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Chernobyl series on HBO

tmtomh

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Just saw the final episode. It did not disappoint, and my very high opinion of the series after 4 episodes is unchanged after the finale.
 

Blumlein 88

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I've worked for a gov't bureaucracy in a utility (not nuclear). The situation isn't that much different than Chernobyl sometimes. Those gov't situations seem immune to results oriented management vs private industry. It is worse and cover ups could be done more often in a communist country, but it is more about gov't bureaucracy than anything. There was a situation where another person and I were sent elsewhere for the 'crime of knowing'. We were complaining of a glaring deficiency in an upcoming project. The people running all this didn't want to hear it. So they just moved us away to other things. Our complaint would have cost less than $200k to fix up front in a $17 million project. The project was done without the fix. It blew up the first time it was operated for exactly the reason we were complaining. It cost an additional $35 million to address afterwards. Did anyone say we should have listened to you, or we're sorry you were right, or we'll pay more attention in the future? Nope, just the reverse. Make sure those two guys don't get a chance to make us look foolish ever again. Keep an extra careful watch on what they get to know.
 

Soniclife

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I've worked for a gov't bureaucracy in a utility (not nuclear). The situation isn't that much different than Chernobyl sometimes. Those gov't situations seem immune to results oriented management vs private industry. It is worse and cover ups could be done more often in a communist country, but it is more about gov't bureaucracy than anything. There was a situation where another person and I were sent elsewhere for the 'crime of knowing'. We were complaining of a glaring deficiency in an upcoming project. The people running all this didn't want to hear it. So they just moved us away to other things. Our complaint would have cost less than $200k to fix up front in a $17 million project. The project was done without the fix. It blew up the first time it was operated for exactly the reason we were complaining. It cost an additional $35 million to address afterwards. Did anyone say we should have listened to you, or we're sorry you were right, or we'll pay more attention in the future? Nope, just the reverse. Make sure those two guys don't get a chance to make us look foolish ever again. Keep an extra careful watch on what they get to know.
I've only worked in private companies, but that sounds very similar to so many projects I've worked on or around. The reasons why people don't want to listen to experience may vary, but the results don't.
I love 'the crime of knowing' phase, I'll be using that soon.
 

Blumlein 88

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I've only worked in private companies, but that sounds very similar to so many projects I've worked on or around. The reasons why people don't want to listen to experience may vary, but the results don't.
I love 'the crime of knowing' phase, I'll be using that soon.
I copied that from the HBO series. The physicist who first figured out the RMBK danger wrote a paper on it which they didn't let anyone know about. The main character in this series, Jared Harris playing Valery Legasov says when the lady is asking him to tell the truth, that the physicist who wrote the paper was exiled for the crime of knowing.
 

Tks

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Man this was such a great mini-series. I had moderate to low expectations, but that was wonderful. The dreadful ambiance throughout the whole thing was masterfully done.
 

Cosmik

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Not that I'm a TV critic or anything, but the woman scientist character who, in fact, never existed but 'who represents the rest of the scientific community' was a pretty audacious inclusion for a 'factual' reconstruction!

And these days, the cynic in me automatically thinks that she was created for political correctness reasons: this was an entirely male-dominated story, caused by men behaving very badly but offset by men behaving heroically. That's history for you.

To counter this, the programme makers introduce a stoic, steadfast, determined, heroic woman to supposedly represent all scientists (a purely positive group of people of course).

Is this what we must now expect from all historically-based dramas? And then books? The re-writing of history in order to shoe-horn political correctness into everything? The recent film Dunkirk was criticised for not having a sufficiently diverse cast of characters. Future film makers will have taken note.

The BBC has started down the path of re-writing well-known fictional stories e.g. Agatha Christie. They did one a couple of years back where, instead of the murderer being a poor woman character, they changed it to the rich man (naturally). But they didn't announce in advance that they were re-writing the story, so aficionados of Agatha Christie were perplexed to say the least!
 
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tmtomh

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For all its many faults and horrors, the Soviet Union was fairly progressive when it came to women in roles like medicine and science. The closing credits of the series include a photograph of a large group of the scientific team in a bus, and several of them are women.

The compression of the entire team into a single fictionalized character, and the crafting of that character into a fairly typical disaster-movie truth-teller, is indeed problematic. But within that narrative sin, it hardly matters if the character is male or female.
 

Ceburaska

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For all its many faults and horrors, the Soviet Union was fairly progressive when it came to women in roles like medicine and science. The closing credits of the series include a photograph of a large group of the scientific team in a bus, and several of them are women.

