mikhail Malko (see ref. in note 37 below) later analysed this issue in detail. If the information had been concealed, as 'demonstrated' by the invented anecdote of Ulana Khomyuk searching for two missing pages hidden in a secret archive, Malko would have mentioned the fact as one of the essential factors of the accident. The reality is more prosaic and much sadder: complex stability problems had been observed for years in certain control bar handling configurations. But the lack of a real safety culture had played its pernicious role: it had not had serious consequences, so the issue had not been pursued. It should be added here that the IAEA, whose mission it is to examine the safety of the RBMKs, which were said to be difficult to operate, should have taken up the matter long ago. Instead, it relayed the laudatory presentation39 of this technology by Boris Semenov, director of its Department of Nuclear Energy and Safety! Bureaucracy was bureaucracy, is bureaucracy and will always be bureaucracy.
It is the generalized laxity reigning in the USSR, but also in the IAEA, that must be blamed for the operators' lack of understanding of the fact that they had set the nuclear process on a fatal path. That said, the simulation of the accident carried out by Russian specialists using a mathematical model (see above) suggests that, in the state the core was in, without even considering the role of graphite displacers, the positive void coefficient was sufficient to trigger the fatal "nuclear excursion". However, it is likely that this simulation "without displacers" minimised the energy value of the first explosion40, the one that pulverised part of the fuel, and thus overestimated the proportion (95%) of the fuel that remained in the reactor. This had consequences for the subsequent decisions and their justifications...
In any case, the scenario has left the rut of historical misinterpretation to enter the unrestricted domain of novelistic invention. And in a novel anything goes, especially in bad novels, such as stationery novels or their equivalent, aeroplane movies: there is every interest and license to force the line as much as one wants to in order to keep the reader/viewer under influence.
- E1 (25:15), note that the pseudo Briukhanov has the voice of Marlon Brando in Francis F. Coppola's The Godfather... this choice is not accidental since he is presented as one of the 'bad guys'.
Let us return here to other passages in the testimony of the real Briukhanov41 :
At 1.23 a.m., when the explosion occurred, he was at home. Informed by telephone, he said he arrived within ten minutes (which is disputed by other witnesses). "When I arrived at the plant, I saw that the upper part of the fourth reactor had exploded and I immediately understood the seriousness of the accident," he explains today [which proves the lies strung like pearls on a necklace in the fictional scene of the first episode, NOA]. He immediately warned the party authorities and the Ministry of Energy in Moscow [the famous coded message "1- 2 -3 - 4" mentioned by Legasov in his will, NOA]. "And then I did what leaders do: give orders, make reports, distribute tasks." Documents show his signature at the bottom of lists of employees dismissed for "desertion". In other decrees, he granted a bonus of 150 roubles ($300) to those who had taken the most risks.
Impassive, with a gloomy look in his eyes, he recalls the inconsistencies: "The country was absolutely unprepared for such a catastrophe. [...] At the beginning of May, as I drove through the town of Chernobyl, I saw the evacuation of the livestock, while the people stayed behind."
The Party's priority was to avoid panic. This is why "on the day of the accident, it was forbidden to leave Pripyat in a private car. It was necessary to wait for the creation of a special commission on the 27th to give the evacuation order".
These sentences confirm the information provided by Legasov's will and the archives consulted by Marc Molitor for his book. This leads to the conclusion that most of the discussions in the pseudo control room belong to the category of alternative facts (first and last episodes).
- E1 (27:33), the pseudo Fomin talks about the explosion of a hydrogen tank while the real Briukhanov claims to have seen the gutted reactor and alerted Moscow as confirmed by the real Legasov in his will.
- E1 (48:00), the smoke plume is black, while the graphite burns producing white smoke, which the real Legasov noted in his description of the spectacle he saw when he arrived at the plant. But black is more disturbing, of course, so it's preferable.
- E1 (53:00), in the early morning of 26 April the forest would already be scorched by radiation! A backdrop suitable for the radioactive grand guignol.
- E2 (19:44), Slyunkov is presented to us as a kind of Al Capone. Was this really necessary, if not, by contrast, to accentuate all the human qualities of UK, the invented heroine? As in the American series, he is a solitary vice who drinks strong alcohol while on duty.
- E2 (32:40), it is 27 April, 30 hours after the explosion, and a giant crane has already been placed with its boom over the gutted Block 4 from which a thick column of black radioactive smoke is escaping! This "total" invention has only one aim, to make credible on that day an accident that occurred more than five months later, on 2 October 1986, the day after the completion of the construction of the sarcophagus42 , when the rotor of a helicopter (a polymer was still being sprayed that made the radioactive particles stick to the ground) hooked the cable hanging under one of the giant cranes that had been used for the work and remained in place. But in this series the sarcophagus is, as noted, never on the agenda. The scriptwriter did not want to deprive his viewers of the shiver of horror and pity that can only be provoked by the spectacle of a helicopter snagging the cable of a crane and plunging with its crew into the radioactive hell of the gutted reactor! The lie is typical: Mazin saw the film of this accident. He liked it so much that he had to include it in his series. But the date, October 2, the day after the completion of the sarcophagus, obviously did not suit him since there is never any mention of a sarcophagus. The problem was that a giant crane was needed next to the reactor a few hours after the explosion. Well, that's no problem, the synthetic images will provide it!
