The Chernobyl Podcast | Part Two | HBO

“You know, I believe that the Russia we fight for is not the dull town
where I lived at a loss, but those country tracks
that our ancestors followed, the graves where they lie,
with the old Russian cross.” (MAN CONTINUES SPEAKING RUSSIAN) MAN 2: (IN ENGLISH)
“I feel that for me, it was countryside Russia that first made me feel
I must truly belong to the tedious miles
between village and village, the tears of the widow,
the women’s sad song.” (MAN SPEAKING RUSSIAN) MAN 2: (IN ENGLISH)
“By old Russian practice, mere fire and destruction are all we abandon
behind us in war. We see alongside us
the deaths of our comrades, by old Russian practice,
the breast to the fore.” (MAN SPEAKING RUSSIAN) MAN 2: (IN ENGLISH)
“Alyosha, till now we’ve been spared
by the bullets, but when, for the third time,
my life seemed to end, I yet still felt proud
of the dearest of countries, the great bitter land
I was born to defend.”(SOMBER MUSIC PLAYS)PETER SAGAL: Welcome to
The Chernobyl Podcast.
This is Peter Sagal. This is a podcast about
the miniseriesChernobylbeing broadcast on HBO
and Sky. Today we are talking about
episode two, titled “Please Remain Calm.” We are here again
with the show’s creator, producer, and writer,
Craig Mazin. CRAIG MAZIN:
Good to be back. PETER: It’s always a pleasure
to see you here, -far, far away…
-CRAIG: Yes. PETER: …from the events
you wrote about. To recap the end
of last episode, the image we were left with
was a bird falling from the sky, presumably because of
the radiation pouring out of
the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, which had blown up
about 12 hours before, and, quite importantly,
that bird falls out of the sky -and no one notices.
-CRAIG: Yeah. PETER: Because, as of the end
of episode one, no one really knows,
because of secrecy and denial, how bad things actually are. So the episode begins
with a poem, in Russian, -over a radio.
-CRAIG: Yeah. PETER: And what is that exactly? CRAIG: So, I was…
looking for– Again, just the idea being that if you’re going to tell a story
in the Soviet Union, place it. And this was the kind of thing
that you would hear on Soviet radio… It was largely skewed
towards classical music, or patriotic poetry
of this sort. This is a beautiful poem
written by a poet named
Konstantin Simonov, and the poem is called
“To Alexey Surkov,” and this was written in
July of 1941… PETER: Which was right after
the invasion -of the Soviet Union…
-CRAIG: Correct. -PETER: …by the Nazis.
-CRAIG: Correct. What I loved about it as I–
I just went through looking for poems,
and this one I thought, “Oh, wow, this… this encapsulates
the spirit of the people that went to battle
with Chernobyl.” In this, you get it all,
as far as I’m concerned. “The great bitter land -I was born to defend.”
-PETER: Yeah, that’s a line. CRAIG: So there’s
an acknowledgment that this place,
the Russia that we fight for, it’s full of dull towns, it’s full of country tracks,
graves everywhere, women mourning and crying,
and it seems quite miserable, and you’re constantly
being shot at, and yet, you–
and yet, and yet! Still… feel proud of “the dearest
of countries, the great bitter land
I was born to defend.” This notion
that the whole purpose of life inside this place is to defend
(CHUCKLES) the country… -PETER: Yes.
-…in which you are. CRAIG: And it starts
to make sense when you think about the people
that went to Chernobyl, many of them doing these things
voluntarily, in a sense. -PETER: Yes.
-CRAIG: Flying helicopters over an open nuclear reactor, going into irradiated water, just being a scientist
and staying there. You feel an extension
of this notion -of being born for this.
-PETER: Yeah. CRAIG: This is why you exist. PETER: And again, we’ve talked
about this a number of times, but I’m sitting here
and contrasting, like, what’s the most
popular poetry about America? -“America the Beautiful,”
-CRAIG: Mm-hmm. PETER:
“Purple mountains majesty.” -CRAIG: Mm-hmm.
-PETER: “Fruited plains.” We don’t talk about America, we don’t talk about patriotism,
in anything like that. I mean, the fact
that they’re like, “It’s sad, it’s bitter,
it’s sometimes tedious, but it’s ours,
and our job is to–” There’s even
a reference to bullets. -CRAIG: Oh, yeah.
-PETER: To die for it -is extraordinary.
-CRAIG: Correct. Oh, absolutely. This is a man talking about
his duty to his country, while he’s walking by
endless graveyards of people that have
taken bullets before him. You know, I– Obviously,
we made a choice there… -PETER: Yeah.
-CRAIG: …to do it in Russian. We tried as best as we could,
whenever there wasn’t somebody -speaking in a scene…
-PETER: Yeah. …which isn’t frequently,
but this is a great example, to be as accurate as we could
and to do it in Russian. All the lettering, for instance,
throughout the show -is in Cyrillic.
-PETER: Right. -Hopefully people get the point.
-PETER: Right. CRAIG: We don’t do a lot of
translating for them, but it helped us situate
the story and the place. PETER: And we begin
the episode in Belarus, -right?
-CRAIG: Right. PETER: Where we meet
a new character, -Ulana Khomyuk, right?
-CRAIG: Right. PETER: Now, we’ve talked
in episode one of this podcast about how carefully you wanted
to adhere to reality, that these were real people,
presented as they were, doing what they did, but Ulana is
a fictional character. CRAIG: Right, we had this
challenge right off the bat. There were hundreds
of scientists that ultimately worked
on the problem of Chernobyl. Valery Legasov,
played by Jarred Harris, was kind of the scientist
in charge of this effort, but there were so many more
who were involved. And those scientists,
a lot of them actually were… in positions of opposition,
essentially, to Legasov. They were, at times,
more aggressive about the potential dangers,
they challenged him on some of the solutions
that he was considering, and in order to consolidate these many, many people
into one, I felt I had to create
a composite character. One of– Just,
right off the bat, this is played by
the incredible Emily Watson. I wanna talk for a second
talk about gender. -PETER: Right.
-CRAIG: The Soviet Union was, in many ways,
very regressive in terms of, um,
its gender politics. The power structures
are almost entirely male, and the show reflects that. There’s… you know,
I don’t know, probably 90 percent of
the characters are male. That reflects the reality
of what happened in the Soviet Union, but one area that they were
fairly progressive in was science and medicine. There were probably
a higher proportion of female medical doctors
in the Soviet Union in 1986 than there were in
the United States, and there were quite a few
female academicians who worked in programs
like nuclear science programs. So, I thought it was
an important thing to show where the Soviets actually were kind of progressive
in this regard. You’ll see a lot of the doctors
in the show… -PETER: Yeah.
-CRAIG: …are women, because that reflected
the reality. So, we invested a lot of
this stuff into Emily’s character,
this sense of a check on Legasov, and also, frankly… Just to get into
Legasov’s character, -if I may, for a second?
-PETER: Oh, of course. So, at the end of episode one
he’s called by this man -named Boris Shcherbina who’s–
-PETER: Right. CRAIG: That’s a real man.
Was a real man, played by, in this case,
Stellan Skarsgård, also amazing. And… Shcherbina asks Legasov if he’s an expert
in RBMK reactors, and Legasov sort of starts
to say, “I am.” In fact, he wasn’t. Legasov worked. He was the–
You know, very high up at Kurchatov Institute,
which was the premier nuclear physics institute
at the Soviet Union, but he was more
in the chemistry area of things. I mean, he knew a lot
about radiation and the chemistry
of radioactive materials, but he was not really
an expert on the function
of an RBMK nuclear reactor. -And a lot of other people were.
-PETER: Right. CRAIG: And those people,
very frequently, had to kind of help him out and explain to him
in certain ways, “This is why this is happening,
and this is why this is not.” So one of the other functions
of the character of Ulana Khomyuk is to
frankly be a little bit smarter. -PETER: Right.
-CRAIG: Be a little bit smarter, a little bit more aware,
and a challenge to him to do better, as they say. PETER: So, we begin the episode with Emily Watson’s character
in a lab. She doesn’t know anything
about what’s happened, because no one knows anything
about what’s happened; -the town has been cut off.
-CRAIG: Right. PETER: A window is opened, a radiation detector goes off,
and she very quickly understands not only that there’s been
an accident, but what kind of accident
it was. She uses a spectrometer
to figure out that a particular isotope
that would come from -a nuclear reactor explosion…
-CRAIG: Right. PETER: …is now in the air.
Is that reflective of reality? Did people begin to see,
across the Soviet Union and Europe, that something bad
had happened -through that method?
-CRAIG: Correct. That specific story
is inspired by an account inVoices of Chernobyl
from a nuclear physicist, in which that exactly happened. They opened a window,
an alarm went off, this entire institute presumed
that this level of radiation they were detecting
was the result of a leak from inside the lab. They figured out fairly quickly
that it was coming from outside. And they did call Chernobyl,
and no one answered the phone. (CHUCKLES)
This was basically when– when they started to realize
something terrible had happened. And when they started to call, people would say things like,
“Nope, no problem. Stop asking questions.
You don’t ask that question.” It was a sort of that deal. But while this was happening
fairly quickly inside of the Soviet Union, the cloud was moving its way
across Europe, and eventually would arrive
