01x02 - Please Remain Calm

VALERY LEGASOV: What is the cost of lies?

Who is to blame?

It doesn't matter.

WOMAN: It doesn't look right.

MAN: We taste metal.

ENGINEER: I think there's graphite on the ground.

You didn't see graphite.

(YELLING) You didn't because it's not there!

We seal off the city. Contain the spread of misinformation.





BORIS SHCHERBINA: Secretary Gorbachev has appointed a committee to manage the accident. You're on it.








You work too hard.

- Where is everyone?
- Oh, they refused to come in.

- Why?
- It's Saturday.

- Why did you come in?
- I work too hard.

It's boiling in here.



Eight milliroentgen. A leak?


It would've gone off before.
It's coming from outside.

The Americans?





Iodine .

It's not military. It's uranium decay, U- .

Reactor fuel?

Ignalina. Maybe, uh, kilometers away.



Yes, this is Ulana Khomyuk with the Institute of Nuclear En...

Looking for...?


- All right, stay calm.
- MAN (OVER PHONE): Don't tell me to stay calm.


They're at four. It's not them.

- Who's the next closest?
- It's Chernobyl, but that's not possible.

They're kilometers away.

That's too far for eight milliroentgen.

They'd have to be split open.

Maybe they know something.



- Iodine.
- Could it be a waste dump?


We'd be seeing other isotopes.

Nuclear test? Uh, new kind of bomb?

We'd have heard. That's what half our people work on here.

Something with the space program like a satellite or...?


No one's answering the phone.




- ZINCHENKO: Get everyone started on an IV.
- We don't have enough.

- All the children then.
- But we don't have enough!

As many as you can.

- ZINCHENKO: Where's the old man?
- He's set up a burn ward in .


What are you doing? What is that?

Milk. It's milk. Much better than water.

No, no, no. Stop. Stop!

- What are you doing?
- These are radiation burns!

Their clothes are contaminated!

Help me!

Get it all off.


We're taking it down to the basement.

He was a firefighter from Chernobyl.

Can you stop pushing, please?


- SOLDIER: We have our orders!

- Disperse!
- Hey, there! Get him!


WOMAN: Why you keeping us out here?




Professor Legasov?

Oh, no, not yet.

They're finishing up some other business. It'll be a few more minutes.

- Can I get you some tea?
- No, I'm fine. Thank you.

Would you care to read Deputy Chairman Shcherbina's report while you wait?

Certainly. Thank you.





KREMLIN AIDE: All right, Professor. They're ready.

Professor Legasov?

GORBACHEV: You have my support.

GORBACHEV: Thank you all for your duty to this commission.

We will begin with Deputy Chairman Shcherbina's briefing, and then we will discuss next steps if necessary.

Thank you, comrade General Secretary.

I'm pleased to report that the situation in Chernobyl is stable.

Military and civilian patrols have secured the region, and Colonel General Pikalov, who commands troops specializing in chemical hazards, has been dispatched to the plant.

In terms of radiation, plant director Bryukhanov reports no more than . roentgen.

I'm told it's the equivalent of a chest X-ray.

So if you're overdue for a check-up...

- And foreign press?
- Totally unaware.

KGB First Deputy Chairman Charkov assures me that we have successfully protected our security interests.

GORBACHEV: Good. Very good.

Well, it seems like it's well in hand, so... if there's nothing else, meeting adjourned.

- No!

Pardon me?

Uh, we can't adjourn.

This is Professor Legasov of the Kurchatov Institute.

Professor, if you have any concerns, feel free to address them with me later.

I can't. I am sorry. I'm so sorry.

Page three, the section on casualties.


"A fireman was severely burned on his hand by a chunk of smooth, black mineral on the ground, outside the reactor building."

Smooth, black mineral... graphite.

There's-There's graphite on the ground.

Well, there was a... a tank explosion. There's debris.

- Of what importance...?
- There's only one place in the entire facility where you will find graphite: inside the core.

