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Wraith
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Anyone watch this the other night? It is amazing how suspenseful this was given that we already know what is gonna happen. I know the basics of it being the largest nuclear accident in history, but it's interesting seeing everything play out in real time like this and what decisions were made ultimately made things worse.

It stands out that the head engineer on sight (Akimov) was so dismissive. The one worker was like "we can't pump water into the reactor. The reactor isn't there anymore. It is gone." Akimov's only response was "You are clearly delusional. That isn't possible." Then multiple times they said that the radiation levels were off the scales on the dosimeters and all he could say was "Clearly they are faulty." The level of denial was excellently conveyed.

5/8/2019 10:16:34 AM

Money_Jones
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It looks very good, but terribly depressing, I don’t think I want to watch it.

5/8/2019 12:11:25 PM

dtownral
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Loved the first episode, really looking forward to this show

5/8/2019 1:45:12 PM

Wraith
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^^Oh yeah it is VERY bleak. Even more so knowing that most of the characters being portrayed were actually real people, and they likely died very painful deaths as a result of poor decision making.

Even more so bleak that this happened in 1986, which for most of us is within our lifetime and what we would consider to be modern times. And that the effects of this disaster are still being studied. An accident of that proportion happening in like the early 1900s could be dismissed by just saying "Safety regulations back then weren't as stringent as they are now", but obviously that kind of thought doesn't apply here.

5/8/2019 2:23:27 PM

dtownral
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I'm interested in seeing the characters, whom after learning of the actual danger, still have to work to stop the danger

5/8/2019 3:50:45 PM

Dentaldamn
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Here’s my synopsis of the first episode.

Guy 1: the reactor exploded

Guy 2: that’s impossible.

Guy 1: it happened.

Guy 3: what are the radiation levels!

Guy 2: acceptable.

Guy 1,2,3 all puke and die.

5/8/2019 8:36:59 PM

TreeTwista10
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5/8/2019 9:45:46 PM

rjrumfel
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This show...makes me angry.

[Edited on May 9, 2019 at 12:57 PM. Reason : It really is infuriating watching this unfold.]

5/9/2019 12:53:22 PM

TKE-Teg
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Quote :
"Even more so bleak that this happened in 1986, which for most of us is within our lifetime and what we would consider to be modern times. And that the effects of this disaster are still being studied. An accident of that proportion happening in like the early 1900s could be dismissed by just saying "Safety regulations back then weren't as stringent as they are now", but obviously that kind of thought doesn't apply here."


The lack of safety measures and poor design at that facility were laughably bad. Something like that would never happen in the US, and yet mostly thanks to this the nuclear industry may never fully recover.

Regardless of any of that, I look forward to watching this.

5/9/2019 2:40:06 PM

dtownral
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the craziest thing to me is that the last unit wasn't decommissioned until 2000 and the switch yard is still in use today. they were still building more reactors after the accident until i think 1989.

Chernobyl Disaster - ABC News Nightline (full broadcast) - April 29, 1986
https://youtu.be/nAzmCrEJDuU

5/9/2019 3:00:58 PM

ncsuallday
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I was excited for this but couldn't get into it. I can handle bleak, but it was just boring to me

5/9/2019 3:06:51 PM

TKE-Teg
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^^that does sound crazy.

Then again the USSR would dispose of radioactive waste by just dumping it into their own lakes, so it's far from surprising.

5/9/2019 3:20:06 PM

dtownral
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I've been reading more about Chernobyl, did you know radiation is still an issue for sheep farmers in Wales?

5/9/2019 5:12:57 PM

rjrumfel
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Cant tell if serious

5/9/2019 9:13:54 PM

dtownral
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serious https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-36112372

http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2017/ph241/buck2/

[Edited on May 10, 2019 at 8:51 AM. Reason : .]

5/10/2019 8:51:14 AM

Wraith
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^^^Yeah I read a little bit about the accident after watching the episode the other night. Apparently the fallout was setting off all sorts of alarms all over Europe and nuclear plant workers were freaking out thinking that their own plant was leaking radiation until they did their own safety checks and/or saw the news. It is still measurable today in lots of places, although obviously not at dangerous levels.

5/10/2019 9:09:41 AM

rjrumfel
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So of course the first thing I do after watching is go to Wikipedia and get sucked in with all of the links.

I'm not a nuclear engineer, so I could never read the information out there on the same level, but the wiki articles do a decent job of dumbing it down. After reading what I've read so far, I can't understand why any municipality would go for an RBMK type reactor. It seems that the ONLY benefit would be that you could use un-enriched uranium. And yes, this is soviet Russia, but I just don't see how the benefits could outweigh the potential safety hazards.