in Sweden, where this– I– (SIGHS) I wish we’d had time
to shoot, I would have loved to have shot
the scene, but it’s the scene where–
And this is what happened, a– a worker at
a Swedish power plant, basically, sets off an alarm. And he sets off an alarm
because his shoe has picked up a piece of dirt
that has a piece of fallout -from Chernobyl.
-PETER: Right, but in the episode
we now are in Pripyat again -in the hospital.
-CRAIG: Yeah. PETER: People are now finally
coming to the hospital with terrible radiation burns. We see an old doctor trying
to use milk? CRAIG: That’s accurate.
That’s accurate. There was
a limited understanding, uh, at least among the older doctors
who were not trained at all in this kind of thing,
as to what this even was, and there was
a frightening prevalence of… what I would just call… kind of folk medicine
going on there. And, of course, one of
the other doctors realizes pretty quickly–
and this is, again, inspired by true events–
that… uh, these are not
normal fire burns. By the way, milk is not
acceptable for those either. -(BOTH CHUCKLE)
-PETER: Yeah, okay. -Important note for those
at home.
-CRAIG: Correct. But once they realized
that these are nuclear burns, they did remove all the clothes
from the firefighters and they did bring them down
to the basement, and those clothes
are there today. PETER: Right.
They’re still radioactive. -CRAIG: Correct.
-PETER: Yeah. We’ll get into what happened
to those men, uh, and some women, I guess,
with the doctors themselves. So, the doctors themselves
received radiation burns just from dealing with
the patients. PETER: This is something I find
myself thinking a lot about. One of the bizarre,
it seems almost unbelievable, natures of radioactivity is… If I– If you become irradiated by being exposed to something
like Chernobyl, then you are just as dangerous,
or at least dangerous in exactly the same way,
whatever you were exposed to. It seems to, like, have
an endless sort of contagion. Coming back to
our horror movie thing. If you’ve touched it,
then you’re contagious. If I touch you,
I can get burned, and so on and so forth. CRAIG: Yes.
Depending on the circumstances, these particles we’re
talking about are atomic, they’re sub-atomic,
these neutrons. And when you have
these particles on you, and in you,
just from breathing. If I breathe these things
in from smoke, they’re in my body.
They are now radiating, -inside of me, outwards.
-PETER: Right. CRAIG: There’s
a terrible story, I mean, it’s a shocking story
from the night of, that we contemplated shooting
and just couldn’t fit it in, where a guy named Gorbachenko, who’s the dosimetrist
in episode one who says, “Are they bombing?” Which, by the way,
a lot of people in the plant thought was– that was
what was going on. He rescues another guy–
tries to rescue another guy, who doesn’t make it–
and in the account, he had been carrying this guy,
and the guy’s hand had been loosely resting
on Gorbachenko’s back, and when he finally
puts the guy down, he feels a burn on his back
and he lifts his shirt and there’s a burn
in the shape of a palmprint -on his back.
-PETER: Right. CRAIG: Because that man’s hand
was that radiated and it burned him
in the shape of a handprint. It’s just startling
and terrifying. PETER: Yeah. And we’ll get to
more of that later, and what happens to those men,
which we will talk about. But let’s talk about what is
one of the key scenes, if not the key scene,
where we start what we might think of
as a more traditional story. -We meet our hero, Legasov…
-CRAIG: Yep. PETER: …and his counterpart, -Shcherbina.
-CRAIG: Yep. PETER: This is a scene
in the Kremlin, Jared Harris playing him. He– He seems to not know
what it is he’s been brought in
to talk about. He doesn’t know anything. Just like nobody else
knows anything. CRAIG: Yeah. He was told that there had been
a minor industrial incident. Any time there is an accident
in a nuclear power plant, it’s prudent for the government to make sure
things are going okay. I think one of the reasons
that Legasov was called was because Legasov was… a rather zealous
member of the party. He was considered
a real Soviet, and a loyalist, and somebody
that you could count on to just, you know,
toe the party line, -as they say.
-PETER: Right. CRAIG: Not to take away
from his expertise. He was a brilliant scientist
in his own right, but that’s why he was called in,
I think. That is my suspicion. And the manner in which
he kind of deduces that there may be
something worse in the motivation to go there, this is a compression
and combination -of a number of events.
-PETER: Yeah. CRAIG: That– The way
that scene unfolds is my own interpretation
of things. PETER: Yeah. It– It– It seems
pretty dramatically sharp, you know, that he’s reading
the notes. By the way, it’s an amazing
bit of acting -on Jared Harris’s part…
-CRAIG: Yeah. PETER: …to sort of show
that you just saw the worst news in the world
on a piece of paper. VALERY LEGASOV:I’m sorry.
I’m so sorry.
-LEGASOV:Page three,the section on casualties. Uh…“A fireman was severely burned
on his hand
by a chunk of smooth
black mineral
on the ground
outside the reactor building.”
Smooth black mineral.
There’s– There’s graphite
on the ground.
a tank explosion.
There’s debris.
Of what importance
-that could be–
-LEGASOV:There’s only one placein the entire facility
where you will find graphite:
inside the core.
If there’s graphite
on the ground outside,
it means it wasn’t
a control system tank
that exploded!
It was the reactor core!
It’s open!
PETER: Let’s talk about
the scene in the Kremlin. First of all,
we finally get to meet somebody we recognize,
Gorbachev. -(CRAIG CHUCKLES)
-PETER: That’s a fine, fine replica of his, uh,
of his wine mark. -CRAIG: Yes.
-PETER: We tend to think, in the West,
of Gorbachev as a relatively heroic figure
because we credit him with… voluntarily ending
the Soviet Union. Well, I don’t know
how accurate that is, but that’s how we tend
to think of him. -CRAIG: (CHUCKLES) Right.
-PETER: He comes across as not tremendously heroic,
and certainly not a leader here. He comes across as
yet another Soviet bureaucrat, the top Soviet bureaucrat, who seemingly,
like everybody else, is concerned
for his own reputation, position, and future. CRAIG: I– I did not want to
show what I think is, essentially, an invention
of who Gorbachev was. I don’t think Gorbachev was
a bad guy, by any stretch. I mean, in the long run
of Soviet premiers, certainly, the Brezhnev and Andropov
and Chernenko run there, he was– it was good
that he came along, and he did a lot of good.
But he was a bureaucrat. I mean, you don’t become
the General Secretary of the Communist Party
of the Soviet Union because you’re, you know, -a super-reformer.
-PETER: Yeah. CRAIG: Also,
he just had no idea. None of them really knew. PETER: Speaking of bureaucrats
and apparatchiks, let’s talk about
Legasov’s counterpart, who’ll be an important part
in the series as it plays out: Shcherbina,
played by Stellan Skarsgård. His official title is “Deputy Chairman
of the Council of Ministers and Head of the Bureau
for Fuel and Energy.” (CRAIG CHUCKLES) PETER: What does that mean? What I actually mean is… are we dealing
with a very powerful man in the Soviet system? Are we dealing
with a bureaucrat? Are we dealing with somebody
who needs to be feared? Somebody who fears? What was his position
in the power structure? CRAIG: He was– He was up there. Um, no one ever expected that
Shcherbina would be taking over. No one– He was not that guy. He wasn’t the person
you talk about if– if Gorbachev dies,
who takes over? -PETER: Right.
-CRAIG: Shcherbin– no, there were other guys,
and there were also other powerful people in the Soviet Union
that we don’t hear much about, like Premier Ryzhkov, and…
You probably remember -Andrei Gromyko, you know.
-PETER: Yeah. Andrei Gromyko
was incredibly influential inside that government. Boris Shcherbina
was more like… probably on par with
the Secretary of Agriculture. But he was somebody
you wouldn’t want to mess with. So, he posed no real threat to
the people that were in power, but he could definitely
mess your life up. I mean, he was pretty high up
in position. PETER: Yeah, and as we see
in this episode, he’s somebody who–
I don’t know if the correct expression
is “rules,” but let’s say he administers
through intimidation. He’s not particularly
a nice man. CRAIG: Well– And this is,
you know, fairly accurate to accounts
that Shcherbina was tough. -PETER: Yeah.
-CRAIG: He was a tough guy. He wasn’t quite as tall
as Stellan is– -PETER: Who is, ultimately?
-CRAIG: Correct. PETER: I’m not even sure
Stellan Skarsgård is as tall as Stellan Skarsgård. -It’s special effects.
-CRAIG: Stellan Skarsgård is as tall as Stellan–
he’s actually taller than you think
Stellan Skarsgård is. But Shcherbina was… Definitely quite a few
accounts of him trying to yell things
into existence. Uh… He was a gruff guy,
he was a tough guy, but he also was,
as it turned out, the right guy to send. Uh… I think that he,
from what I read, quickly figured out that… this was a war,
and it had to be won, and he was kinda
in it to win it. PETER: Yeah.
But getting back to this meeting,
we leave the meeting, Legasov has
at least convinced them that there’s enough reason
to go take a look. He gets sent,
along with Shcherbina. Neither of them
seem happy to go. They’re going. Just speaking as an admirer
of narrative tricks, having somebody being threatened with being thrown
out of a helicopter… -(CRAIG CHUCKLES)
-PETER: …if he doesn’t
explain something clearly gives it some stakes,
as they say, in the screenwriting
classes being held all over the place
around us. -We get there…
-CRAIG: Yeah. PETER: …and there’s
a very dramatic scene as they fly in, and Shcherbina
wants to take a look -right down into it.
-CRAIG: Right. PETER: And Legasov, in the end, successfully convinces
