Given below are 5 events in HBO’s Chernobyl we all thought were real, keep in mind this is not a list of things the series got wrong. Instead these alterations were thoroughly calculated to preserve the actual reality of the disaster and the experiences of people that experienced it. While keeping in mind the practicality of showing every little detail in a small series like this and for a global audience.
The main culprits of the explosion were Dyatlov, Fomin, and Bryuhkanov
Episode 5 portrays these three men as the major culprits behind the cause of explosion, especially the chief-engineer of the Nuclear Plant, Anatoly Dyatlov. He overrode Akimov’s and Toptunov’s objections, threatened to fire them, and intimidated them into increasing the reactor power. He is shown giving orders to run the test despite the conditions getting worse and constant protest from the junior engineers.
Fomin and Bryukhanov were in complete denial of any nuclear disaster, they were convinced it was just a fire. To prove their arguement they ordered Sitnikov, to get up on the roof and look directly above the reactor core to report it’s condition. Sitnikov obeyed and received a fatal dose of radiation there, he returned and reported to Fomin and Bryukhanov that the reactor was destroyed. The managers refused to believe him and ordered continued feeding of water into the reactor; the water, however, flowed through the severed pipes into the lower levels of the plant, carrying radioactive debris and causing short circuits in the cableways common to all four blocks.
Dyatlov’s promotion was also due after the successful completion of the reactor test, this may be the reason behind his reckless decisions. Dyatlov and the plant workers also knew that the reactor had a fail safe switch called the AZ-5, which they thought would surely shutdown the reactor safely if something catastrophic were to happen. While it’s possible that he was in pressure to complete the test quickly for his promotion, the real danger was omnipresent.
The real culprits of the disaster were the system which was built upon lies and cutting corners, and the Soviet Union’s inherent bureaucracy. Even after knowing the flaws in the reactor’s design, facts are suppressed instead of acknowledging or trying to correct them. Add to this the loss of transparency and verification from anyone outside the USSR, and we have a confirmed recipe for disaster. As Director of the Chernobyl site, Bryukhanov was sentenced to ten years imprisonment but only served five years of the sentence.
The helicopter that crashed because it flew to close to the open reactor
“They’re too close,” Legasov exclaimed just as the helicopter starts to fall into the open core without any collision or any other visible reason. Legasov is shown giving strict instructions for the pilots to not fly too close to or directly above the open reactor. But the pilots are not able to dump the boron and sand in the exact middle without flying directly over the open reactor and crash due to high radiation levels.
In reality the helicopter crash did not crash by getting too close to the open reactor or due to extreme exposure to radiation, but crash was due to a minor collision with a construction crane. Also the dramatic helicopter crash actually occurred months later than shown. Jan Haverkamp, a senior nuclear energy expert at Greenpeace told business insider that “radiation wasn’t the cause of the fatal helicopter crash. Real-life footage shows the helicopter colliding with a crane and cascading to the ground.”
Real footage of the helicopter crash and other real footage comparisons can be seen in this video.
Minister Boris Shcherbina threatened to throw Valery Legasov off a helicopter
In this scene Minister Shcherbina threatens to throw Valery Legasov from the helicopter if he doesn’t explain to him how a nuclear reactor works. This kind of situation would not have been practical at the time of such disaster. Legasov was the leading expert on the RBMK reactors and nuclear energy.
Executions like these were unrealistic for late Soviet Union era as the people behaved quite professionally and didn’t just go killing anyone who didn’t do what they were told. No one did their jobs under the pressure of getting shot or thrown off a helicopter for sure, they all were motivated to keep their nation’s pride intact and resolve the disastrous situation.
All the people watching the explosion from the “Bridge of Death” died
After the explosion residents of nearby towns and service quarters got onto the railway bridge to watch was happening on the nuclear site. It is widely reported that from the people observing the reactor from that bridge no one survived, in reality it’s just an urban legend used to glorify the effects of the disaster.
Chernobyl experts Adam Higginbotham and others also agree that some people survived from the “Bridge of Death”. They themselves have spoken to some of the survivors from the bridge. But the survivors would have been exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, this may have shorten their lifespan quite considerably.
Ulana Khomyuk discovered the real truth behind the explosion
The series acknowledges in the last episode that the character of Ulana Khomyuk is fictional, a composite of multiple Soviet scientists. The collaborative effort of various scientists helped uncover the hidden flaws of the reactor. Her character is an amalgamation of all the bold risks and hardships the individual scientists had to go through.
Chernobyl expert Adam Higginbotham points out in an interview that there was no need for scientists to “uncover the truth”; that “many nuclear scientists knew all along that there were problems with this reactor—the problems that led ultimately to an explosion and disaster”. The real fight was to bring out the truth to the world, acknowledging their mistakes which had caused the greatest nuclear disaster in the history of mankind.
Craig Mazin the creator and writer HBO’s Chernobyl said : “Very few women were ever in the kind of overall ruling political body of the Soviet Union.” He added: “She represents all of these other scientists that came in and risked quite a bit to fight a system – not just the system of government, but also the system of science, which in and of itself, had a certain patriarchy to it and was very interested in protecting itself from its own mistakes.”
Source: HBO, BBC, Screenrant