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Quotes / Chernobyl

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Dyatlov: What does the dosimeter say?
Akimov: 3.6 roentgen. But that's as high as the meter...
Dyatlov (ignores Akimov at that point): 3.6 - not great, not terrible.

Sitnikov: I... I walked around the exterior of Building 4. I think there's graphite on the ground, in the rubble.
Dyatlov: You didn't see graphite.
Sitnikov: I did.
Dyatlov: You didn't. You DIDN'T, because it's not there!

Pikalov (having driven around the exploded reactor): It's not three roentgen. It's 15,000.
Bryukhanov: Comrade Shcherbina...
Shcherbina (turning to Legasov): What does that number mean?
Legasov: It means the core is open. It means the fire we're watching with our own eyes is giving nearly twice the radiation released by the bomb in Hiroshima. And that's every single hour. Hour after hour, 20 hours since the explosion, so 40 bombs worth by now. Forty-eight more tomorrow. And it will not stop. Not in a week, not in a month. It will burn and spread its poison until the entire continent is dead!

You'll do it because it must be done. You'll do it because nobody else can. And if you don't, millions will die. If you tell me that's not enough, I won't believe you. This is what has always set our people apart. A thousand years of sacrifice in our veins. And every generation must know its own suffering. I spit on the people who did this, and I curse the price I have to pay. But I'm making my peace with it, now you make yours. And go into that water. Because it must be done.

"What's as big as a house, burns 20 liters of fuel every hour, puts out a shit load of smoke and noise, and cuts an apple in three pieces? A Soviet machine made to cut apples into FOUR pieces!"

"Shut the FUCK up! This is Tula. This is our mine. We don't leave unless we know why."
Glukhov, to the Soviet Minister of Coal Industries' armed guards

"What? You wouldn't give us fans, it's too hot for clothes, so we're digging the old way. This is how our fathers mined. We're still wearing the fuckin' hats!"
Glukhov, digging a tunnel beneath Chernobyl, completely naked.

Tarakanov: Comrade Soldiers, the Soviet people have had enough of this accident. They want us to clean this up, and we have entrusted you with this serious task. Because of the nature of the working area you will each have no more than 90 seconds to solve this problem. Listen carefully to each of my instructions, and do exactly as you have been told. This is for your own safety as well as for the safety of your comrades. You will enter Reactor Building Three, climb the stairs, but do not immediately proceed to the roof. When you get to the top, wait inside behind the entrance to the roof, and catch your breath. You will need it for what comes next. This is the working area. We must clear the graphite. Some of it is in blocks weighing approximately 40 to 50 kilograms. They all must be thrown over the edge, here. Watch your comrades, moving fast from this opening, then turning to the left, and entering the workspace... Take care not to stumble. There's a hole in the roof. Take care not to fall. You will need to move quickly and you will need to move carefully. Do you understand your mission as I have described it?
Conscript Soldiers: Yes, Comrade General.
Tarakanov: These are the most important 90 seconds of your lives. Commit your task to memory, then do your job.
— Tarakanov's speech to Soviet conscripts. The radioactive graphite would short circuit any robot, and would kill any human after 120 seconds, even if they were wearing protection. 3,828 men would each spend 90 seconds on Chernobyl's roof, clearing deathly radioactive graphite.

"It began with, of all things, a safety test. Why was there need for a safety test at all? Reactor Number 4 was not new when the accident occurred. In fact, it went into operation on December 20th, 1983. Eleven days later, on the last day of the year, Plant Director Viktor Bryukhanov signed this document certifying the completion of the construction of the reactor. As a result of finishing the work before the end of the year, Comrade Bryukhanov was awarded Hero of Socialist Labor. Comrade Fomin was awarded for Valorous Labor. Comrade Dyatlov was given an Order of the Red Banner. But their work was not finished. And this document was a lie. In order to sign this certificate, all safety tests had to have been successfully completed, and yet, one remained. A nuclear reactor generates heat in the core here. A series of pumps, here and here, send a constant flow of cooling water through the core. The core's heat turns the water to steam, and the steam spins the turbine here, and the result is electricity. But what if a power plant has no power? What if the power feeding the plant itself is disrupted? A blackout, equipment failure, or an attack by a foreign enemy? If there's no power, the pumps cannot move water through the core. And without water, the core overheats, the fuel melts down. In short, a nuclear disaster. The solution? Three diesel fuel backup generators here. So, problem solved? No. Bryukhanov knew that the problem was not solved at all. The backup generators took approximately one minute to reach the speed required to power the pumps and prevent a meltdown, and by that time, it would be too late. So we arrive at the safety test. The theory was this: If the facility lost power, the turbine, which had been spinning, would take some time to slow down and stop. What if you could take the electricity it was still generating and transfer it to the pumps? What if the dying turbine could keep the pumps working long enough to bridge the 60-second gap until the generators came on? [...] To test this theory, the reactor is placed in a reduced power mode 700 megawatts to simulate a blackout condition. Then the turbines are turned off, and as they slowly spin down, their electrical output is measured to see if it's enough to power the pumps. The science is strong, but a test is only as good as the men carrying it out. Now, the first time they tried, they failed. The second time they tried, they failed. The third time they tried, they failed. The fourth time they tried was April 26th, 1986."
Boris Shcherbina

Legasov: Dyatlov broke every rule we have. He pushed a reactor to the brink of destruction. He did these things believing there was a failsafe; AZ-5, a simple button to shut it all down. But in the circumstances he created, there wasn't. The shutdown system had a fatal flaw. At 1:23:40, Akimov engages AZ-5. The fully-withdrawn control rods begin moving back into the reactor. These rods are made of boron, which reduces reactivity, but not their tips. The tips are made of graphite, which accelerates reactivity.
Kadnikov: Why?
Legasov: Why? For the same reason our reactors do not have containment buildings around them, like those in the West. For the same reason we don't use properly enriched fuel in our cores. For the same reason we are the only nation that builds water-cooled, graphite-moderated reactors with a positive void coefficient. It's cheaper.
Valery Legasov condemns the flawed philosophy that influenced reactor designs in the Soviet Union.

"I've already trod on dangerous ground; we're on dangerous ground right now, because of our secrets and our lies. They're practically what define us. When the truth offends, we... we lie and lie until we can no longer remember it is even there, but it is still there. Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid. That is how an RBMK reactor core explodes: lies."
Valery Legasov

Charkhov: Why worry about something that isn't going to happen?
Legasov: "Something that isn't going to happen"? (laughs) That's perfect. They should put that on our money.

Shcherhbina: Do you know anything about this town? Chernobyl? It was mostly Jews and Poles. The Jews were killed in pogroms. Stalin forced the Poles out. Then the Nazis came, killed whoever was left. But after the war, people came to live here anyway. They knew the ground under their feet was soaked in blood, but they didn't care. Dead Jews, dead Poles, but not them. No one ever thinks it will happen to them. And here we are.

Legasov: To be a scientist is to be naive. We are so focused on our search for the truth we fail to consider how few actually want us to find it. But it is always there whether we see it or not, whether we choose to or not. The truth doesn't care about our needs or wants; it doesn't care about our governments, our ideologies, our religions. It will lie in wait for all time. And this at last is the gift of Chernobyl. Where I once would fear the cost of truth, I now only ask...what is the cost of lies?


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