- E2 (38:10), it is still the 27th in the middle of the day. The pseudo Shcherbina receives a call saying that the Chernobyl cloud has been detected in Sweden... Bad luck, on the 27th, the cloud has indeed reached the Swedish power station of Forsmark, but it's Sunday and the presence of radioactivity will only be detected the next day by a technician in charge of monitoring radioactivity. The point of such a mistake is beyond comprehension.
- E2 (38:33), pseudo Shcherbina: "The wind is blowing towards Germany..."... The logic of this statement also escapes us because the wind was blowing towards Sweden and will only turn later, reaching Germany on April 30.
- E2 (39:00), the "easily avoidable" mistake of children in school uniforms on a Sunday was obviously picked up by many smart kids.
There are other minor mistakes about the colour of the buses and their number. Those concerning the myth of "China Syndrome" have been mentioned above, and, moreover, have been the subject of serious criticism in the "post-CHERNOBYL" press ....
- E3 (08:35), the meltdown would have started only 4 days later (!) while the residual thermal power had considerably decreased (see "L'Electro-nucléaire en France", Ed. du Seuil, 1981, p. 174); in Fukushima, the breakthrough of the reactor vessel by the molten fuel took place in the evening of 11 March, a few hours after the accident.
- E3 (09:53), it is May 2, 1986, the fire, almost extinguished on April 30 according to the scenario... is still almost extinguished! In fact, it will only be extinguished on 6 May after part of the structures have collapsed under the weight of the 5,000 tonnes of various materials dropped by the helicopters.
This is followed by a conversation on the subject of the 'China syndrome'. Legasov's report deals in some detail with the monitoring of the temperature underneath Block 4. Contrary to a persistent legend, there was never any question of injecting liquid nitrogen to freeze the ground or put out the fire. Instead, the site's nitrogen manufacturing unit was used to inject gaseous nitrogen into the destroyed reactor to cool it down without the risk of activating the graphite fire (a graphite fire cannot be extinguished with water; instead, superheated graphite reacts with water to produce hydrogen and carbon monoxide, both of which are flammable in air).
- E3 (13:05), while the description of the three phases of Acute Radiation Syndrome by the pseudo Legasov is almost correct. However, in yet another 'pandering' by the author of fantasies commonly shared in the public, it is not the damage to the DNA that causes the collapse that leads to death but, as the same pseudo Legasov then mentions in the sequence, the destruction of the blood vessels - the human tissues most sensitive to ionising radiation - and of the intestine.
- E3 (16:00), and more on the "China syndrome"! On 2 May, with the release of almost all the gaseous fission products and a large proportion of the volatile fission products, the residual power had fallen to about 90% of its value of 30 MW43 at the time of the accident. For several days there has not been enough power left to keep the corium molten (corium is a mixture of fuel and metal). Any physicist or nuclear engineer knows this, except the pseudo Legasov.
- E4 (introduction, during August), here the director spares the viewers' sensibility; we can only hear the slaughter of the cow. Thank you! We would have cried... This scene is a post-truth, in the strict sense: the first wave of evacuations, before those of 1989, has been over since mid-May. The pet killer drives this point home in E4 (13:25): "Over there, they're evacuating the population, I think. "
- E4 (during the autumn), in real life, as soon as the reactor fire was extinguished on May 6, 1986, for about six weeks, Block 4 was the scene of several thousand assaults by small squads of young soldiers dressed in protections as symbolic as they were ineffective. Some carried blocks of graphite in their hands and threw them into the gaping hole left by the explosion and partly filled by all the material dropped to smother the blaze. Others pushed smaller debris away with large squeegees or dumped shredded metal plates and other structural parts into skips. There were also remnants of atomic fuel and other components of the core itself, which littered the area. The radioactive enemy was everywhere, and its capacity to cause harm was in fact impossible to appreciate by those who faced it. They were instructed to do this or that in so many seconds and return to the shelter, or what officially stood in for it.
The fiction makes it seem as if they waited until autumn to start the battle! And the scriptwriter claims to have been informed by the best sources...
The fate of all those soldiers sacrificed to save the image of atomic energy was beautifully described in the film The Sacrifice44 by Wladimir Tchertkoff and Emanuela Andreoli. It shows scenes of this terrifying battle, and how, afterwards, radioactivity took its time to debilitate and then finish off four of these soldiers whose mission at Chernobyl had made friends.