the pilot -not to do that.
-CRAIG: Right. PETER: This will come up a lot. It happens
very dramatically here, but there seems to be
a significant increase in danger of being
right over the pile as opposed to being
right next to it, which seemed to me to be… counter-intuitive,
only because of the way I imagine radiation
spreading in every direction. CRAIG: Sure. So, here’s the deal
with radiation. Because it– It’s very frustrating
when you read about it because you’re trying
to make sense of, well, why did this person die
and this person not die? So, your exposure to radiation is defined, essentially,
by three factors. One, how much radiation
is coming from the source? Two, how far away
are you from it? And three, how long
are you in that spot? PETER: Right. CRAIG: The reactor is–
Imagine this nuclear reactor as essentially kind of like
a big pit in the ground. This is– Sort of just a big– -It’s like a big tub.
-PETER: Yeah. CRAIG: And it’s
inside this build– So, there’s still walls
around it, because remember, all that force -went upward.
-PETER: Right. CRAIG: The nuclear fuel is inside that reactor,
and in this moment, it is burning. The graphite,
which is part of it, is also radioactive,
is burning. So, the radiation that has
spread outwards and around is essentially being carried up
by smoke. Particles that are radioactive
are being carried by smoke and spread around. But inside this big open tub
is the real stuff. -PETER: Right.
-CRAIG: Uranium, which is firing, essentially,
straight up into the air. ‘Cause the stuff
that’s going sideways is running into, essentially,
the tub itself, which was designed to kind of
hold radiation. PETER: Wh– When Legasov
explains, he uses a metaphor that I– I don’t think I’ve come
across before for radiation, -which is a metaphor of bullets.
-CRAIG: Right. PETER: The idea is–
One way to think of it is, these are physical particles that will tear through flesh,
that will tear through anything, and cause extraordinary,
if microscopic damage. CRAIG: That’s exactly
what they are. They are very, very, very,
tiny, tiny, tiny bullets. PETER: So, there’s also
the continuing story of Emily Watson’s character,
Ulana Khomyuk. She’s out there– She’s made no connection
with our other characters. She’s continuing to try to
both find out what’s going on, and bring the word of it
to the people that need to know. And there’s that great scene
with that bureaucrat. CRAIG: Right. BUREAUCRAT:There has been
an accident at Chernobyl,
but I’ve been assured
there is no problem.
ULANA KHOMYUK: I’m telling you
that there is.
I prefer my opinion to yours.
I’m a nuclear physicist.
Before you were
deputy secretary,
you worked in a shoe factory.BUREAUCRAT:Yes, I worked
in a shoe factory.
And now I’m in charge.CRAIG: One of the quirks
of the Soviet system– (CHUCKLES)
We think of it as– as just a, you know, -a huge palace built on lies…
-PETER: Yeah. CRAIG: …but some of it
was true, for instance, this notion that it would be
a government of the worker,
by the worker, for the worker. A lot of the people that did
end up as high-level bureaucrats were workers, so… a number of these people did come out of
factory positions. They were– They worked
in a factory, they became the foreman
of the factory, they then became, sort of,
the head of a council that dealt with five
of the factories, and eventually you become, um, the chairman of the communist
party of an entire Soviet Socialist Republic. We do know that
in the direct aftermath of the explosion,
there was a concerted effort to instruct all of the bosses,
the party bosses, to do nothing. And one of the unfortunate
coincidences of this accident is that it occurred five days
before May 1st, which is the International
Worker’s Day– I mean, it’s– it’s Labor Day. It’s a– Probably, I guess, it was the most
important holiday in the Soviet Union. So, we’re talking about parades. And in Kiev, in Minsk, there were
party officials who… honestly, it seems to me,
begged, begged… to cancel the parade. -PETER: Right.
-CRAIG: And they were told, “Not only will you not cancel
the parade, but you’ll be walking
in it too.” -PETER: Right.
-CRAIG: And they did. PETER: And there was a scene
in the original script in which that bureaucrat
gets up and walks out, and marches in the parade,
even though he knows. CRAIG: He knows, and he tries.
You know, he tries, and I think that that’s
what I wanted– You know, unfortunately
we just had to– Some things we lost
for time, but… I did wanna show,
and I’m glad I get a chance to talk about it here,
that… (SIGHS) A lot of these people would,
when they were told to do something,
they would do it convincingly. -PETER: Right.
-But they weren’t monsters. They would then try
to work behind the scenes in some sort of diplomatic,
bureaucratic way to do what was correct. In this case– and this is where, you know, I look at somebody
like Gorbachev, and I think… “You knew this was going on.” They were told to get out
on the streets, and we have photos of, you know,
the May Day parade in Kiev 1986. And when you look
at these photos, every single one of those people
is in danger. PETER: Right. -CRAIG: Indirect danger.
-PETER: Yeah, and people knew -that this was the case.
-CRAIG: On the inside. PETER: Yeah. But they didn’t,
of course. CRAIG: None of the people
marching knew. PETER: Yeah, there’s
a great moment in this episode where we find out that the kids
in Germany are being told to stay inside
as people look out at the kids -playing a few kilometers
from the plant.
-CRAIG: Exactly. That’s exactly correct. So,
by the time Moscow finally says “Okay, okay, we– we have
to evacuate this town,” the rest of the world
already knows. People have been getting
pulled off the streets. Um, there are work curfews
in places like Germany, or East Germany
and West Germany, -but not in Pripyat.
-PETER: Right. CRAIG: And that’s the shocking–
just shocking. PETER: So as it turns out, one cast member actually lived
through this. Stellan Skarsgård grew up
in Sweden, which, as we had talked about, was the first country
outside the Soviet Union to have an inkling
of what was going on. STELLAN SKARSGÅRD:So the smoke
and the dust was carried
with the winds…northwest over Sweden,over northern Sweden
and eastern Sweden,
and for years,
we could not eat mushrooms
that picked in the forest.
We could not eat reindeer
because the reindeer ate mosses
that were infected.
And uh… you can still
sort of detect radiation
in some parts of Sweden.Sometimes in animals
and sometimes in plants.
PETER: Let’s talk a little bit
about the victims. Everybody understands
in this business that it’s always best to focus
on individual stories to represent a group of people. You chose the story
of Lyudmilla. Was she real…
and why did you choose her to represent the larger group
of victims here? CRAIG: She is real. And her husband,
Vasily Ignatenko, lived, was real. He was a firefighter, and the actions that occurred
that night are– are… very much inspired by a story
that she tells, um, that she tells in the book
Voices of Chernobyl,
so I really took her story. I tried to tell it
as accurately as I could, because it is… just incredibly moving
and beautiful. I didn’t really do anything
to it to embellish it or… change facts,
I really just took what was there
that she reported. And I found her story to be… the most heart-wrenching
of all the stories that I read because it was so much about… love. And the character’s played
by Jessie Buckley, who, you know,
in talking about this with her, she said she was… she was attracted
to playing this character because the character was just
all about love, and how love just blinds you
to almost anything. And Adam Nagaitis plays
her husband, Vasily, who’s just kind of the paragon
of heroism, and there’s actually
a wonderful documentary about Lyudmilla also.
It’s a Swedish documentary. I don’t know if it’s findable.Ljudmilas röstis what
I think it is in Swedish. Anyway,
it’s a beautiful documentary if anyone can find it,
it’s well worth watching. PETER: Right. We have that remarkable scene
in the hotel, and there’s that great line.
They’re standing there in the middle
of a nuclear disaster, and somebody says,
“Well, there’s a hotel.” CRAIG: Yeah. PETER: This is before
the town is evacuated, so life is going on, and in walks Legasov into a bar, and it’s funny,
I didn’t understand exactly what happened
with that glass until I went back and looked
at it again, where the bartender offers him
a glass that’s been turned -open side up.
-Right. PETER: And he says, “I’ll take
the one that’s turned over.” -Just a small little thing.
-CRAIG: Which is a minor attempt -to, you know, be safe.
-PETER: Yeah. CRAIG: I mean, it’s–
I feel like… sometimes, as humans,
when we’re in situations that are overwhelming, we seek
to comfort ourselves in the most minuscule ways, even if we know they’re not…
significant and they won’t
change anything… -PETER: Yeah.
-CRAIG: …we try. -But Pripyat was functioning.
-PETER: Right. CRAIG: And so this is
the Polissya Hotel. It wasthe hotel in Pripyat. We replicated it, I think,
you know, the exterior of it, I mean, with the help
of visual effects, down to the– down to the brick, I believe,
or chunk of concrete as it were, and yeah,
that’s where he stayed. And that where they all stayed
for a while, actually. Even after the evacuation,
a number of people that were supervising this
effort to put this fire out, were headquartered
at the Polissya Hotel. PETER: Here’s actor Jared Harris
talking about just that. JARED HARRIS:There’s
this couple who are there,
who start asking him questions
about why he’s there
and what he’s doing there.“Is everything all right
with the site?”
And he is a choice at that pointto tell them the truth
or to lie.
And it was one of the things
that we discussed,
that I discussed
