Chernobyl Intentions

The convener’s post mentions that Dream of Ding Village explores the theme of authority and morality. The above post is a short clip from the HBO mini-series Chernobyl, based on true events. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986 occurred due to an error made during a safety test of an RBMK-type nuclear reactor. The spread of radiation could have been greatly decreased had the people in charge been more open to understanding the gravity of their mistake. Seen here is a meeting among the plant director, chief engineers and their deputy engineer. Deputy Engineer Sitnikov explains to them the presence of Graphite, meaning the exposure of the reactor core resulting in full exposure to radiation, which they refuse to accept. 

I felt this scene resonates with what we see in page 22, where Ding Hui refuses to listen to his father about the damage he had done in the village. His ego would not allow him to accept his mistake, much like how the Chief Engineers were denying theirs. This is “authoritarian personality” coupled with the fear of exposing the Soviet Union as weak contributed to the decision to “quarantine” Pripyat (the city of Chernobyl) to prevent news from spreading, instead of evacuating people. As a consequence, more people were exposed to radiation. 

One of the questions asked by the convener’s was, “Is it righteous to boost the overall economic growth of the country while inflicting some unintended regional sufferings?”The actions of the people in charge during Chernobyl makes us ask a similar question as , in this case, the overall image of the nation and those in authority mattered more than the safety of individual citizens.

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  1. I’ve been meaning to see this series! You’ll have to tell me if it’s worth it. But the questions you’ve raised are good — and will stay on the table into our discussion of Angels in America, which shares something of the timeframe of the Chernobyl incident.

    In past iterations of the course, when it still met on the old 3-day model, we read a novel called Animal’s People, which was loosely based on Bhopal. It was our one example of an industrial contagion/environmental poisoning. Worth thinking about Chernobyl in that context too.

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