During these operations, all the USSR's expertise in civil engineering, steel construction and other technical and industrial specialties was put to work to design the tomb-sanctuary that was to be built around Block 4 to isolate it from the rest of the world. The programme was colossal given the pharaonic dimensions of the building45.
Teams of mainly civilian workers took over46. The Legasov Report mentions - in the past tense - on page 2 of its Annex 3 the list of site safety operations already carried out, allowing the construction of the sarcophagus to begin47 :
- removal of debris and contaminated equipment
- decontamination of buildings
- removal of contaminated soil;
- covering the ground with slabs or clean earth;
- then laying a polymer film over the entire surface of the decontaminated site (between 15 and 35 ha).
Since this fourth episode ends at the end of 1986, it should be mentioned that the sarcophagus was completed in October, so that the preparation of blocks 1 and 2 could be carried out at full speed. They were put back into industrial use at the end of December. According to the script, the "cleaning" of block 4 is still in progress... one continues to wonder what story the series is telling.
- E4 (58:40), December 1986, the military camp dismantled in June-July in real life is still there, stretching almost as far as the eye can see. The cleaning of the roof has only just been completed... In real life, the sarcophagus is finished and Blocks 1 and 2 have been put back into industrial use. Insulation and decontamination work in the common areas of Blocks 3 and 4 is ongoing (the restart of Block 3 was only possible one year later. I entered its control room on 26 April 1988; the reactor was providing its nominal power: the ambient radioactivity corresponded to the limit of exposure of workers in force at that time, i.e. 50 mSv/year, not counting the doses received when moving around the site, where I measured a dose rate of the order of 10 µSv/h, 100 times the normal background noise in this region)
That said, there is an unbridgeable chasm - the still gaping ruin - between fiction and reality.
- E5 (beginning) the caricature of two scenes of preparation, at the power station with the careerist calculations of the pseudo Fomin and Diatlov in the hours preceding the accident, then in Moscow, before the trial, with the "discreet" meeting between the pseudo Legasov and Charkov, from the KGB, will hopefully not have escaped anyone, although .... What can be retained is the implication in the question of the pseudo Charkov to the pseudo Legasov about his state of health. The question and answer are elliptical, which dispenses with the problems of the real Legasov48.
- E5 (08:40), it is March 1987. The pseudo Charkov asks the pseudo Legasov about his performance at an imaginary conference that had just taken place in Vienna at the IAEA headquarters. There was no conference on Chernobyl in Vienna in early 1987!
- E5 (07:05), the pseudo Charkov retains from the Legasov Report only the questioning of the operators of the power plant, which would make the pseudo Legasov responsible for the designation of the "scapegoats" to be judged and condemned during the trial programmed in Chernobyl for July (on this point, the chronology is respected, just like that of the date, hour, minute and second of the accident!) However, the intrinsic instability of the RBMKs is, as we have seen, precisely described in the report, without even considering the chapter devoted to the mathematical simulation of the accident. These technical data give meaning to the list of huge mistakes made during that fatal night. In this sequence, everything happens as if it had been simple to settle the problem of responsibility. If the provisional preservation of the quality of Soviet nuclear technology was given priority, it was not without internal debate and controversy.
This is a good example of the use of biased and ultimately misleading innuendo in the service of the Chernobyl post-truth project that Craig Mazin sold to the producers of the series. Footnote 47 sheds sufficient light on the distortion of reality regarding the 'Hero of the Soviet Union' award that would have been the reward for the pseudo Legasov if he had persevered with his lies. Soyfer's account also reveals the deep-seated reasons for the reluctance of those who knew about his past to distinguish the real Legasov: they all knew that he was a firefighter, in spite of himself, but a convinced and obviously unwitting arsonist who caused the disaster.
In E5 (12:50), the car that takes the pseudo Legasov and Shcherbina to Chernobyl city where the trial is to take place is said to be driving along one of the radioactive cemeteries where the large contaminated equipment was collected during the liquidation of the accident: helicopters, trucks and all kinds of machines. In short, the viewer is asked to believe that the Soviets were stupid enough to create these highly radioactive graveyards on the side of a road, even a road used for driving in the exclusion zone.
Anyone who went to Chernobyl and walked around the area at the time (yours truly) obviously did not observe anything of the sort. On the other hand, he noted the care taken not to take contamination out of the zone, by changing vehicles at the checkpoints: no vehicle used for travel in the zone was to leave it.
However, the vehicles that dropped off the pseudo Legasov and Shcherbina in front of the building where the trial was to begin were not vehicles of the Chernobyl Kombinat, but official vehicles coming directly from Kiev. This is a mistake in the script. But maybe we're not that close anymore...
