This week I binge-watched HBO's latest docu-drame, Chernobyl.
I was reluctant to see it, by my wife insisted. Having watched it, I'm glad I did. I have a much better of understanding of what happened back in 1986. It is a fascinating tale of incompetence, secrecy, callousness and bravery.
I had a few problems with the show, however. The sound track is eerie to the point of being annoying. After a while I started imagining how something, anything would be an improvement.
The show also contains a number of inaccuracies, the most important being how radiation works and what can stop it. As the show progressed, I was compelled to dig out my Air Force "smart book" and note that radiation exposure does not work the way they say it does and the symptoms are all wrong. I get the need for dramatic license, but having people suddenly start bleeding due to excessive radiation exposure is stupid.
By hey, gotta use that makeup department somewhere.
The show ultimately succeeds because the acting and story is compelling, even with apocryphal events included.
The description of what went wrong was brilliantly outlined and I congratulate them on not only getting it correct, but making it understandable.
While environmentalists are using the movie as a club against nuclear power, it's really a damning indictment of the Soviet system. What happened there would have been (and has been) impossible anywhere else. For those who don't know, Reactor Four blew up because of a botched safety test.
There is simply no comparison between this and the combination of earthquake/tsunami that hit the Japanese facility a few years back. This was entirely due to Soviet ineptitude - from the design of the reactor to the callous regard for human life and the inflexible adherence to their bureaucratic rules.
Yet I also felt a stir of uneasiness, because things like that have happened here. No individuals were punished for the deaths and environmental damage resulting from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. BP paid a hefty fine and continued on its merry way.
On the other hand, word of the disaster spread quickly and soon a massive effort was underway to fix the problem. Today, the Gulf of Mexico and our southern coast is open for business and doing well. Chernobyl and the region around it will be polluted for centuries.
Thus while the Soviet system was unquestionably evil, the show reminded me that everyone is fallible, and the only way to prevent disaster is to prepare for the worst - and be ready when it happens.