If there's graphite on the ground outside, it means it wasn't a control system tank that exploded.

It was the reactor core.
It's open! (INHALES)

Um, Comrade Shcherbina?

Comrade General Secretary, I can assure you that Professor Legasov is mistaken.

Bryukhanov reports that the reactor core is intact.

- And as for the radiation...
- Yes, . roentgen, which, by the way, is not the equivalent of one chest X-ray, but rather chest X-rays.

That number's been bothering me for a different reason, though.

It's also the maximum reading on low-limit dosimeters.

They gave us the number they had.

I think the true number is much, much higher.

If I'm right, this fireman was holding the equivalent of four million chest X-rays in his hand.

Professor Legasov, there's no place for alarmist hysteria...

It's not alarmist if it's a fact!

Well, I don't hear any facts at all.

All I hear is a man I don't know engaging in conjecture in direct contradiction to what has been reported by party officials.

I'm, uh... I apologize.

I didn't mean, uh...

(CLEARS THROAT) Please, may I express my concern as calmly and as respectfully as I...

- Professor Legasov...

I will allow it.


An RBMK reactor uses uranium as fuel.

Every atom of U- is like a bullet traveling at nearly the speed of light, penetrating everything in its path: woods, metal, concrete, flesh.

Every gram of U- holds over a billion trillion of these bullets.

That's in one gram.

Now, Chernobyl holds over three million grams, and right now, it is on fire.

Winds will carry radioactive particles across the entire continent, rain will bring them down on us.

That's three million billion trillion bullets in the... in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat.

Most of these bullets will not stop firing for years.

Some of them, not for , years.

Yes, and, uh, this concern stems entirely from the description of a rock?



Comrade Shcherbina...

I want you to go to Chernobyl.

You take a look at the reactor, you personally, and you report directly back to me.

A wise decision, comrade General Secretary...

GORBACHEV: And take Professor Legasov with you.


Forgive me, comrade General Secretary, but I...

Do you know how a nuclear reactor works?

- No.

Well, then how will you know what you're looking at?

Meeting adjourned.


How does a nuclear reactor work?

- What?
- SHCHERBINA: It's a simple question.

It's hardly a simple answer.

Of course, you presume I'm too stupid to understand.

So I'll restate: Tell me how a nuclear reactor works, or I'll have one of these soldiers throw you out of the helicopter.

A nuclear reactor makes electricity with steam.

The steam turns a turbine which generates electricity.

Where a typical power plant makes steam by burning coal, a nuclear plant...

In a nuclear plant, we use something called fission.

We take an unstable element like uranium , which has too many neutrons.

- A neutron is, uh...
- The bullet.

Yes, the bullet.

So, bullets are flying off of the uranium.

Now... if we put enough uranium atoms close together, the bullets from one atom will eventually strike another atom.

The force of this impact splits that atom apart, releasing a tremendous amount of energy, fission.

- And the graphite?
- Ah, yes.

The neutrons are actually traveling so fast... we call this "flux"... it's relatively unlikely that the uranium atoms will ever hit one another.

In RBMK reactors, we surround the fuel rods with graphite to moderate, slow down, the neutron flux.


I know how a nuclear reactor works.

Now I don't need you.




- Can you help me? I need to find my husband.
- No. Not now.

- Mikhail!
- Lyudmilla.

- Take her.

Take her away from here, please.

- Get away from them! You want to get sick? Go!
- MIKHAIL: Oh my God.

Please take her, please take her.

- Please take her, please.

Please! Please!

Please take her!

Excuse me, I am Vasily Ignatenko's wife.

He's a fireman. Ignatenko.

Ignatenko, Sixth Paramilitary Fire and Rescue Unit.

I need to find him. Please.

MAJOR BUROV: Ignatenko...

He's being transported by helicopter to Moscow.

Hospital number six.

Why, is he all right? Can I see him?

You want to see him? Go to Moscow.