- E5 (19:35): There seems to be too much public for a trial that is supposed to take place behind closed doors... A Glasnost' effect? If this was the case, the director could have collected enough testimonies to reconstruct the proceedings with such precision!
By the way, there are quite a few technical errors in the explanations of the pseudo-witnesses Shcherbina, Khomyuk and Legasov. As all this sequence is imagined... or built from memories of hypothetical people from the audience interviewed thirty years later by the director, we will not burden the boat any further.
The "coda": E5 (1:00:13) to (1:05:46).
Under the guise of a justification of his good intentions, the author of the series seeks only one thing: to persuade the audience that they have seen the quintessential truth about Chernobyl. This is the ultimate in the art of lying: inventing a post-truth, in the form of news, which would legitimize the "liberties" taken with the truth in the script.
- E5 (1:00:30), "Audio tapes..."; an intensive internet search only allowed me to find a trace of one, as a voice-over for a video montage (see note 27 above). The others will have to be found.
- E5 (1:00:41), "Following his death, Soviet officials came to recognise the defects of the RBMK reactors. "They are precisely described in the Legasov Report, presented in Vienna on August 25, 1986; as well as the technical measures to be taken to remedy them. This was the least, given the expectations of all the international experts for whom the question of abandoning this type of reactor was very urgent.
- E5 (1:01:12), "Some challenged the official version of events and were denounced, arrested and convicted"; no trace of this on the most critical sites dealing with Chernobyl. The six convicts in the Chernobyl trial were released early. As mentioned above, I met Aleksandr Kovalenko at the plant site on 26 April 1988, where he was working as the Communications Director of the Chernobyl Kombinat. However, he had been sentenced nine months earlier to three years in prison for having been Head of the reactor department of Block 4 on the day of the accident49 ... Such leniency does not sit well with convictions for contesting the verdict. There were some, including those of Briukhanov, Soyfer and many others, who were not bothered. We are waiting for a reliable source of examples of convicted protesters.
- E5 (1:01:22), "The character of Ulana Khomyuk was created to represent them and to honour their commitment to truth and humanity"; only the violins are missing... And this is how the truth becomes hostage to an accumulation of lies and exaggerations, lies and exaggerations in an organised way, if you will.
- E5 (1:02:12), Diatlov died of severe heart failure, the most frequent cause of premature death among liquidators, far ahead of cancers (see The Atomic Comedy for the historical reasons that "restricted" the effects of radiation exposure to cancers and genetic mutations; all the others, the most numerous, are not officially recognised).
- E5 (1:03:12), "Of the people who watched the fire from the bridge, it was reported that none survived. It is now known as the Bridge of Death"; no trace of this information, which is nothing more than an urban legend transformed into pure fake news that is very useful for the promotion of Chernobyl tourism50 , with a walk on this bridge on the agenda..., a tourism against which the virtuous Craig Mazin did not fail to speak out.
- E5 (1:03:22), "400 miners... it is estimated that 100 of them died before the age of 40"; there were 140... according to Naumov (cf. note 21), to whom the figure of 450 is attributed in another statement... (In fact, 140 came from Tula, south-east of Moscow, and the others from Donbass. Craig Mazin did not understand that there were two teams.) ) However, the Tula district is, along with Novozybkov, one of the most contaminated in Russia by radioactive fallout from Chernobyl51 . Yet it has not been evacuated. It is a poor district. People resort to contaminated food resources (mushrooms, berries, milk, game, garden vegetables etc.). That miners from this region who worked for a good month at Chernobyl between mid-May and the end of June had a reduced life expectancy is obvious, not because they worked underground in uncontaminated soil protected from radiation by several metres of concrete and earth, but because they spent more time at the plant site than most of the liquidators who worked there in the first weeks. Returning after such an ordeal to a contaminated area must have aggravated the effects of their exposure to Chernobyl. Moreover, there is no mention of their fate in the large compilation compiled by academics A. Yablokov and V. Yablokov and V. Nesterenko, and Dr. A. Nesterenko52. And who is this "one" who "estimates"?
E5 (1:04:52), the cherry on top of the mille-feuille of lies, "In 2017, the construction of the Chernobyl Sarcophagus was completed at a cost of about two billion dollars". Thus all the tricks of the Chernobyl truth are covered by this caption under the photo of the Chernobyl Arch, its super containment, whose name in English is Chernobyl New Shelter, and certainly not Sarcophagus, a term reserved for the one completed on October 1, 1986, of which not a single image appears in the fictional CHERNOBYL, which is supposed to cover the period April 25, 1986 - July 31, 1987! 53
Craig Mazin's winning calculation.
Thus ends a five-hour long "docu-drama" claiming to inform the public about what happened at Chernobyl on 26 April 1986 and what followed!
