Mehnaaz Pervin Tuli
This piece would not discuss the blessings of science and technology that are boundless for sure but would rather shed light on the misuse of God like scientific inventions and formulas. While referring to any sort of political clashes and wrong decision making regarding scientific spheres, we can relate totally to the Chernobyl incident in 1986 that was emphatically one of the most pathetic accidents in human history. This was a result of intentional ignorance regarding safety measures, overstatement, self-praise, and swanks. This piece is an elaboration of the aforementioned issue in reference to the TV mini-series Chernobyl released in 2019, written by Craig Mazin and directed by Johan Renck.
I fear that the nuclear disaster in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic is still very relevant and may imbibe the lessons we have not learnt yet. This fear could be traced back to the human mistakes of using science in a wrong way by mixing scientific events with lies and political expediency.
The reactor that exploded at Chernobyl power plant was a faulty RMBK reactor that was not built anywhere except Soviet Union because of certain defective features that label it to be unusable. Thirty one people including workers, firemen, and engineers lost their lives following some weeks of the nuclear blast due to excessive radiation and thermal burns, although critics and other scientists demand that the numbers were significantly higher than this. Besides, there was an enormous increase in cancer patients after the terrible incident and the worst affected regions were Belarus, Ukraine, and the Russian Federation. There was exposure to radiation everywhere in the air, the river, the water that people drank and even the milk that came from cows.
We can find the comments of several critics across the world that provides a little view on USSR’s attempt of drawing a veil over the incident for a certain period, even after realising the reverberations. US president Ronald Reagan had quoted,
“A nuclear accident that results in contaminating a number of countries with radioactive material is not simply an internal matter.”
We could envisage the fatality of the radioactive exposure that made them build the external containment, Sarcophagus, by spending 1.5 billion pounds in order to cover the whole reactor. Furthermore, almost 300,000 people were evacuated from the Chernobyl Exclusion zone.
General Secretary of the Communist Party, Mikhail Gorbachev, couldn’t resist from revealing the truth of internal political disaster that can be linked to the nuclear accident. This person was the last leader of the USSR and wanted to call himself a reformer by restructuring the Soviet economy. During an interview in 2006, he said,
“The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl was perhaps one of the real causes of the collapse of the Soviet Union.”
Soviet essayist Alexander Tsipko explained the mental condition of the Soviet people who were traumatised by the side-effects, dislocation, and fear. The essayist wrote,
“No people in the history of mankind was ever enslaved by myths as our people were in the 20th century. We thought that building communism in the USSR was the greatest deed of our people but we were purposefully engaging in self-destruction.”
Mentioning about the long term consequences, the clean-up of the area surrounding the Chernobyl has taken years. In 2017 even though the place was reopened for tourists, some parts remained uninhabitable for years more.
In the series, we get an idea about how scientists fall prey to the dirty political propaganda and receive threats for revealing truths related to any human error or failure of a project for the sake of the reputation of a particular nation. The two nuclear physicists, who were the ones to pursue the real truth and their try level best to lessen the damage immediately after the incident, were shown to be under constant pressure from the central committee of USSR and the other members of the nuclear board for being open about the incident. But these two scientists were adamant to unravel the truth of the faulty characteristics of Reactor 4 as there were other reactors in Soviet Union that needed fixation. On the other hand, the other group from the government and political parties seemed to be more disturbed with their tarnished stature of becoming a failure in front of the rest of Europe.
The series is enticingly good and helps people relate to the real tragedy, understanding the boundary of human power and science that should always be maintained. We also get to see how horrifying the sudden incident was as the Reactor 4 blew off and everything turned into ashes leaving the exclusion zone uninhabitable and highly risky for any human presence. There was a problem with the RMBK reactor as it was built but was overlooked by all and later, during the routine safety test, workers violated safety protocols disregarding orders of their superior officer in-charge. That night, the main duty officer in-charge was seen to be haughty, enraged and overly confident with the creation of the power plant and the reactors. The nuclear chief engineer for the guidance of the test, Mr. Dyatlof, was constantly undermining and rebuking the other officers present there. He was not seen to be patient enough as a leader while dealing with such a huge project that needed constant safety and careful measures. He did not even care to brief the amateur young engineers before running the test even though the novice workers insisted upon his limited knowledge on such safety tests.
Now, there was much more happening in the lives of the people and environment outside the plant. The terrifying storyline of the firefighter, Ignatinko, leaves us appalled, dismayed, and aghast and also creates in us fury on the people behind the creation of the power plant and the main executors of the safety tests. The negligence and overconfidence of the brainy minds took away a lot from the lives of the other workers at the sites, firemen associated with putting out the fire that night and miners, who were called to dig underneath the nuclear core for some amendatory measures after the blast. There were other civilians who faced serious injuries and burns as they lived in proximity to the blast area, Pripyat, which is still known as the ghost town in real life. The wife of the fireman Ignatenko was pregnant and insisted on visiting her injured husband at the hospital although it was meant to be fatal for her, too. We also notice a hard, grappling love story between the husband and wife where the wife wishes to sit beside the dying husband with radioactive burns all over his body. This could have been lethal and ruinous for her too but she couldn’t stay away from her loving partner and refused to let him die alone. This signifies how a single accident can make many people suffer in distinct ways and the way the climate, environment and surroundings suffer as a result of negligent behaviour of the great human species.
Tuli likes to have small talks with people of various cultures, religions and races. Besides, she cannot sit at home and would prefer living out of a suitcase at any free time.
How did you manage to extract such a myriad information from multiple sources to write this article?