with Johan and Craig, is…
that’s sort of the point
that he
steps into the story
at that point, where…
because he lies to them
the fact that there’s
nothing to worry about,
at that point,he owns the outcome
of what’s gonna happen,
and he’s now responsible
for what’s gonna happen.
Up until that point,
he was– he was an innocent
who was plucked from his life
and plonked into this situation,
but the moment that he lies,he knows own responsibility
for the outcome.
-PETER: So they finally
evacuate Pripyat.
-CRAIG: Yep. PETER: One of the things
I was struck with -was how orderly it was.
-Right. I was like, “Oh, you’re
evacuating an entire town -of how many people? 50,000?”
-CRAIG: 50,000. PETER: 50,000 people are being
evacuated from this town, and I could only think of
what that would be like if they tried to do that
to a similar town in America. People would be yelling.
People would be complaining. People would be demanding that
they’re allowed to bring that– -CRAIG: Calling their lawyers.
-PETER: Exactly, “I’m not leaving,” whatever. We get a little bit of that
later in the series, but everybody just got up
and said, “All right.” -And they climbed onto the bus.
-CRAIG: Very Soviet. So… the buses
were Kiev municipal buses. They expected
that they were going to have to evacuate this town
as they were monitoring the radiation
coming from the plant, and as they were dropping
the sand and the boron and the lead, it started to get
a little better, then it started to get
much worse and they said, “Okay, it’s time.”
So they were prepared. They had 1,000,
I think it was 1,000 Kiev buses, which is probably
all of the buses in Kiev, waiting at night.
Just waiting. And then they eventually
get a signal– the signal -the next day. It’s on.
-PETER: Right. CRAIG: And a caravan
of a thousand buses makes its way to Pripyat,
and the citizenry, by all accounts except one, -so I went with all accounts…
-PETER: Yeah. CRAIG: …was
incredibly orderly. Again, reflective of the society
in which they lived and grew up. The police said,
“You’re coming with us. You’re getting on the bus. You can take one suitcase,
no pets. You’ll be back in a few days. Get on the bus,”
and everybody said, “Okay. And I’ll wait in the line
and get on the bus.” PETER: Right. CRAIG: With very little protest. I mean, normally, you would look
at that and say, “Oh, my God, they’re leading
lambs to a slaughter,” but really,
they’re leading the lambs away from the slaughter.
But… they’re doing this on a scale
that, like you say, is unimaginable in the West.
And they went to the hospital and said, “Everybody out, -including all the sick people,”
-PETER: Right. CRAIG: And they said, “Okay.”
And they got on the buses, and they drove away.
And they never, -ever, ever came back.
-PETER: Right. And what do we know
about those people and where they ended up?
Were they all just dispersed through the Soviet Union?
They end up in Kiev? CRAIG: So, initially, they– a lot of them did end up
in Kiev. I mean, they were held
in a bunch of places. In fact, somebody told me
that there was a resort that was someplace people
would go in the winter, to get away from the cold, and this was, you know,
in the spring, summer, and so it was somewhat empty
at this point. So they sent a lot of them
to this resort, which in and of itself
is just mindboggling that they’d been evacuated
from their radiated town, and now, they’re kinda like
in a… some sort of spa resort briefly, but eventually
what the Soviets do is they just build
another city called Slavutych, which is just outside
of the zone and it’s kind of like, “Here,
here’s another Pripyat. Everybody go live there.” And a lot of people did in fact
go and work in Slavutych. And to this day,
a lot of the people that still work
at the power plant monitoring the electrical
switches, ’cause it’s still part of
the grid, live in Slavutych and… What’s more Soviet than that? We’ll just, uh…
we’ll do it again. Redo– Do over. PETER: Yeah, we’ll just do it
again. Nobody will say anything. -CRAIG: Exactly. Yeah.
-PETER: People will just go. I mean, there’s so many things
that happen in this series that I’ve never seen depicted
on film before because they’re so crazy,
even though they were real. So many of the things
that happen in episode one. In episode two, we’re coming up
on the climactic incident, which seems so much
like a movie, -I almost don’t believe it.
-CRAIG: Right. PETER: And this is, of course,
the sluice gates. CRAIG: Yeah. PETER: So let’s back up
a little bit. Uh, Khomyuk comes to Chernobyl,
to Pripyat, and with this news,
she has figured out that– what he’s doing– she’s found out, through
her rather coded conversation, what Legasov is doing
with the boron and the sand, she figures it out,
and then she explains, when she finally arrives, “You’re making a mistake. You think that the water
underneath the reactor is gone, but I have figured out
that it’s not gone.” -Let’s stop right there.
-Yeah. PETER: Is that based on truth? Is that based on
a miscalculation, -and then a better calculation?
-CRAIG: Essentially. Legasov’s plan was to drop
sand and boron and then start mixing it
with lead, and there were actually
a couple scientists who made the argument that
the most effective thing to do would actually be
to just let it burn out. PETER: We should stop and–
maybe for my own edification– when we talk about
the thing being on fire, there’s really
two different kinds of fire. There’s one, like, almost
a traditional fire, the graphite’s burning, smoke,
particles, flames, -that’s one fire that they–
-CRAIG: Yes. PETER: …that’s going on
and they need put out ’cause that’s spreading
radiation -in the form of a cloud
and smoke.
-CRAIG: Right. PETER: But then there’s
the nuclear reaction, which is now uncontrolled. The control rods are gone,
it’s blown up. So you have all this uranium
that’s– it’s basically -a burning nuclear pile.
-CRAIG: Yes. PETER: Uncontrolled fission.
That’s a separate problem. And it seems as if Legasov
understands that if he puts out the fire
with the boron, the other one’s still
gonna go on. It’s gonna get hotter
and hotter and hotter. And then we have the classic
meltdown -where it sinks into the earth.
-CRAIG: The fuel, he is aware, will probably melt down,
but they have time. -PETER: Right.
-CRAIG: Because underneath the reactor are, essentially,
layers. There’s a shield and then
there’s a big concrete pad, and this is designed
specifically to slow down, uh, a meltdown
and still have time to get underneath it
and deal with it. And what they came
to understand, with terror, was that they were days away
from a thermal explosion. So the idea there is you have a container, you have a container,
a very rigid steel container, I think,
or possibly concrete, of about 7000 cubic meters
of water, which is a lot. And if– (CHUCKLES)
If melting nuclear fuel burns through and hits it,
that will flash vaporize all that water to steam, and then–
what is a bomb? A bomb is basically
a lot of pressure inside a very rigid container
that finally snaps. That would have destroyed
all of the other three reactors, which, by the way,
were still operating. -PETER: Yes.
-(CRAIG CHUCKLES) -PETER: Let’s stop for a second.
-CRAIG: And talk about that! -Somebody mentions that…
-CRAIG: Yeah. …and– and I honestly, I literally couldn’t believe it. -CRAIG: Yep.
-PETER: So, there’s– Reactor number four
has blown up… -CRAIG: That’s right.
-…the worst nuclear
accident that has ever occurred. As Legasov says, “This has
never happened before in the history of the planet.”
That’s happening over here. CRAIG: Yep. PETER: In the other end
of the building, they’re just running
the nuclear reactors for power -like normal?
-CRAIG: Yep. PETER: Why in the world
would they do that? CRAIG: They needed it. And this is the part
that’s kind of shocking. It– It’s one of the reasons the accident happens
in the first place, and we’ll get to that detail
later on in the series, but this power plant was powering most of Kiev,
basically. It was– It was the linchpin
of Ukrainian power. If they shut it all down, without any other preparation, that’s devastating to
an entire city, an economy, an industry, and, listen,
those other three reactors were hummin’ along just fine. -I know!
-PETER: I– It’s just insane. So there were people who
were getting up and going to work,
and putting on the paper outfits just like we saw in episode one. Standing there,
running the reactors. CRAIG: Correct.
While helicopters are buzzing constantly overhead, dropping sand, lead, and boron on a burning open
nuclear reactor, you know, maybe half a kilometer
away from you. I believe that reactors
one through three functioned mostly through
the ’90s. They started getting shut down
in the late ’90s, and the final one,
I think, was reactor three, was shut down in the year 2000. PETER: All right. So,
let’s just say that’s crazy… -CRAIG: Mm-hmm.
-…and get back to our story. There’s a description
of the result if this thermal
explosion happens. -CRAIG: Yeah.
-Which basically, to summarize, makes Europe uninhabitable. CRAIG: Well, at the very least, it would make Ukraine
and Belarus uninhabitable for quite some time,
and it would have a… it would have had a terrible
impact on most of Europe. PETER: So it’s very real. -CRAIG: Yeah.
-What Legasov warns is real. And the solution that
they come up with was real. The only way to prevent this
from happening, the core melting down,
hitting that water, would be to drain the water. The only way to drain the water
is to send somebody inside the flooded basement
of the destroyed reactor, somebody who knew what they
were doing, to physically open some valves,
or we call them sluice gates. CRAIG: Yeah, basically,
to open the gates that were holding all the water in those steam suppression
bubbler pools. And so you needed people