But they're not letting us leave here.

Tell them Major Burov allows it.

- Oh. When are they taking him?
- Now.


PILOT: We're approaching the power plant.

LEGASOV (MUTTERS): What have they done?

Can you see inside?

I don't have to. Look.

That's graphite on the roof.

The whole building's been blown open.

The core's exposed!

I can't see how you can tell that from here.

Oh, for God's sakes.

Look at that glow!

That's radiation ionizing the air!

Well, if we can't see, we don't know.

Get us directly over the building!

- Boris, if we fly...
- Don't you use my name!

...directly over an open reactor, we'll be dead within a week!



Get us over that building, or I'll have you shot!


If you fly directly over that core, I promise you, by tomorrow morning, you'll be begging for that bullet.



Perhaps if you came back another day.

Just wonderful.

KHOMYUK: Deputy Secretary Garanin.

Ulana Khomyuk of the Byelorussian Institute for Nuclear Energy.

What a pleasure.

- Let me introduce...
- I'm here about Chernobyl.

Such a lovely time.

- Visit again soon.
- CHULKOV: I will. Thank you.

GARANIN: I must tell you, this is why no one likes scientists.

When we have a disease to cure, where are they?

In a lab, noses in their books, and so Grandma dies.

But when there isn't a problem, they're everywhere, spreading fear.

- I know about Chernobyl.
- Oh?

I know that the core is either partially or completely exposed.

- Whatever that means.
- And that if you don't immediately issue iodine tablets and then evacuate this city, hundreds of thousands of people are going to get cancer, and God knows how many more will die.

Yes, very good.

There has been an accident at Chernobyl, but I've been assured there is no problem.

I'm telling you that there is.

I prefer my opinion to yours.

I'm a nuclear physicist.

Before you were Deputy Secretary, you worked in a shoe factory.

Yes, I worked in a shoe factory.

And now I'm in charge.

"To the workers of the world."

Stable iodine will keep your thyroid from absorbing radioactive iodine.

Take one a day for as long as they last.

And go east.

Get as far from Minsk as you can.

FOMIN: It's overkill.

Pikalov's showing off to make us look bad.

BRYUKHANOV: It doesn't matter how it looks.

Shcherbina is a pure bureaucrat, as stupid as he is pigheaded.

We'll tell him the truth in the simplest terms possible.

We'll be fine.


Comrade Shcherbina, Chief Engineer Fomin, Colonel General Pikalov, and I are honored at your arrival.

Deeply, deeply honored.

Naturally, we regret the circumstances of your visit, but, as you can see, we are making excellent progress in containing the damage.

We have begun our own inquiry into the cause of the accident, and I have a list of individuals who we believe are accountable.

BRYUKHANOV: Professor Legasov, I understand you've been saying dangerous things.

FOMIN: Very dangerous things.

Apparently, our reactor core exploded.

Please, tell me how an RBMK reactor core explodes.

I'm not prepared to explain it at this time.

As I presumed, he has no answer.

It's disgraceful, really.

To spread disinformation at a time like this.

Why did I see graphite on the roof?

Graphite is only found in the core, where it's used as a neutron flux moderator.


Fomin, why did the Deputy Chairman see graphite on the roof?

Well, that... that can't be.

Comrade Shcherbina, my apologies, but graphite...that's not possible.

Perhaps you saw burnt concrete.

Now there you made a mistake, because I may not know much about nuclear reactors, but I know a lot about concrete.

- Comrade, I assure you...
- I understand.

You think Legasov is wrong.

How shall we prove it?

Our high-range dosimeter just arrived.

We could cover one of our trucks with lead shielding, mount the dosimeter on the front.

Have one of your men get as close to the fire as he can.

Give him every bit of protection you have.

But understand that even with lead shielding, it may not be enough.

Then I'll do it myself.





He's back.

It's not three roentgen.

It's , .

BRYUKHANOV: Comrade Shcherbina...