The compression of the entire team into a single fictionalized character, and the crafting of that character into a fairly typical disaster-movie truth-teller, is indeed problematic. But within that narrative sin, it hardly matters if the character is male or female.
Progressive? Far from it. The roles for women were almost entirely low status. Lots of women in the legal and accounting professions, as law and accounts were entirely fluid depending on the requirements of the party and the state. Production and engineering were very male. Did you see any women in the nuclear control centre?
Working in Latvia and Uzbekistan I met a lot of female accountants, but very few factory managers. Actually, only one and she was a product of the post Soviet era.
This was mildly amusing to see in the 90s as legal and accounting roles became higher status.
 

tmtomh

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Progressive? Far from it. The roles for women were almost entirely low status. Lots of women in the legal and accounting professions, as law and accounts were entirely fluid depending on the requirements of the party and the state. Production and engineering were very male. Did you see any women in the nuclear control centre?
Working in Latvia and Uzbekistan I met a lot of female accountants, but very few factory managers. Actually, only one and she was a product of the post Soviet era.
This was mildly amusing to see in the 90s as legal and accounting roles became higher status.
Nevertheless, women were among the group of scientists involved with dealing with the Cherynobyl situation.
 

Ceburaska

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The show is very watchable, harrowing and very diligent when it comes to details, but there's a lot of Hollywoodization of facts and of the the social-political-bureaucratic essence of the Soviet Union. Here's a good critique: https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-...obyl-got-right-and-what-it-got-terribly-wrong
It is very difficult to get some of these elements across to people who have never lived in a totalitarian society, as so much of it is simply understood by everyone.
Frankly I doubt that the party representative at the meeting in the bunker in E1 said anything about socialism or Lenin, he wouldn’t need to, everyone there would know this already. But he has to say it for the viewers.
My favourite episode, the finale, is easily the most fictionalised. But it works the best as television.
Final plug for the podcast, where the writer really goes into these decisions in detail.
 

Sergei

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Here is a nice simple description of the RMBK reactors like the one at Chernobyl.
The section "Operating reactivity margin" explains how this design was capable of running away when you tried to shut it down. It notes the operators of the reactor were unaware of this prior to the accident.

Safety upgrades were made to other RMBK reactors and there are still 11 of them operating in Russia.

http://www.rri.kyoto-u.ac.jp/NSRG/reports/kr79/kr79pdf/Malko1.pdf
Here is a nice PDF describing the particulars of the accident.
Interesting document indeed. Even more details can be found here: https://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/publications/PDF/Pub913e_web.pdf, which contains this:

"It is evident that at plants with RBMK reactors many functions of the EPS (including its function when the ORM reaches a critical value) were transferred to the personnel with a deep faith in the personnel's absolute reliability as a component in the complex and ramified reactor safety system.

Four-and-a-half years after the accident, representatives of the Scientific Manager acknowledged the mistakenness of this concept: "Many years of accident free operation of military reactors in the USSR led to the deep rooted philosophy that one only has to write correct reactor operating instructions to guarantee safety. It goes without saying that these instructions are mandatory for the personnel.

It turned out that the real situation was very different. The first most important lesson to be learnt from Chernobyl is that the safety of nuclear power plants cannot be based on instructions. If a particular parameter exceeds certain limits, the reactor must be shut down automatically without the intervention of the operator. Furthermore, measures must be taken to exclude the possibility of an automatic protection system being deliberately switched off."


According to both documents, and several others:
- Multiple automatic protection systems were turned off.
- The system recording the detailed telemetry from the sensors in the reactor core was turned off most of the time during the last hour leading to the accident.
- The system calculating and displaying the safety operating margins every 5 minutes was either turned off or in a state of being rebooted most of the time during the last hour leading to the accident.
- Unequivocal written instructions to immediately shut down the reactor in case the safety operating margins could no longer be maintained were blatantly disregarded.

Viewed in isolation, such deliberate actions of the nuclear station personnel, drastically reducing the safety of the reactor, and making it very difficult to reconstruct later what actually happened, are inexplicable. In the context of the process of Soviet Union dissolution, they are easier to understand.

Remember in the movie, the director of the nuclear station tells his underling that some unidentified boss "upstairs" insisted on the reactor being operated for many hours on reduced power, which led to its iodine/xenon poisoning? In reality, this individual - a party apparatchik who at the time was working in Moscow, but came from Ukraine and went back to Ukraine - was identified, but no blame was ever put on him.

The former director of the nuclear station, who was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor, was in fact freed up after just 4 years, the very next month after Ukraine declared that it leaves Soviet Union. He was invited to work at the major Ukrainian energy company. According to Russian Wikipedia, he still lives in Kiev, and his whole family is doing well.

What does Gorbachev think about Chernobyl? From https://www.express.co.uk/news/worl...c-nuclear-disaster-gorbachev-soviet-union-spt:
"In a 2006 interview, Mr Gorbachev said: “The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl 20 years ago this month, even more than my launch of Perestroika, was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union five years later.”

Naturally, conspiracy theories, some of them coming from those who participated in the reactor design and maintenance, and those who mitigated the consequences of the accident, are abound in Russian-speaking media. I don't have enough verifiable information and first-hand experience to judge their validity.

It is interesting though, that the nuclear plant former director said, as I understand in an interview after he was freed, that yes, there were violations on the part of the personnel, yet they would only result in the reactor being "broken" rather than "blown up", if not for the runaway characteristics that they didn't know about.