that could, basically, find it in the dark. It was an absolute maze
down there. The level of water, I think a lot of people
reported that it was like, you know, swimming
in a fishbowl– It wasn’t quite like that,
the water, I think, got as far up to their chests,
you know, but they were in full scuba gear
and there were three of them and those were
the three of them. -PETER: Yeah.
-CRAIG: Those were their names, and they did it. PETER: Um, it’s interesting,
because I noticed this, especially going through
the script, that those three actors
basically had one line of dialogue each.
Well, not quite. They stand up
and they say their names. CRAIG: Which was important
to me. I felt, you know, these three
men did something that is so remarkable. And when you read
the real accounts, it doesn’t take place
in quite that dramatic, you know,Spartacusmoment. They’re just standing up
amidst a group of men, but… they were asked,
and they said, “Okay.” “Well, that’s what I gotta do, -that’s what I gotta do.”
-PETER: Before that happens, of course, uh, Legasov -goes back to the Kremlin…
-CRAIG: Yeah. …and he has that scene where he’s explaining
the situation, where we find out
about what might happen and what he’s going to do
to stop it. Is that real? CRAIG: What is real is that they all knew. When they came up– this was hardly the only mission
like this– they all knew that there were
certain missions where they needed
to kill people. That part is true,
and there’s a phrase that they started to use, called “counting lives,” which Gorbachev, I think,
uses in the scene. -PETER: Yeah.
-CRAIG: And this became a running theme of counting lives,
where, in order to assess what they should do next, one of the factors was
“how many lives will we take?” Because some of them,
there was no way to do it unless you were willingly
sending people to what was certainly going
to be their death. -PETER: Yeah.
-CRAIG: So, I wanted to– to dramatize that notion, which was a very real thing,
in a moment. And I thought
it was important, too, for the audience to know that the Soviets were not blithely
sending people to their deaths. This was not a kind of
evil empire where people just went,
“Oh, who cares? Just kill a bunch of people
until it goes away.” No, they were– This was
very difficult to do, and they didn’t want anyone
to die, and they were, unfortunately, in a position where
they had no choice. -PETER: Right.
-CRAIG: And they were weighing,
essentially, either this amount of people
will die, or this amount. Let’s count lives and see
which one is better. PETER: Yeah. And then,
of course, there’s the key scene of
the episode, in which, having made
this decision of what they have to do
to prevent this disaster, they go, and Legasov kind of
lamely… -CRAIG: (CHUCKLING) Yeah.
-PETER: …tries to, uh– By the way, again, props
to Jared Harris, because it’s one thing
to act nobly, it’s another thing to act
cravenly, and he does both brilliantly. CRAIG: He really does.
He’s… so good, and he occupied– Not only did he occupy
this man’s mind in this remarkable
and convincing way, but also his body. There are a number
of moments where he stumbles as he walks,
he’s clumsy, -he’s reticent, he’s awkward.
-PETER: Yeah. CRAIG: And I think that adds
a lot to what is, ultimately… a character that we have seen, but never seen
kind of realistically, and that’s the scientist hero. -PETER: Right.
-CRAIG: Um… Typically the scientist hero’s
far too… good-looking and muscular
(LAUGHS) and brave. PETER: Played by
Denise Richards, for example. CRAIG: Denise Richards as, as–
what was her name? -PETER: Christmas Jones!
-CRAIG: Christmas Jones. Yeah. So– And they’re named
Christmas, which, you know, is not typical, um…
(CHUCKLES) But, you know, for me
and for Johan, when we were casting–
And this is not to– I mean,
these are all beautiful people. All actors are– have
remarkable facial symmetry… But it was important that
we never felt like we were glitzing this up
in any way, um, that we wanted
to keep it Soviet and real. All ordinary people. And they would offer people these, as you say,
lame incentives. PETER: Four hundred rubles,
I think? Plus a medal, maybe? CRAIG: Yeah. 400 rubles, -you’d get a promotion.
-PETER: Yeah. CRAIG: There’s an implication
that if something should happen
to you, your family would get
taken care of -in some way.
-PETER: Yeah. -CRAIG: Sometimes.
-PETER: Yeah. CRAIG: But mostly, it’s nothing. I mean, really,
what they’re saying is, “Would anybody like to die
for their country?” PETER: Which is essentially
what Shcherbina says. “We’re the people who do this. -We do what must be done.”
-CRAIG: Yeah. PETER: And the– And
that’s convincing. Did you have to, as you worked
on this, put aside– ‘Cause, again, I kept
coming back to the difference between this very real story and the fictional stories
that we’ve been fed about disasters, about heroes, did you find yourself
in the writing process, going through that, sort of,
evolution, like, “This is how it happened
in the movies, but I can’t do that,
’cause this is real,” and putting that aside
and moving to what your best estimate is
of what really happened? CRAIG: Yeah. I mean, there were times
when I would think like, “Well…” (SIGHS) “This feels like a– like
an action movie cliché, but it happened– I can’t
not say what happened, that’s the point,
I have to say it. So, let me at least try and not,
you know, gild the lily.” -PETER: Right.
-But, yeah, in general… for me, and then for Johan
when he was shooting, we always were shy about
anything that felt cliché or conventional. We always wanted to kind of
go in the other direction. If something would– seemed
like it would be really big, we wanted to make it
really small, PETER: Yeah. And one of
the things I noted about the production– And we’re talking about
Johan Renck, the director– I noticed so many times where,
for example, -there is no stirring music.
There is no tension music. -CRAIG: Right.
-PETER: There’s no fanfares. The music score is almost
like a heartbeat, almost like
a background sound that indicates tension
and terrible danger. It’s almost like you can hear
the radiation, but no more. And there is a… a remarkable focus
through the lighting on– on just the gritty
realism of it. I don’t think there’s
a single, like, technically beautiful shot– except maybe the one of
the light going up in the air in the very first episode–
in the whole thing. It’s all very gritty and real
and Soviet. -And– And–
-CRAIG: Soviet. -PETER: Yes.
-CRAIG: By design. I mean, we really wanted to, again,
put you in that world, and also, I think, when you’re dealing
with something this inherently dramatic, there’s only danger in adding
your own drama on top of it, because you’re just
diminishing the truth, which is shocking
in and of itself. It’s one of the reasons I’m glad
you mentioned our score’s, um, composed
by Hildur Guonadóttir. I’m not pronouncing that
exactly the right Icelandic way because, literally,
it’s the hardest language -on the planet.
-PETER: (LAUGHING) I know. ♪ (EERIE MUSIC PLAYS) ♪ CRAIG: But Hildur did
a gorgeous job. She is a genius, and… So much of what she did was -to not do the normal thing.
-PETER: Right. CRAIG: Because when you go…
♪ (MIMICS DRAMATIC MUSIC) ♪ you’re telling people,
“Feel things, feel things!” -PETER: Yes.
-CRAIG: And we really just wanted you to feel them
honestly. And then this score was there
to kind of just be with you. Not lead you. ♪ (MUSIC CONTINUES) ♪ PETER: As we approach
the climax of this episode, the three men go into
the plant. It’s dark. They’ve got
their flashlights. It’s incredibly confusing,
which is, again, -brilliantly depicted…
-CRAIG: Yeah. …that there are pipes
everywhere, it’s incredibly dark,
even with their torches. And the end of the episode is their flashlights all go out. PETER: And I literally said
to my wife, -“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
-CRAIG: Yeah. (CHUCKLES) -PETER: Were you kidding us?
-CRAIG: No. No. So… there’s versions
of this story, um, some of which have gone
a little bit into urban legend, and we– we’ve done, I think, a really good job of presenting
what I think is more the down-the-middle version
of what happened here. So, there was a moment
that actually… (CHUCKLES) we didn’t even put in,
that was even scarier, where one of the guys
reported that he sort of waved his dosimeter
and he saw, through, like, a crack,
in– in the wall, something glowing. And he held his dosimeter up,
it kind of went off the scale and he just said to these–
to his other guys, “We need to move quickly.”
(CHUCKLES) So, that’s something I left out, but there were
a number of accounts that indicated that the lights
went out. Now, again, this is kind of
cobbled together from multiple accounts, but yeah, I– That’s
as far as we could tell, that is an accurate account. PETER: Yeah. So, three men alone in the dark with the fate of the continent
in the balance. It’s a fine place to end
an episode, and this podcast. I’m Peter Sagal, uh, it’s been
my pleasure to host this episode
ofThe Chernobyl Podcastalong with the show’s
creator and writer and producer, Craig Mazin. Episode three ofChernobyl
airs next Monday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on HBO. You can always subscribe
to this podcast, you can rate it,
you can review it, you can call up your friends,
using your phone, and tell them they must listen, because what a great thing
to listen to. You can also listen, of course,
on SoundCloud, YouTube, you can also listen
via the HBO Now and HBO Go apps, and wherever else you get
your podcasts, including listening to them
from the air, via your fillings,
if that works for you. (CRAIG CHUCKLES) PETER: We’ll be back next week
with episode three of The Chernobyl Podcast,
talking about episode three of theChernobylminiseries. Thank you again, Craig. CRAIG: Thank you, Peter. ♪ (MUSIC PLAYING) ♪

