Follow TV Tropes

Following

Quotes / Artistic License Nuclear Physics

Go To

Daniel Kubat had a similar experience on K-19: The Widowmaker (2002). The film recounts the story of the first Soviet nuclear submarine to carry ballistic nuclear missiles on its disastrous initial mission during the heart of Cold War tensions in 1961. Despite his significant influence on the film's reactor scenes, Kubat's inability to change a few lines of inaccurate dialogue left him feeling as if he had minimal impact on the science. During the film, a reactor develops a leak in its coolant system while the sub is near the American coastline... The nuclear officer, Vadim Radtchinko, explains the danger of this leak saying "It could start a chain reaction. There would be radiation leakage. The core would melt through the reactor and start a thermonuclear explosion." In a subsequent scene Radtchinko claims the magnitude of the explosion would be "Hiroshima. 1.4 megatons if we factor in the two reactors and warheads. Only Hiroshima was less . It was a lot less."

Any nuclear experts hearing this dialogue would be scratching their heads in puzzlement. Thermonuclear explosion? Hiroshima? Radtchinko's concern that a core meltdown will lead to a nuclear explosion does not make sense in terms of nuclear engineering. The submarine crew's biggest concern from the meltdown was massive radiation exposure, not a nuclear explosion. Kubat was brought in during production, so he understood his potential impact was limited. Still, he told me that he tried as hard as he could to convince the filmmakers to change those lines. They refused to correct something that would have been easy to change because a potential nuclear explosion near the American coast could start World War III.

While Kubat understood their reasoning, he was unhappy with their decision because he felt it had real-world ramifications for debates about nuclear energy's safety:

This was born out of the writer's misconceptions of science, his misconception of the way that nuclear reactors work. It's born out of the fears that people have of nuclear reactors. . . . I believe this misconception has terrible consequences to the public at large. The public sees this movie, a true story about a Russian nuclear reactor, and it enters into their consciousness that nuclear reactors can explode like nuclear bombs and that's dangerous. That, I think, was perhaps my biggest failing. Not being able to convince them to change that. I didn't get involved early enough to make that fundamental change, the really important change. I got to play around with the details, but ultimately, those things mattered less.

—David A. Kirby, Lab Coats in Hollywood: Science, Scientists, and Cinema, pg 114-115
Top

Example of:

/
/

Feedback