My uncompromising interpretation responds to Mazin's arrogance. He is a cheat who has gambled on the common ignorance of the course of the Chernobyl crisis. He has chosen to do something that Americans and westernised audiences in general are used to: formatted scripts following an agreed-upon pattern with axe-edged situations and heroes. It is the variety of events that highlight these heroes and give consistency to the script, as well as the price given to the direction itself, that give the impression of originality, and here, in this case, of truth.
The critics don't know any more than the public, even those who pose as specialists; their reviews provide a thousand proofs of this.
Had I shared the common level of ignorance about atomic energy, radioactivity and its effects, and the Chernobyl crisis in particular, then, like everyone else, I would have been seduced and would have convinced myself that I had learned the essentials of what one needs to know in order to speak intelligently about it.
If I had belonged to the corporation of series, film and other audiovisual production critics, I would probably not have hesitated for long to make my opinion known, looking for what grain of salt could distinguish me from my colleagues, sisters and competitors. I would have unwittingly fed the imposture.
The director's contempt for the immense serious work, without literary pretension, of the works that everyone should consider as references when he had the project of making a work dealing with the greatest industrial, ecological and human catastrophe of all times. The laziness of his commentators, on which he has safely staked his claim, deserves no better: they have generally allowed themselves to be complacently deceived, without even noticing the internal inconsistencies and contradictions of the scenario. A sort of coalition of interests was thus formed for the benefit of the series' broadcast and the careers and incomes of its director and producer. Having CHERNOBYL on your CV, press-book, catalogue or business card ensures a bright future.
On the other hand, having Chernobyl and its radioactive fallout in your life makes things a little more difficult...
So let's take a closer look, with one example among many (concerning about fifteen thousand people when the entire population in a similar situation exceeds one million), at how the legacy of Chernobyl is passed on from generation to generation.
An example of the health consequences in the population: the health situation in Stolin.
Stolin is a district town with 14,000 inhabitants, located 250 km from Chernobyl. Below are two reports from the district hospital.
From the UN Bulletin, Belarus office, January-February 2008.
"The Stolin district regularly has one of the highest birth rates among rural areas of Belarus: 1120 children were born here in 2007, or 13.3 per 1000 inhabitants. However, according to Raisa Misura, Director of the Central Hospital in Stolin, 60% of women of childbearing age (18-40) and more than 84% of pregnant women have some kind of pathology. As a result, the birth of a perfectly healthy child is an exceptional event. Almost 90% of newborns fall into Health Group II or III.
"A low level of knowledge and a lack of practical radio-ecological skills require redoubled efforts", Raisa Misura stressed. "
[Group II, that of frequently ill children; Group III, that of chronically ill children, NOA].
Graphical extracts from the health and demographic statistics of the Stolin district for the period 1986-2011.
1. A morbidity rate of over 100% means that, on average, the inhabitants have contracted more than one illness recorded by a doctor during the year.
2. Contrary to popular belief, the increase in the number of cancers, except for thyroid cancer in children and adults, is not the most significant consequence of radiation exposure. Cancers are slightly more numerous over the years, but what is most important is that they occur earlier and are more aggressive, especially breast cancer. The question of the number of congenital malformations is biased by the systematic use of therapeutic abortions when a malformation is detected on ultrasound. Nevertheless, the number of malformations continues to rise, particularly congenital heart defects (about 25% of children in Minsk, 500 km from Chernobyl) and congenital spastic diplegia, a neuromotor disorder that leaves children in wheelchairs (now about 20 times more common than in France in two villages for which data is available, Olmany and Diatlovichi, both located more than 200 km from Chernobyl, in two different regions)
3. It should be noted that there has been no improvement between 2007 and 2011, despite the efforts of the director of the hospital's paediatric department, Dr Raisa Misura. The problem is beyond the capacity of the medical institution.
4. Back to the conclusions of the series. Counting the number of deaths is meaningless: "the quota is one per person" according to the bad joke of an English expert at the IAEA Conference in Vienna in August 1986 about the controversy over the forecasts. What matters is the life expectancy and health status of the survivors. The data presented in the book cited in footnote 50 captures the terrible fate of the liquidators and the decline of the population.
The series completely missed the point: in addition to a truthful account of the ins and outs of the accident at the site and in the arcana of Soviet and international nuclear powers and radio protection - which it did not do, since it strings together "alternative facts" - it should have dealt with the continuing deterioration in the health of the population of the regions affected by the cloud and its fallout. For, in the words of academician Alexey Yablokov: "Chernobyl is a growing tree! ".
1 President of the association Children of Chernobyl Belarus <http://enfants-tchernobyl-belarus.org>; author of La Comédie Atomique, La Découverte, 2016 and, with director Marc Petitjean, of the film Chernobyl, le monde d'après, ETB, 2018.