  1. Being from Belarus – I have such tremendous respect for the writer. Now only was he able to depict the story in such detail and accuracy, he was able to understand the soul of people from Soviet Union, and show their heroism. Absolutely amazing!

  2. In this podcast Craig Mazin talks about how easily people evacuated their homes and the hospital assuming that would never happen in the US. Think about it, the nuclear reactor a couple miles down the road exploded, they are pretty sure that they are being lied to. Of course they are going to leave. I was in a hospital in the late seventies that was located on a top of a hill in a town and that night there was a terrible storm with a minimum of 4 tornadoes either touched down or above the town. You could see them out the windows. Those of us who could walk led the patients down to the inner hall of the first floor or, for those who could not walk, we rolled their beds into the halls away from the windows. Nobody complained, they knew there was a threat and they wanted to make it through if the hospital was hit. Turns out , one did clip the very top of the hospital but nobody was hurt. Anyway, people basically want to live and if they know there is a real threat, yeah they'll go!

  3. I wish the authors went back and corrected all the bullshit they spilled about "contagious radiation and inhaling subatomic neutrons" between minutes 11 and 12 of the show…

  4. After reading a decent chunk of the comments, I concluded that most of the audience of this series is seriously sick…

  5. What an interesting series! I was little when this all happened, but I still remember being in grade 2 (about 7 yrs. old), and they had a sort of program going on. My teacher hosted a little girl from Belarus. I live in Ontario, Canada, and from what I recall they were trying to get kids away from radiation exposure. Even just for a while.

  6. I think it could've been made more clear in this episode (and in the next) that those three men survived the incident. The way the whole expedition was framed makes it seem like they were all doomed. But all three of them survived for decades more, and two of them are still alive today.

  7. 9:26 "Uh, everything is under control, situation normal! Uh, we had a slight reactor malfunction, but, uh, everything's perfectly all right now. We're fine. We're all fine here, now, thank you. How are you?"

  8. I loved how when the three guys went into the water, the director uses no words but just the sound of the Geiger counter. It was just intense. And when the light goes out, I may have flat-lined. The scariest things aren't ghosts or zombies or aliens… It's always things that can actually happen.

  9. Why did the producers try to put the poetry and language in Russian instead of Ukrainian? It took place in Ukraine, not Russia.

  10. I'm so glad with what Craig said about the cinematography and not wanting to add drama. That was my one fear when I saw the trailers, with an event like Chernobyl, you do not need to add drama!

  11. Thank you for mentioning the May Day parade in Kyiv. I was disappointed that it wasn't in the show, but at least some people will know because of the podcast. For a lot of Ukrainians, that was one of the biggest betrayals: not cancelling the parade.

  12. I’ve got a problem with seemingly conflicting timelines. At the timeline says that April 27 the evacuation it Pripyat has begun, but in this episode and your talk here you say that the evacuation didn’t begin until after the German (Wiesbaden) move to keep children inside which according to the timeline sort above was May 1. So your saying the Pripyat evacuation happens after Sweden and Germany react to the radiation but the timeline site says that Pripyat evacuation happened before the Sweden and Germany actions. What’s going on here? Seems like someone got it backwards.

  13. Big thank you to those citizens of USSR that did so much to mitigate harm to the rest of us all. True Hero's!!!!?

  14. Called out Emily Watson's character as fake as soon as she started getting everything right. Very minor feminist narratives aside, absolutely fantastic show.

  15. I was on that May 1st parade in Kyiv as a 9-year old. I have problems with thyroid gland, and who doesn't over the age of 35 in Kyiv, anyone? All the result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  16. Remember those names – the first firefighters who arrived at the scene of the explosion and started combating the fire:

    Vladimir Pravik – died May 11, 1986

    Victor Kibenok – died May 11, 1986

    Leonid Telyatnikov – lived longest among these firemen, which is a miracle in itself. Died in 2005 of Chernobyl-related cancer.

    Vasiliy Ignatenko – died May 13, 1986. In 2006 posthumously awarded the title Hero of Ukraine.

    Nikolay Vaschuk – was instrumental in preventing fire from reaching reactor number 3. Died with the rest of his crew on the same day. Hero of Ukraine.

    Nikolay Titenok – died May 16, 1986. Hero of Ukraine

    Leonid Shavrey – miraculous recovery in the facility in Kyiv. Had bone marrow partially replaced which help the organism and DNA to fight off radiation exposure and sickness.

    Ivan Shavrey – the younger brother of Leonid. Also survived by miraculous treatment in Kyiv. Again, partial replacement of bone marrow.

    Petro Shavrey – the oldest brother. Also survived. There should be a book about this family of heroes or maybe a separate HBO movie.

    Alexander Lelichenko – electrician technician of Chernobyl NPP. Was responsible for preventing an additional hydrogen explosion. Received lethal dose of radiation and died on May 7, 1986. Hero of Ukraine.

    The first wave of firefighters consisted of 28 men in total.

  17. RBMK has the ability to change fuel without shutting down the reactor up to 5 fuel assemblies per day. There is 192 tons of fuel for a total of 576,000 lbs of uranium in 32 foot tall assemblies of 36 fuel rods split in the middle for a total of 72 fuel rods that are 11 feet 3 inches long for a total fuel length of 22 feet 6 inches. Each assembly contains 253 lbs of uranium, and Chernobyl #4 had 1,661 fuel assemblies with 211 control rods for a total uranium fuel full load of 420,233 lbs. The 1,661 fuel rod channels built into the graphite stack, (stack of graphite bricks) are round holes where the fuel assemblies slide down into the reactor as these are loaded/unloaded via pressure chamber crane loader.

