Episode 94: Chernobyl: Fallout, Death, and Heroism

On this episode, we discuss the accident at the Chernobyl power plant as only the Sofa King Podcast can. The Chernobyl power plant in Pripyat, Ukraine suffered a ten day nuclear fire starting on April 26, 1986. This was one of only two Level 7 nuclear disasters in the history of nuclear power, and the causes, reaction, and effects are pretty staggering. Though the numbers vary greatly, upwards of 350,000 people were evacuated, 500,000 “volunteers” were called on to help, and somewhere around 75,000 cases of cancer are still with us due to this nuclear meltdown.

What caused it? According to most reports, it was human error, arrogance, and design flaws working in perfect concert. We cover the causes and the basics of how a nuclear reactor works in order to fully explore this horrible accident. Most of the blame can be put on one of the foremen (a man so radioactive that he gave his own son Leukemia!), but there is a complex web of control and Soviet era Party politics involved as well.

We also look at the Nobel Prize winning book Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich which covers a dozens of interviews of survivors of this meltdown. Then we talk about everything from the chances of the reactor’s protective sarcophagus cracking and making an even worse disaster in the future, hostile radioactive wolves which roam the Exclusion Zone even today, and what the Soviet Union did right and wrong in trying to stop the disaster. Their policy tended to be telling lies to the free world about how good things were and sending hundreds of thousands of volunteers into radioactive danger with no equipment or medicine to help them. However, with little else to do, we wonder if this was the action of an evil communist state or actually true heroism by a nation desperately trying to stop the meltdown from making most of Europe a nuclear grave yard.

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