3 'The creator of the "CHERNOBYL" series has a message to get across', <http://www.slate.fr/story/178467/chernobyl-serie-interview-createur-craig-mazin-nucleaire-urss>
4 Each quote from the film is indexed with the episode number E1, E2 etc, followed by the corresponding time code (mn:sec) in the episode.
5 The only true facts: there was an atomic disaster at the Chernobyl power station on 26 April 1986 at 1h 26mn 44 sec, and the trial of the designated perpetrators from 7 to 31 July 1987 in Chernobyl city. Between these two events everything is wrong, if not outrageous.
6 As he took his leave, he pronounced these two terrible sentences: "All casualness condemns itself. This is the greatest lesson of Chernobyl" (remarks collected on 27 April 1988, in the shadow of the sarcophagus).
7 Citing the respect owed to all the past, present and future victims of this tragedy, Craig Mazin publicly protested against the voyeuristic tourism in vogue at Chernobyl, on which, aware of the potential attraction generated by the success of CHERNOBYL, the Ukrainian government is counting for the economic development of the region. This final tartuffery had the desired effect of reinforcing the idea that the five episodes of the mini-series honestly deliver the full, naked truth, with all due respect.
8 Many consider that Chernobyl contributed greatly to the break-up of the USSR and the sinking of communist ideology. The atomic religion, however, has done better than to survive.
9 Marc Molitor, Chernobyl, Déni passé, menaces futures, Racine-RTBF, 2011, p. 41.
10 Viktor Brioukhanov, Director of the power plant at the time of the accident, in an interview published by Libération on 16 April 1996, four years after his early release (he had been sentenced to 10 years in prison at the end of the trial, see below).
11 Marc Molitor, ibid. p. 33
12 Manual for Survival, a Chernobyl Guide to the Future, Allen Lane, Penguin, 2019 (Part II, Hot Survival, pp. 81-119)
13 USSR State Committee on the Utilization of Atomic Energy, The Accident at the Chernobyl' Nuclear Power Plant and its Consequences, Information compiled for the IAEA Experts' Meeting, 25-29 August 1986, Vienna, pp. 40; later cited as the "Legasov Report").
14 The Atomic Comedy, op. cit., pp. 28-30.
15 cf. <https://blogs.mediapart.fr/yves-lenoir/blog/110419/33eme-anniversaire-du-debut-du-desastre-memoriam-tchernobyl-1987> and <http://enfants-tchernobyl-belarus.org/doku.php?id=base_documentaire:articles-1987:etb-208> restitution of the Russian article published in French translation: Soyfer, V. N. 1987, Tchernobyl: Fatalité ou accident programmé? "Kontinent" (Paris), no. 2, pp. 9-17; Valery Soyfer is an eminent biologist who has worked in the largest Soviet institutes, including the Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Research. A committed dissident in the struggle for human rights, he was stripped of his citizenship in 1988. See his biography: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valery_Soyfer>.
16 Доменти № 9-14 Доповідна запис а начальни; а УКДБ УРСР по м. Києв; та Київсь ій області олові КДБ УРСР про радіаційн обстанов, що с лалася районі розташвання Чорнобильсь ої АЕС внаслідо аварії 9 вересня 1982 р., Совершенно секретно, лично.
17 Cf., in particular, serious, superbly written without literary artifice:Glenn Alan Cheney, Journey to Chernobyl. Encounter in a Radioactive Zone, Academy Chicago Publishers, Chicago, 1995 (testimonies collected in Kiev in 1991, chapter Pripyat, translation AGONE-N°15-1995-ebook). Unsourced publications have mentioned 15,000 short-term deaths among evacuees. This is clearly false and has never been confirmed.
18 "Immediately after the beginning of the accident, the population of Pripyat was advised to reduce the time spent outside and to keep the windows closed. On 26 April, all outdoor activities were forbidden in all kindergartens and schools and, in addition, a prophylactic iodine treatment was given", Legasov Report, p. 40.
19 As for the fate of the evacuated inhabitants, Legasov is not even close to a reassuring lie, a lie that was broadcast post-mortem in his will, a lie that is therefore part of what the public considers to be an ultimate confession, a supreme truth: "But I repeat that the evacuation took place at a time when the level of contamination in the city was not yet very high. It was later shown that apart from those who were at the plant at the time of the accident, no one from the civilian population - about 50,000 inhabitants - was seriously affected. Not seriously" is vague, and certainly does not mean "not at all"...
20 Grigori Medvedev, La vérité sur Tchernobyl, Albin Michel, Paris, 1990, p. 34 (quoted in Marc Molitor, Chernobyl, Déni passé, menace future, Racine-RTBF, 2011, pp. 20-21).
21 No reviewer, benevolent or perplexed, of the series has noticed that we are entering the realm of pure phantasmagoria here, and that no scientific background is needed to realise this. This is where we recognise a mental mechanism widely exploited in well-made science-fiction films: the succession of violent, repulsive, moving or terrifying scenes takes you by storm. Your critical mind and ability to analyse are neutralised.