And was it common at the time to have backup generators that took over 1 minute to spin up to full pumping power?

For the TL;DR version, the pumps that sent cooling water to the reactors were single-threaded in terms of power for up to 75 seconds, meaning that if the plant lost its primary source of power due to a blackout, it took the diesel generators up to 75 seconds to spin up to full pumping speed. The engineers needed a way to fill that 75 second cap because without coolant for that amount of time, seriously bad things could happen.

The theory was that the engineers could somehow draw down the reactor output and use the drawdown to power the pumps for the 75 second gap.

They botched the test, and you had several different crews overseeing the test, each crew with varying degrees of knowledge of the test, and during the test they manually overrode several safety checks. When they knew something was going wrong, someone hit this AZ5 switch which is supposed to lower the cores into the reactor and stop the reaction. They removed many of the cores as part of the test, and the cores that were left somehow got stuck and started a positive feedback reaction due to the graphite in the cores and reactor.

Boom.

5/10/2019 9:59:55 AM

Wraith
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^Ah the graphite was in the actual core/reactor itself? So that explains why the individual graphite piece that the one firefighter picked up was so radioactive. I figured that anything that close to the core would be glowing but I guess not.

Serious question though -- you mentioned that that fail safe was in place in the event of power blackout. Where do nuclear plants get their primary power for this kind of thing? I was just under the impression that they generated it themselves? I guess is this in the event of some kind of interruption of electricity from the actual source? So like if (for lack of a simpler hypothetical), the cable got unplugged?

5/10/2019 3:42:13 PM

dtownral
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In simple terms a reactor doesnt generate electricity, it provides the energy for the thing that generates electricity so it can still lose power even from itself

5/11/2019 3:59:24 PM

rjrumfel
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Second episode just as good as the first.

[Edited on May 14, 2019 at 12:33 AM. Reason : And holy crap at the end.]

5/14/2019 12:32:20 AM

CaelNCSU
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Yeah, 10/10. Feel like it defines a new genre.

5/14/2019 12:48:18 AM

rjrumfel
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Spoiler? I guess?













I wonder if it was true what the femaie nuclear scientist was telling the Russian government, about the 30 megaton blast once the sand and boron melted and hit the water tanks? I don't ever recall hearing about that possibility. But man, if that were true, it seems like it would have been life-altering for a good portion of the planet.

5/14/2019 9:20:27 AM

darkone
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She said 3 MT not 30 MT. I think the scale of those numbers comes for the idea of quickly superheating 3000 cubic meters of water. That's a fuck-ton of energy. Just the raw heat capacity of 3000 cubic meters of water is about 4 MT. I don't know how to approach a back-of-the-envelope steam problem, but the general scale of the numbers seems correct.

5/14/2019 9:56:14 AM

dtownral
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(i'm not sure if spoiler warnings apply to shows about historic events, but spoiler warning i guess)



there was a real risk of a second explosion about 10 days later, they estimated that it could be 3-5 megatons. i read somewhere else that later research confirmed this but can't find the link to confirm.
https://youtu.be/coYYBdcA1lo

the 3 men who saved europe were: plant engineer Alexei Ananenko, plant engineer Valeri Bezpalov, and shift supervisor Boris Baranov

https://www.history.co.uk/article/the-real-story-of-the-chernobyl-divers

5/14/2019 9:56:47 AM

Wraith
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It's kinda ridiculous (but not surprising) how much denial is going on with the politicians. Dude worked in a shoe factory and refuses to listen to a top nuclear physicist. Everyone else (even Gorbachev) was like "Who is this guy? Why should I listen to any word he says?".

It eerily reflects the current situation we have with climate change and politicians sticking their fingers in their ears. What is the point of even having scientists if you are not gonna listen to anything they say?

5/14/2019 12:25:39 PM

PaulISdead
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that cliffhanger though

5/14/2019 6:58:42 PM

darkone
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Spoiler: They open the gate and even live to be old men.

5/15/2019 9:45:10 AM

ViolentMAW
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Quote :
"Mazin's interest in creating the series originated when he decided to write something that addressed "how we're struggling with the global war on the truth right now"."


Guess this guy got tired of doing The Hangover and Scary Movie scripts. Don't know HBO throws this shit together sometimes. Although, the director has been on the up and up for quite some time. Def dig this show.

5/15/2019 9:59:05 AM

Wyloch
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Nuclear engineer myself, graduated '07. Was also a licensed operator on the campus reactor. Currently work at a nuclear power plant.

Loving this show. The pacing isn't slow. The acting is solid. The science exposition is like 98% correct, which is incredible for a TV show.

Only thing is why do they have British accents?

5/15/2019 1:16:08 PM

Jeepin4x4
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because it's a British show

5/15/2019 1:39:36 PM

Wraith
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^Is it?