    Those round holes in the stack are lined with a zirconium alloy tube running the length of the graphite stack.The fuel assemblies are also made from zirconium alloy with zirconium steel alloy supporting structure. Water is pumped into the bottom which flows to the top quickly in these channels. Heat is transferred from the fission of atoms splitting apart which changes the atoms mass E=MC² the mass changed which causes the energy E to change then the first law of thermodynamics states that energy is always conserved thus transferring from one type of energy to another.

    That remaining energy from the mass changing thus changing the MC² side must then also change the E side (energy) which is released from the atom in raw energy that transfers into a few types of energy which transfers into heat which gets transferred to the water which is heated to 284 °C or 543 °F in 836 to 902 pressure tubes that travel through the core to cool it before sending the boiling hot water to generate steam to be used to turn two 500MW hydrogen cooled turbogenerators before the water is cooled by a heat exchanger condenser that transfers the heat to nearby river water.

  18. This show is as good as Breaking Bad. One of the best shows I have ever seen in my life.

    But why on earth wouldn’t you discuss the chopper in this commentary?

  19. Amazing score, amazing show. Truly great, now I dont have anything to look forward to on mondays now that the show has ended.😢

  20. this series is made to look like the govt moved people out in a timely manner. this of course is bullshit

  21. Gorbachev didn't end Soviet Union willingly, just read about how Lithuania or Latvia went out of Soviet Union on their own, and how soviet tanks just crushed and killed dozens of ppl in these countries when these countries announced their independence.

  22. Most important day was a November Revolution's day, not Labor day. And of course 9th of May – Victory Day. Labor day is just an another celebration day.

  23. I was there in Chernobyl,
    Gorbachev is a real pece of sheet,
    He is the biggest LOOSER, burn in HELL 👹👿😈☠💀😎👌 In my opinion it was act of terrorism against USSR, sponsored by Mossad and CIA, Gorbach totally a traitor

  24. This musical score of the series reminds me kind of what Texas Chain Saw Massacre did; using Ambience, tone, and noise.

  25. Chernobyl has been widely covered through the years, an much has been made of the design flaws which turned out to be the Achilles heel. While the designed to fail with minimal likelihood of not causing contamination breeder reactor at Windscale seems to be an obscure subject, sure the scale of the disaster does not compare but the willing neglect on part of the state apparatus is just as shocking.

  26. As soon as Ulana Khomyuk (Emily Watson) was on the screen my bullshit detector started going off. A Mary-Sue character like that can not exist in the real world.

  27. "We know you'll come back!" said the fields and pastures,
    "We know you'll come back!" said the woods and the hill.
    Alyosha, at nights I can hear them behind me.
    Their voices are following after me still.

    By old Russian practice, mere fire and destruction
    Are all we abandon behind us in war.
    We see alongside us the deaths of our comrades,
    By old Russian practice, the wound to the fore.

    Alyosha, till now we've been spared by the bullets.
    But when (for the third time) my life seemed to end,
    I yet still felt proud of the dearest of countries,
    The great bitter land I was born to defend.

    I'm proud that the mother who bore us was Russian;
    That Russian I'll fall as my ancestors fell;
    That going to battle, the woman was Russian,
    Who kissed me three times in a Russian farewell!

    It is from "Roads of Smolensk" by Konstantin Symonov. It is weird that the writer kind of get it but still laughing it out. Russians take this extremely seriously and this is one of the reasons why Russians will be around while Americans will become a history.

  28. That scene with Scherbina threatening to throw Legasov out of helicopter was so painfully stupid and unnessesary, it's 80's, not 30's, for god's sake. It's spoiled for me a bit awesome performance of Stellan Skarsgard and character of Boris Scherbina.

  29. I heard the russians are doing their own version of this show, where they show the real truth – the accident was caused by a CIA agent who infiltrated the power plant. 😀

  30. My family and I lived in the Kiev region. Then, after the explosion, we found ourselves in 4 zones, not subject to eviction. Yes, and the third as far as I know, not evicted. My daughter was 2 years old. we didn’t know anything and on May 2 our whole family worked in the garden and planted potatoes. There was a very strong wind. It seems that nature wanted to dispel as much as possible the invisible death.

  31. I love how the host brought up the score, and how it and many of the other flourishes (visual shots) were "Soviet" in style. The director goes on to say that the score was not the "obvious" on purpose. That's quite interesting because this weekend I watched Ava Duvernay's "When They See Us". It's a splendid work – but the biggest problem I had with it was the "obvious" music choices she and the production crew made. (As I watched it I remember using the word "obvious" when songs were played over). Popular songs were used throughout; unfortunately it was from the garbage genre of hip-hop. For me that cheapened the entire 4 part series. I think if they would have used non-cliche, ironic songs and music that would have heightened the tension and meaning.

  32. In the original version, it actually says the "fires". So it made even more sense. Sometig like this:

    "By the Russian tradition, having just scattered
    The fires behind them in Russian lands,
    Before our eyes our comrades were dying,
    In a Russian way, tearing the shirts from their chests."

  33. In one documentary film it is said that Legasov had been called to the meeting and eventually made to go to Chernobyl, because he was among the few specialists that were available at the moment since almost all of them were on vacation; so it was not like they decided that he was an reliable apparatchik, they simply didn’t have anyone to turn to.
    But, hands down, Valery Legasov was a hero who sacrificed everything in the name of the cause

  34. He is completely wrong about radiation being contagious. The victims are isolated due to their immune system not due to contagion which is not there after they are stripped and decontaminated.

  35. As if it wasn't enough with the greatest mini series ever, you also give us an incredibly riveting podcast to go along with it. What have we done to deserve all this great content, HBO?

  36. I would imagine that if a thousand buses turned up at my town I would assume that who has enough power to organize that is not to be messed with.

  37. So frustrating to keep hearing about the important technical scenes they "didn't have time for", yet loads was wasted on Jessie Buckley's part which was utterly unnecessary and for effect. Chernobyl doesn't need emotional impact, it's impactful enough 👍

  38. My father worked in radiology department in a hospital in Czechoslovakia and their dosimeters went off and they had no idea what was happening, since other places were reporting the same thing.

  39. Thank You Mr Mazin and Mr Sagal. I remember this date ! If you have some degree of scientific Nuclear Fission and what it does to cellular structures – it is terrifying just to imagine ! The Russian people has been – I will say abused by their political powers and the power of a party! with promises and failures – the Aral Sea disaster – the enormous sacrifice of people during the 2nd WW, and after. The Russian Psyche seems under the yoke of overwhelming distress Just now in the Philippine Sea the US Navy and Russian Navy had a near miss – and it was clearly obvious in the photos of the wake that the Russians were not paying attention – and they Lied ! they do that a – lot !! They did not interfere in US elections – Sure !!
    "" They should put that in our currency !! ""

  40. There are an innumerable set of observations to learn from this story TODAY !! – we Face a WH that Lies from a number of officials to the President himself, to the obfuscation of the law as if not important and consequential ramifications. Ignorance in the 2019 is not an excuse to be shallow is not a good quality !! We are in the presence of potentially huge events politically and economical … but few people are getting up to listen and speak – there are voices and articles and – lots of warnings, but the great majority is blinded by – IGNORANCE and POWER !

  41. The show was amazing. It really looked like the Soviet Union, my father was born in the Soviet Union an he keeps saying how it looks like his child hood home.

  42. I watched (and enjoyed) Ludmilla Rost but couldn't understand a word. Wish they would add subtitles to it!

  43. NO steam explosion would have occurred. Just a gradual increase in steam pressure to the point where loss by leaks was balanced by steam production.
    The best thing to do was cover it and leave it, close the leaks and port the leak to an ionic water cleaner.
    It's the biggest lie in the program.

  44. The title gif reminds me of The Mist how the liquidators are dressed almost like the army troops at the end when they start "liquidating" the creatures..

  45. There's an interview with Oleksiy Ananenko (but it's in Russian) where he says that they weren't actually volunteers as it's shown in the series. He received a call, they said "go" and he agreed. "How could I say 'no' ? They would tell me to leave and nobody would employ me ."

    At the end, Oleksiy Ananenko says: " And no one clapped after that. It was just an ordinary job. I don't even remember much of that day because for me it wasn't that important "

  46. HBO always has great shows soapranos, the wire, band of brothers, Game of thrones (except last 2 seasons)and now Chernobyl I’ve only seen three episodes but it’s the best thing I’ve seen since game of thrones season 4

  47. I tend to get bored of tv series very quickly and lose interest. was on the physical edge of my seat through all of Chernobyl. I wish more shows and films on historical events where handled with this level of respect and truth.

  48. This is the documentary about Ljudmila that they mention:

    It's in Swedish but if you know the language it's a beautiful watch that i highly recommend.