22 It should announce a dose rate, in this case probably 8 mR/h, or 80 µSv/h (800 times the normal background).
23 See the reconstruction put online by IRSN: <http://www.irsn.fr/FR/popup/Pages/tchernobyl_video_nuage.aspx>
24 In his detailed 2005 account based on his 1986 notes, Nesterenko provides two values of ambient radioactivity: 30 µSv/h in Sosny on the morning of 28 September (the value where fallout radioactivity is preponderant), and 8 µSv/h next to the Central Committee building of the CP in Minsk on the evening of 29 September. No previous measurements of which he was aware.
25 Let us push the theory to its limits: all the radioactivity from the nuclear power plants would pass through the enclosures and into the environment. There would be no containment possible... with no effect since it would not interact with anything!
26 On 4 and 5 May, the effective temperature of the fuel still inside the reactor had stabilised and was now beginning to decrease (...) Calculations show: - that the maximum fuel temperature could not have reached the fuel melting point; - that the fission products were reaching the fuel surface in aggregates which could lead to overheating exclusively localised at the fuel cladding interface (...) These factors indicate that melting of the materials surrounding the fuel and migration of the fuel were unlikely. Page 26.
The problem of lowering the fuel temperature was solved at the same time. To lower the temperature and reduce the oxygen concentration, nitrogen was injected under pressure from the compressor station into the reactor vessel. By 6 May, the temperature in the reactor vessel had stopped rising and had begun to fall with the formation of a stable convective flow of air from the core to the outer atmosphere. To take double insurance against the extremely small risk (even if it was a possibility in the first days after the accident) that the lowest levels of the structure would be destroyed, the decision was taken to urgently construct some kind of heat escape horizon under the building's foundations. This took the form of a horizontal heat exchanger on a concrete slab. By the end of June the work was completed. A significant degree of stabilisation had been achieved since the end of May. The damaged parts of the reactor building have been stabilised, and the radiological situation has improved as the short-lived isotopes have disappeared. The dose rate value is around 1 röntgen/h in the areas surrounding the reactor, the machine room and the control and protection areas. Radioactive emissions to the atmosphere are mainly in the form of wind-blown aerosols. Residual activity does not exceed about 10 curies per day. Heat emission over the reactor is stable. The maximum temperatures of the various parts of the reactor are a few hundred degrees centigrade and show a regular tendency to lose 0.5°C per day. The reactor slab is intact and about 96% of the fuel has remained inside the reactor, the steam headers and the lower water pipes. Page 28
From June onwards, the temperature in the structures under the reactor did not exceed 45°C, which shows that the heat removal is going well. Page 30
27 Cf : <https://www.la-croix.com/Archives/2000-12-18/La-mort-lente-des-liquidateurs-de-Tchernobyl-_NP_-2000-12-18-123270>
28 The film illustrating Legasov's first oral recording does show clothed miners at work: TC (10:10) to (10:30) from <https://vimeo.com/346515352>.
29 Radiation ionises the air. Pierre and Marie Curie had used this phenomenon in their search for natural radioactive elements, which led to the discoveries of polonium and radium during 1898.
30 See <https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2011/03/18/porter_the_sad_tale_of_chernobyl_victim_vasily_ignatenko.html>
31 Cf. in this regard notes No. 23, 25, 28 and 30 from the Chernobyl cell of the Ukrainian KGB in The Atomic Comedy, p. 206 and the full text at <http://www.sbu.gov.ua/sbu/control/uk/publish/article?art_id=43297&cat_id=39895>
32 That said, why on earth accuse this poor mother of endangering the child she was carrying? I am attempting a hypothesis here: in the American pro-life context it might not be trivial. If a fetus can protect its mother from lethal radiation, then the argument that an abortion would be permitted when the mother's life is at stake is not without its force. To remove a foetus would indeed be to kill the potential saviour of its mother! It would deprive it of a Christ-like destiny... the crime would take on a transcendental dimension. Whatever the intention of its inventor, the question of the relevance of this exchange remains.
33 Note the shabbiness of the housing assigned by Craig Mazin to the pseudo Legasov. As a prominent member of the military-atomic-industrial Nomenklatura, like Nesterenko, Legasov enjoyed a large and luxurious home. It is a constant in the series, the choice of sad, miserable, outdated and badly lit interiors... "Soviet", therefore, except when it is the Kremlin, of course.
34 An inexplicable error in the script must be noted here: the measurement takes place on 26 April, at the risk of irradiating the driver of the armoured vehicle and the dosimetrist, but we wait until September (4th episode) to start the cleaning operations! The incoherence is obvious... but, since everyone was captivated by the images and the false suspense (in the sense of an alternative fact), no one noticed it...