So, I think it is reasonable to believe that discrediting the Soviet nuclear industry, along with Soviet army (brought by the artificial "as-if-defeated" hasty withdrawals from Eastern Europe and Afghanistan), were useful steps leading to the weakening of the Soviet Empire. Perhaps the people who worked toward this goal inadvertently overdid it with Chernobyl?
 

Blumlein 88

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Interesting document indeed. Even more details can be found here: https://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/publications/PDF/Pub913e_web.pdf, which contains this:

"It is evident that at plants with RBMK reactors many functions of the EPS (including its function when the ORM reaches a critical value) were transferred to the personnel with a deep faith in the personnel's absolute reliability as a component in the complex and ramified reactor safety system.

Four-and-a-half years after the accident, representatives of the Scientific Manager acknowledged the mistakenness of this concept: "Many years of accident free operation of military reactors in the USSR led to the deep rooted philosophy that one only has to write correct reactor operating instructions to guarantee safety. It goes without saying that these instructions are mandatory for the personnel.

It turned out that the real situation was very different. The first most important lesson to be learnt from Chernobyl is that the safety of nuclear power plants cannot be based on instructions. If a particular parameter exceeds certain limits, the reactor must be shut down automatically without the intervention of the operator. Furthermore, measures must be taken to exclude the possibility of an automatic protection system being deliberately switched off."

According to both documents, and several others:
- Multiple automatic protection systems were turned off.
- The system recording the detailed telemetry from the sensors in the reactor core was turned off most of the time during the last hour leading to the accident.
- The system calculating and displaying the safety operating margins every 5 minutes was either turned off or in a state of being rebooted most of the time during the last hour leading to the accident.
- Unequivocal written instructions to immediately shut down the reactor in case the safety operating margins could no longer be maintained were blatantly disregarded.

Viewed in isolation, such deliberate actions of the nuclear station personnel, drastically reducing the safety of the reactor, and making it very difficult to reconstruct later what actually happened, are inexplicable. In the context of the process of Soviet Union dissolution, they are easier to understand.

Remember in the movie, the director of the nuclear station tells his underling that some unidentified boss "upstairs" insisted on the reactor being operated for many hours on reduced power, which led to its iodine/xenon poisoning? In reality, this individual - a party apparatchik who at the time was working in Moscow, but came from Ukraine and went back to Ukraine - was identified, but no blame was ever put on him.

The former director of the nuclear station, who was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor, was in fact freed up after just 4 years, the very next month after Ukraine declared that it leaves Soviet Union. He was invited to work at the major Ukrainian energy company. According to Russian Wikipedia, he still lives in Kiev, and his whole family is doing well.

What does Gorbachev think about Chernobyl? From https://www.express.co.uk/news/worl...c-nuclear-disaster-gorbachev-soviet-union-spt:
"In a 2006 interview, Mr Gorbachev said: “The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl 20 years ago this month, even more than my launch of Perestroika, was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union five years later.”

Naturally, conspiracy theories, some of them coming from those who participated in the reactor design and maintenance, and those who mitigated the consequences of the accident, are abound in Russian-speaking media. I don't have enough verifiable information and first-hand experience to judge their validity.

It is interesting though, that the nuclear plant former director said, as I understand in an interview after he was freed, that yes, there were violations on the part of the personnel, yet they would only result in the reactor being "broken" rather than "blown up", if not for the runaway characteristics that they didn't know about.

So, I think it is reasonable to believe that discrediting the Soviet nuclear industry, along with Soviet army (brought by the artificial "as-if-defeated" hasty withdrawals from Eastern Europe and Afghanistan), were useful steps leading to the weakening of the Soviet Empire. Perhaps the people who worked toward this goal inadvertently overdid it with Chernobyl?
Maybe, maybe not. While some important aspects were from this being the Soviet Union, the more universal feature I see in the story of the events is how bureaucracy works. Certain aspects of this story are flavored by it being in the Soviet Union, but most of it I've seen lesser versions of in utilities and other bureaucracies in the USA. Also in large established private corporations.
 

Thomas savage

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Maybe, maybe not. While some important aspects were from this being the Soviet Union, the more universal feature I see in the story of the events is how bureaucracy works. Certain aspects of this story are flavored by it being in the Soviet Union, but most of it I've seen lesser versions of in utilities and other bureaucracies in the USA. Also in large established private corporations.
It's all very recognisable, all very very human. Iv seen this behaviour in the building industry. you make a very cognisance assesment of capitalism too, I enjoyed reading your posts. I read this recently, seems to ' make sense' https://www.amazon.co.uk/Enlightenment-Now-Exp-Humanism-Progress/dp/0525559027

I loved the show , the best and worse parts of being human . Folks who are invested egotistically, or by obtained social standing denying truth to save face and maintain the order and mechanisms of that standing. Doubling down on ignorance to do so, all very audiophile lol
 

Sal1950

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Looking forward to watching the series when it gets released on some free media.
Right now on Netflix is the PBS special "Building The Megatomb", about the giant cover being constructed.
Just started to watch it.
 

Sal1950

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I found it really incredible that they couldn't move it on wheels cause bearings couldn't be made to handle the weight load.
But it could be dragged along on Teflon skid plates. wow.
 
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