^^This is a common trope in American TV. Rather than have people actually speaking the language of the country they are in (and risk losing viewers who don't like subtitles), they have English actors. Their speaking is foreign enough to indicate that the character isn't American, but you can still understand them.

5/15/2019 1:55:57 PM

ViolentMAW
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It's a collab between hbo and British network sky. Plus how many good Russian actors are there. I'm surprised The Americans had two. Plus you get Jarred Harris who studied theatre in our great bathroom state and is tremendous.

5/16/2019 1:11:24 AM

rjrumfel
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The reviews I've read have pointed out all of the British accents, but also mentioned that it would have just been silly to have everyone speaking English with a Russian accent - they called it the Natasha and Boris effect.

Only way to make it more real is to have everyone speak Russian and just have English captions. And we know that most people are just to ADD for that mess.

I understand why those chose to focus on the events immediately after the explosion, but my only beef with the show is that I wish they would have had the first episode center around the test and what why things went so wrong.

5/16/2019 8:00:31 AM

Wraith
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^Totally agree on that, the explosion happened within the first 5 mins of the show. Would have been good to have some build up to it.

5/16/2019 8:56:18 AM

LudaChris
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I don't care about accents, Jared Harris is the man. The Expanse, The Terror and now this? Crushing it.

I could see Russian fans being a little annoyed by it, but if the only complaint that casual fans have are "they have British accents"...then you know the show is really good.

5/16/2019 9:15:20 AM

bubster5041
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The podcast goes into the reasoning for the accents pretty quickly and pretty well.

[Edited on May 16, 2019 at 1:35 PM. Reason : .]

5/16/2019 1:33:39 PM

rjrumfel
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@Wyloch - what are your thoughts about the use of RBMK reactors? Seems like such a dangerous design. Any benefits other than being able to use unenriched uranium?

5/16/2019 2:16:57 PM

eleusis
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Quote :
"my only beef with the show is that I wish they would have had the first episode center around the test and what why things went so wrong"


no one knew why it went so wrong until years afterward, as the reports for the first few years after the disaster focused on operator error and not the total disregard for safety dating back to initial design. It would have been very difficult to explain to an audience with limited nuclear knowledge the errors taking place with reactor poisoning, steam voids, and why a SCRAM operation initially speeds up the reaction before shutting it down, especially when the operators didn't even know what they were doing wrong. It would kill the historical context of the show to have it explained out by anyone present at the plant, as at this point even the experts that were brought in don't know how a RBMK reactor could possibly explode. I anticipate they'll circle back around to this in the final episode.

My wife was a nuclear operator at Harris, and watching this show makes her very on edge. Watching people do tasks where they know they are going to die yet do them anyway is somewhat unnerving and makes you question if you would be capable of doing something similar.

5/16/2019 5:23:53 PM

PaulISdead
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I need to know the 2% that's fictional

5/16/2019 9:04:08 PM

moron
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^^ the show seems to lay it on really thick how grossly incompetent the plant operators and leadership through all levels of government in Russia at the time were. It seemed like they had absolutely no emergency plan, no contact lists, no chain of command, it seems like they're actively fighting getting expert opinions on what was supposed to happened.

It can't actually be the case that a single nuclear physicist and a politician made the decision to dump sand and boron is it? And by subterfuge another physicist got pulled in to prevent an explosion.

It almost seems overly-dramatic and how bad everyone responds to the crisis, but maybe that's the reality of how things were in Russia, hopefully they aren't still that way.

5/17/2019 12:21:12 AM

eleusis
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The third physicist is a culmination of dozens of physicists across the USSR that were involved. The show admitted that they had to boil down the number of characters involved or they would lose the audience. The sand/boron decision was likely the result of two people though.

They likely didn't have chain of command or contingency plans, as they didn't even have safeguards against preventing operators from overriding safety measures without first reviewing with the engineers.

5/17/2019 7:06:31 AM

rjrumfel
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I'm not asking for Reactor Operation 101. Just a portrayal of how we thought the test was performed.

But to start the show off with the boom was a good idea also.

5/17/2019 7:42:29 AM

Wyloch
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Quote :
"@Wyloch - what are your thoughts about the use of RBMK reactors? Seems like such a dangerous design. Any benefits other than being able to use unenriched uranium?"


Yeah, certainly in all our case studies we talk about the design flaws (positive void coefficient, graphite control rod tips). There are multiple theories over exactly what state the reactor achieved, with some modern theorists now saying it probably went prompt critical (not just super critical) to cause the first explosion. Regardless, with a better design, sure accident mitigated.