  49. The nuclear reaction stopped as soon as the moderator was removed otherwise the reaction would have continued to build energy until it reaches close to the levels seen in fission bombs. Fission bombs do not actually even get to “burn” or perform fission of most of the fissile material due to the energy generated in the explosion blowing the nuclear material which has to be ~80% U-235. Naturally occurring uranium has only ~0.7% U-235 and is not capable of approaching the energy required to even heat water into steam like in a nuclear reactor without a moderator let alone continue to “burn” and have fission occur simply by being that close to each other otherwise how would you assemble/refuel the reactor. Please inform yourself of the true scientific facts before touting a repeat of false scientific narratives or personal accounts as truth. Also even if Zar Bomba with a Uranium tamper which would have doubled the yield to 100MT dropped on reactor #4 would have raised Kiev let alone Minsk. The soviet scientist who says this is true is retarded. If it was that easy then all you need is 200MT of a 4000C solid into 7000m3 of water and not spend billions on a nuclear weapons program, but I’m just an operator at a plastics plant who enjoys learning about nuclear physics and all things radioactive such as Chernobyl before this Miniseries made it “cool”.

  50. This podcast is so interesting! The show was handled so masterfully with delicate nuance and tone. I absolutely loved this show and now I get to listen all of these at work 😀 Thanks HBO!

  51. These post episode podcasts are incredibly informative. I wish this type of format would continue!

  52. I loved Stellan’s portrayal of Scherbina. Just 1 little detail. I’ve never seen a communist bureaucrat ordering someone by threatening to throw them off a plane. That’s actually not as scary as pulling ranks or patriotic shaming or the threat of being disciplined by the party (yeah, it’s a big scary one, NO ONE, I repeat, NO ONE wants to be disciplined. Some people might secretly wish to be thrown off a plane, yes. But NO ONE wants to be disciplined). I’m Vietnamese btw 🙂

  53. We/Americans don't have to talk about "dodging bullets" because we're not a socialist/communist country, nor have to be afraid of KGB….We're patriotic from the beginning, we do not have to be sacked into believeing our country was greater then it was,,, USSR. Are you having a hard time producing these podcasts on Blue soil… You'd be shut down on Red soil…. Beside the host stating we don't have camaraderie,,, after WWII…This is easily my favorite series beside The Pacific. Great lighting, fantastic locations. Mega props!

  54. They didn't say what was amazingly well done was the end of episode two when, appart from lights going off, we could only hear a single sound: the geiger counters going crazier and crazier and crazier and crazier!

  55. Yeah but why didn't you ask for the guy's permission to use the phonecall video in the show? Shame! Shame! Shame!


  57. They kept the other 3 reactors running??? It completely blows my mind. As he says, with the sound of helicopters flying overhead dumping sand and boron into the split-open reactor 4, right next door, and they kept the other 3 running. It beggars belief.

  58. Ты знаешь наверное фсётоки родина
    Не дом городской где я празднична жил

  59. The beginning of this podcast is really interesting as it gives us the opportunity to hear regular western guys trying to wrap their heads around this russian mentality and being fascinated by it. We westerners (and yes, we Czechs ARE westerners, no matter what Russians with their poisonous tales of "slavic unity" say and no matter what damage the 40 years of soviet opression tried to instill) are individualists. I.e. we value the human life above all, in a philosophical but also in the individual practical meaning of this term. And individual's freedoms that come with it. They on the other hand are essentialy collectivists. And always have been ever since the Mongol/Tatar yoke. That worldview was not an "invention" of Soviet Union and of the VKS(b), on the contrary, that worldview was the reason why the bolsheviks managed to seize and keep the power in the first place. And it hasn't changed till today btw. In the west, the state is understood as being made by the people and for the people. In Russia the people are here for the state and it can ask them to sacrifice everything and they are obliged to do so. Because "that is the obligation inherited from the heroic ancestors defending the motherland" (to be precise "mother Russia" OR "fatherland"/otčina). And that is the reason why it has always been such a shitty country. Because it constantly asks its inhabitants (thats a better term than "citizens") to make some sacrifices. For the sake of the country, for the sake of its international standing and "dignity". And they do it, they complain about the resulting hardships but never about this underlying reason, because they believe in it and EVERY leadership, no matter of its ideology or form, is free to abuse it. They are full of pathos about their heroes and sacrifices. Well, the heroes (for example soldiers in WWI or WWII) were treated like shit when alive, humiliated, punished for nothing (for example if they fell into captivity, even without their own fault, they were essentially dead for the state, and if they returned home, gulag and stripping of "soviet citizen privileges" (for example state pension "insurance") awaited them) and sent to meaningless deaths. They were worthless to them in life but in death they were added to this "heroic" mythos that both the population and the leadership revel in and aggrandize themselves with.

    Russians often say that we "shallow westerners" can't understand their deep "duša" (i.e soul/spirit). Well, it is a laughable self-delusion. There is nothing mystical or deep to understand, it is again a myth they created for themselves to explain all the bad decisions being constantly made and all the absurd situations and consequences that stem from it and they have to deal with.

    The podcast quoted very approprietly that piece about: "…humiliate the country that is obsessed with not being humiliated." I am sure that if some average Russian happens to see this comment, (s)he will: 1) read up to approximately the third sentence and immediately start writting an white hot angry reply without even reading the rest 2) the reply will be full of feeble attempts at sacrasm and logical fallacies called "argumentum tu quoque" (in English often called "whataboutism" and in Czech and Russian "… and you are beating the blacks!") which will try to shift the focus to anything "bad" about west (and usually foremost about the USA) 3) complain about Russia and Russians not getting the "due" and "appropriate" respect.
    Because that is the whole thing. Russians are pahtologically unable to admit any mistake or wrongdoing made by "mother Russia". They are so terrified that by admitting even a little bit will make them look like fools that they are unaware of (or don't care about) the fact that exactly this blatant lying and covering up is making them look like fools foremost.

  60. I would argue that Jared Harris had a fair share of practice portraying a craven character from playing Anderson Dawes.

  61. I loved the "Yes I was worker and now I have the power" scene. It encapusalted perefectly what was wrong with the core idea of the soviet union.

  62. I'm from Estonia and was a child in 1986. I remember these days vividly. The first news that something big had happened came to us (inside USSR) from Finnish and Swedish seismologists detecting earthquakes from the explosions – the fact in-itself was not unusual because there were nuclear tests carried out regularly. But they concluded by the direction (Kiev) and magnitude that nobody was going to do tests in that area. They had personal connections to Estonian scientists and started to exchange data to find answers. Rumors among Estonian public started to spread immediately on Saturday, 26th of April, the day of the accident, but the accident was already a full public knowledge on Sunday, 27. of April 1986. The same day evacuations began in Pripyat and more specific information started to fall into place. Everybody was scared and nobody knew what to do – there was nothing that could be done by majority of general public and nothing was done by the Soviet governors. We had to wait for our fates and watch the nomenclature in their ignorance. It was the first time in the generation that the Soviet oppression was felt so real and in full effect, but it also felt vulnerable. Next day, we were all sent to school and work as usual, but there was a tension in the air – nobody smiled or partied these days, old war- and independence fighting stories were told by elderly.
    The "news" from official channels of USSR finally came on Monday evening only because they had failed to contain the information in all respects. Gorbatchov based his "glastonost" (transparency) doctrine on taking the role of publicly criticizing this "old way" of handling bad news. But he was seen as a weak leader by others (especially KGB) for selling out old nomenclature. But seeds of free journalism were planted on these days of silence that they all missed. Later updates from the Chernobyl were starting to air each evening with names and passport pictures of the fallen workers and conscripts – everybody watched the news in silence and feared name of somebody they new would appear… This in return started a massive (and nationally seen as a patriotic) desertion from Soviet army, which Red Army was not prepared to face and had no remedy for. Gorbatchov was right by saying – Chernobyl started the end of USSR.

  63. Excuse me, but why speaker use "nazis invited Russia"….. who was it??? It should be named as it was "German invited Russia", otherwise you participate in soft stepping falsifying history. Later on you can hear that nazis are in some other countries then Germans

  64. " There is no stirring music, there is no tension music"
    Only that there is. It may not be written like music for the charts, set for piano/guitar/strings/drums/percussion instruments etc. and with lyrics, but there very much is music, or if you prefer: a film score, and it is used perfectly to increase tension and convey horror.
    Watch the first episode again, the scene on the bridge for instance, or the one at the end, and you have this sound that is permeating everything, like the radiation. In fact, I think the first times it can be heard are used to almost condition us to associate it with this invisible threat, so it can be picked up in later scenes like the one at the end to remind us of exactly that.

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