Bad Facts

Knowledge is power. -Especially in the sense that it prevents you from being fooled by errors and mistakes made by others. However, knowledge is not always the essential, say rather that an even more important key lies within critical  thinking which have learnt you not to trust everything you see or hear. With this quality added, you're not as likely to be deceived as without it.

Starting about 2 years ago, I periodically engage in searching for literature and documentaries concerning Chernobyl and by now I can say that I've seen a large amount of documentaries and docudramas. What ties these together, is following a common story - the same story that we all now know was what happened at the Chernobyl NPP and what became the consequenses. I have been surprised to find most of these documentaries almost perfectly neutral, as a director would have all the chances in the world to hand out backbites in such a subject, but most of them have chosen a direct approach to tell the story "as it is". 

For some reason the American documentaries are different. I'm not going to speculate in why, but one example is the documentary "Chernobyl: Nuclear Meltdown" where the narrator seems more interested in criticising the Soviet Union than telling about the disaster and circumstances around it. This was for me no big business; having shaked it off as a typical example of bad, sensationalist journalism, I was more shocked to find that even National Geographic had failed to make a proper documentary. 

This film by NE, an episode of their documentary series "Seconds from Disaster" was produced and aired in August 2004 and is angled to such a degree that you, watching it, will doubtlessly start to wonder whether they just want to point out a scape goat, in this case Leonid Toptunov [Toptunov was a young engineer and the operator responsible for amongst other things, the movement of the control rods of reactor 4 on the night of the accident] who is pictured as an ignorant commander of the safety tests run in the 4th reactor block that night, and his superiors, Aleksandr Akimov and Anatoliy Dyatlov - two important persons on location as well as in the aftermaths, aren't even mentioned. 

For a long time, Akimov and Toptunov (who both died from irradiation three weeks after the accident) were the popular men to blame the disaster on, and the later imprisoned Dyatlov (being found guilty for criminal mismanagement of potentially explosive enterprises) even more so, but you cannot interview dead men, so instead National Geographic chose to enhance the role of Boris Stolyarchuk, the senior control engineer of reactor 4 that night, who is still alive. (Also Stolyarchuk was accused for being responsible for the accident, but was later freed from all charges). We can here clearly see an example of  changing the angle of a story due to convenience. The parts of the operating personnel of the 4th reactor on April 26th, 1986 have simply been altered. 

The above is probably the largest error of this documentary, but there are many more. For example, NE promise to "reveal" how the Soviet nuclear power plant and its reactors functioned, but that doesn't happen. They might as well be describing the basics of how any nuclear reactor works.
Also, according to NE, a Pyotr Khmel was a firefighter chief, but really - his name was Grigory Khmel and he was one of the fire engine drivers. It's highly annoying to see how NE obviously have spent a greater effort on digital effects and heavy metal guitars than bothered to check up sources of proper information, even for such a small detail. Had it only been this, they may have been able to get away with it all, but there is simply too much negligence and carelessness involved in this film to make it acceptable, and the following quoting of the narrator is really pushing it all over the edge of the roof and into the reactor core along with the graphite:

"After 10 days the toxic cloud has reached the United States and Asia, and there's a threat to other countries as well."
It is true that the US, nine days after the Chernobyl disaster measured radioactive particles in the atmosphere, but the amount was so small that it hardly opposed a threat to anyone. In spite of normally trying to write in a sensible and objective way, I must make an exception this time as I can't refrain from commenting on how utterly stupid this is. As this documentary is 45 hastily produced minutes of too much faulty information, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, but if you're curious and still want to watch it, you may find it here: 

3 kommentarer:

  1. i am glad to see that i was not the only one who had the exact same sentiments for this documentary. i am very happy that i came across your blog! finally someone has put everything together with objective commentary. thanks!

  2. I was always lead to believe that it was because Leonid Toptunov, preformed a "out of spec" test of the reactor that night. This is what the entire world was told at the convention after the disaster by Valeri Legasov, the senior scientific investigator that investigated the disaster and also helped with the ideas of how to conquer this issue. He set and told the world that this disaster was due to the negligence of Leonid Toptunov, Aleksandr Akimov and their manager Anatoly Dyatlov. However 2 years to the very day after the explosion he committed suicide. Leaving behind letters and classified documents that stated that the "Graphite tipped fuel rods would cause a serge in power when removed and reentered at certain power and heat levels" This was covered up and kept from the men that were running the reactors. Valeri Legasov knew this information prior to the disaster and figured out that even though Anatoly Dyatlov had changed the specs of the test that what the 3 men did that night theoretically should have worked and would have went fine if they had not been lied too about the effects of the graphite tipped rods and the reactor itself. Legasov described the situation as being "systematically covered up" just like what REALLY happened that early morning in the reactor 4 control room. I suggest you watch "Surviving Disaster's : Chernobyl. Which is basically Legasov's story on what he found out and how the Soviet machine stripped him of his entire life for attempting to expose the truth on what caused the issue and who the blame really belonged too.

  3. The fact that people tend to look for someone to blame is something we're all used to, but we need to be careful when encountering such things when they're presented as facts. Indeed Akimov and Toptunov were initially blamed for the disaster, but at the time it was concerning being careless rather than performing out of spec-tests. Later, after the death of Akimov and Toptunov, Dyatlov was to take the blame, however he himself thought he had been acting accurately. I did watch "Surviving Disaster: Chernobyl" and also I have the transcriptions of Legasov's tapes (they're available for free at http//:lib.ru). These transcriptions contain a lot of technical information, but they're not restricted to that.