But in the industry (at least today, in the US), almost nothing is due to equipment - the root cause gets taken down to human performance. Accountability. (a good thing)

The culture is hammered in from initial training that we shall not solely credit design and/or procedures - for every action taken, you must pause and consider the desired outcome. And if it doesn't happen, take conservative action if needed and then stop.

Further, we have a massive industry-wide database called Operating Experience. Anyone who has a plant issue more than trivial makes an entry and it gets communicated so we all learn (this is going across different company boundaries, mind you). USSR had previously documented the design flaw in RBMKs that the first 2-3 seconds of control rod insertion actually inserted POSITIVE reactivity, and that report pretty much went unheeded. Failure to use OPEX. Gaps in leadership courage, technical advocacy.

You commonly hear the fallback that modern reactors including all the ones in the US are of a fundamentally different design and far, far safer. Yes, that's true. But it's also due in large part to our standards in human performance.

They were supposed to set up that test to be at least 700 MWth. They fell to 30 MWth due to misoperation. Even the worst control room operator in America is going to hit the manual SCRAM button if he doesn't understand what's going on in his/her reactor.

5/17/2019 9:42:12 AM

Wyloch
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Quote :
"I need to know the 2% that's fictional"


Well, I said the exposition was correct, not that it was non-fictional.

Calling a U-235 atom a bullet was not correct. U-235 is relatively stable if it isn't in a critical geometry. Every year, when we receive new fuel assemblies, you can literally touch them with your hand. They are inches away as you tend them while flying them to the vault for pre-splash storage.

Later in the helicopter they used the term differently, and that was a more correct metaphor. (referring to the neutrons released in fission as the bullets, instead of the atoms).

...paltry difference. Like I said, 98% is very, very impressive.

5/17/2019 9:49:37 AM

Flyin Ryan
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I don't get HBO so won't watch this now but may in the future. For an event like this, if they went heavy drama fiction ignoring or blatantly changing facts, it would be an instant turnoff for me. Is the series the real deal or a Hollywoodized "based on a true story"?

Quote :
"Plus how many good Russian actors are there. "


There's that one guy with the beard that appears to play every Russian character ever. He's in Space Cowboys as the Russian general. He's in Snatch as Boris the Blade.

[Edited on May 17, 2019 at 12:11 PM. Reason : /]

5/17/2019 12:09:45 PM

Flyin Ryan
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Quote :
"Yeah, certainly in all our case studies we talk about the design flaws (positive void coefficient, graphite control rod tips). There are multiple theories over exactly what state the reactor achieved, with some modern theorists now saying it probably went prompt critical (not just super critical) to cause the first explosion. Regardless, with a better design, sure accident mitigated.

But in the industry (at least today, in the US), almost nothing is due to equipment - the root cause gets taken down to human performance. Accountability. (a good thing)

The culture is hammered in from initial training that we shall not solely credit design and/or procedures - for every action taken, you must pause and consider the desired outcome. And if it doesn't happen, take conservative action if needed and then stop.

Further, we have a massive industry-wide database called Operating Experience. Anyone who has a plant issue more than trivial makes an entry and it gets communicated so we all learn (this is going across different company boundaries, mind you). USSR had previously documented the design flaw in RBMKs that the first 2-3 seconds of control rod insertion actually inserted POSITIVE reactivity, and that report pretty much went unheeded. Failure to use OPEX. Gaps in leadership courage, technical advocacy.

You commonly hear the fallback that modern reactors including all the ones in the US are of a fundamentally different design and far, far safer. Yes, that's true. But it's also due in large part to our standards in human performance.

They were supposed to set up that test to be at least 700 MWth. They fell to 30 MWth due to misoperation. Even the worst control room operator in America is going to hit the manual SCRAM button if he doesn't understand what's going on in his/her reactor."


Imagine there is double redundancy in most critical areas at a minimum correct?

5/17/2019 12:14:15 PM

dtownral
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would there really have been a blue beam that looked like a search light? I assume it was Cherenkov radiation, but would it have been a beam into the sky like that?

5/17/2019 12:44:34 PM

darkone
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Yes. Witnesses described it in detail.

5/17/2019 2:07:36 PM

ViolentMAW
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Is the blue beam caused because the electrons from the radiation are traveling faster than the speed of light in our atmosphere thus generating light itself or because it is detaching atomic matter from the air or both I guess?

It that was me I'd be like, "It's a fucking blue beam ya'll, haven't you seen the movies!".

I think this explains it:
Quote :
" if one takes in account the fact that an electron moving in a medium does radiate light even if it is moving uniformly provided that its velocity is greater than the velocity of light in the medium.""

5/17/2019 4:51:12 PM

PaulISdead
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... the mathematics of wonton burrito meals

5/17/2019 5:39:32 PM

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