35 See Yves Lenoir, op. cit., p. 32. Two things should be noted here: 1. the bravery of Legasov, Nesterenko and the pilot (Nesterenko and Legasov were treated in Hospital No. 6 and the pilot died of acute leukaemia a few months later); 2. at that time, it is clear that Nesterenko did not contest the strategy adopted at Chernobyl. His measurements were used to determine the intervention times of the liquidators in order to limit their theoretical exposure to the 250 mSv regulatory dose limit in such circumstances. But it appears that many of the soldiers sent to the Chernobyl theatre were instead exposed to a dose in the order of the military dose limit of 1 Sv for troops engaged in an atomic battle. The after-effects that many of them endured afterwards attest to this. The adjective 'saved' is to be considered with a certain sad irony.
36 See The Atomic Comedy, pp. 27-37, op. cit.
37 cf. Walter C. Patterson, Chernobyl, the Official Story, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November 1986, p. 34 36.
38 SCP: Control and Protection System. For full details on the role of displacers in increasing core reactivity: Mikhail V. MALKO, The Chernobyl Reactor: Design Features and Reasons for Accident, <https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/025a/70432d683db2981f012c8f1e5d50d85f2865.pdf>.
39 IAEA BULLETIN, VOL.25, No. 2, June 1983
40 By the way: in the film you hear only one explosion, the first one, and the least powerful one. Everyone knows that there were two.
41 Ibid, interview in Libération, note 10 above.
42 It can be viewed at URL <https://vimeo.com/334171733>. The passage is between CT (07:30) and (07:41)
43 This is the correct value displayed by the control room sensor in the reconstruction shown in E5 (31:20).
44 cf. <https://vimeo.com/334380470>
45 See Legasov Report: Conservation scheme of Unit 4 (p. 136) and photos of its construction progress before the end of August 1986 (pp. 140, 143, 144, 160 and 213).
46 See some passages showing the construction site and more or less complex phases of the sarcophagus construction: <https://vimeo.com/334171733>.
47 The three figures 6, 7 and 8 (pp. 55-57) of the Legasov Report show the plan, section and perspective views of the sarcophagus under construction (under the title Isolation and encasement of Unit 4). They are repeated and detailed in the photos on pp. 136, 140, 143, 144, 171, 187 and 213. The photo on p. 160 shows the giant cranes in action above Unit 4 during the construction of the sarcophagus.
48 "Legasov was bitterly disappointed, according to Gubarev, to learn that he was the only member of the team he had worked with at Chernobyl not to be named a 'socialist work hero', a prestigious national award. The vote of his peers by 100 votes out of 129, excluding him from a seat on the scientific and technical council of the Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy, where he worked as deputy director, had devastated him. “He was shattered by this unexpected setback,” says Gubarev. "Archives, Oct, 17. 1988, UPI <https://www.upi.com/Archives/1988/10/17/Chernobyl-scientists-suicide-described/3864593064000/>.
Vladimir Gubarev, Scientific Editor of the official daily Pravda, was a friend of Valery Legasov. I met him on 28 April 1988 in Kurchatov, two days after the academician's suicide. He dedicated to me the English version of his play Sarcophagus which had just been put into the repertoire of the Royal Shakespeare Company. This play tells the story of Chernobyl, as seen from Hospital N°6 where the major irradiated people from Chernobyl are treated and where some of the past irradiated people survive, including the "Immortal", who should have died a long time ago, but survived. A sort of mascot for the department of large irradiated people and a mentor for the new patients.
49 Moscow News, No. 42, 13-19 October 1989.
50 Interviewed by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Adam Higginbotham, author of Midnight in Chernobyl, a well researched new history, reacts to this supposed bridge where the inhabitants of Pripyat gathered to observe the disaster and then all died: "I have not been able to find any evidence to corroborate this event. So I was able to talk to a person who was seven or eight years old at the time and who stopped his bike on the bridge to try to see what was happening at the reactor, which was only three kilometres away. But he is not dead. A priori, he is in perfect health".
51 Both received radioactive rain, triggered by silver iodide, to protect big cities and strategic facilities.
52 See: http://enfants-tchernobyl-belarus.org/doku.phpid=bibliographie#chernobylconsequences_of_the_catastrophe_for_people_and_the_environment
53 Two archives on Chernobyl in 1987 and the trial verdict: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxs21-PbSkE> and <https://m.ina.fr/video/CAB87026982/tchernobyl-jugement-video.html>
54 CPS: Control and Protection System. For full details on the role of the "displacers" in increasing the reactivity of the reactor core: Mikhail V. MALKO, The Chernobyl Reactor: Design Features and Reasons for Accident, <https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/025a/70432d683db2981f012c8f1e5d50d85f2865.pdf>.
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