What does that number mean?

It means the core is open.

It means the fire we're watching with our own eyes is giving off nearly twice the radiation released by the bomb in Hiroshima.

And that's every single hour.

Hour after hour, hours since the explosion, so 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.

Please escort Comrades Bryukhanov and Fomin to the local party headquarters.

- Thank you for your service.
- Comrade...

You're excused.

Dyatlov was in charge.

It was Dyatlov!

- Tell me how to put it out.
- We'll use helicopters.

- We'll drop water on it like a forest fire.
- No, no. You don't understand.

This isn't a fire.

This is a fissioning reactor core burning at over , degrees.

The heat will instantly vaporize the water...

- How do we put it out?

You are dealing with something that has never occurred on this planet before.


Boron and sand.

Well, that'll create problems of its own, but I-I don't see any other way.

Of course, it's going to take thousands of drops, because you can't fly the helicopters directly over the core, so most of it is going to miss.

- How much sand and boron?
- (SCOFFS) Well, I can't be...

- For God's sake, roughly!
- Five thousand tons.

And obviously, we're going to need to evacuate an enormous area...

Never mind that. Focus on the fire.

I am focusing on the fire.

The wind, it's carrying all that smoke, all that radiation.

At least evacuate Pripyat. It's three kilometers away.

- That's my decision to make.
- Then make it.

- I've been told not to.
- Is it or is not...

I'm in charge here!

This will go much easier if you talk to me about the things you do understand and not about the things you do not understand.

Where are you going?

SHCHERBINA: I'm going to get you , tons of sand and boron.

There's a hotel.




I'd prefer one of those.

WOMAN: Superstitious?


Are you here because of the fire?

Anything we should be worried about?









PILOT (OVER RADIO): We're in position. Approaching drop.

STASIUK: (OVER RADIO): Clear to proceed.

PILOT: Copy. We'll go one by one in rotation.

Remind them about the perimeter.

They cannot fly directly over the fire.

A minimum of a ten-meter perimeter.

PILOT: Ten meter perimeter. Copy.

Lead One, per pre-flight: maintain minimum ten-meter perimeter.

LEAD ONE: Copy that.

Forty meters... ...



No, no, no! They're too close!

They can't get over the fire. How are they supposed...

The wind will have to carry it.

Tell them, they cannot go over the core.

STASIUK: Lead One is too close.

I repeat, they are too close.

PILOT: Copy.

Lead One, you are inside the perimeter.

LEAD ONE: Did not copy.
Signal's breaking up.


PILOT: Lead One?

Do you copy?

Lead One, do you copy?

Lead One, come in.

Do you copy, Lead One?

Lead One!


STASIUK: Sir? What do I tell the others?

Is there any other way, Legasov?


Send the next one in.

Tell them to approach from the west.

STASIUK: Lead Two, approach from the west.


MARINA: Kurchatov Institute Laboratory Four.

(OVER PHONE): Marina Gruzinskaya, it's Ulana Khomyuk from Minsk.

Oh, yes, how nice of you to phone.

- It's been too long.
- It has.

I was actually calling about our friend.

- You know, the one in the country.
- Oh, yes, of course.

I wanted to see how he's doing.
It's so hot there right now.

Yes, it's extremely hot, but his nephews are flying down, and they always bring cool weather.

Oh? Which nephews?

Simka, who's , and little Boris, who's five.

Well, that's wonderful.

Though children can make you even hotter when they're crawling all over you.

Maybe I should visit them.

No, they don't want visitors.

I'm sorry, um, I have to get back to work.

It's very busy right now. Goodbye.

They're dropping sand and boron on the fire.

It's what I would do.

Yes, I'm sure it is.

DMITRI: Where are you going?



It's been smooth. Twenty drops.



There are , people in this city.

(SIGHS) Professor Ilyin, who's also on the commission, says the radiation isn't high enough to evacuate.

Ilyin isn't a physicist.

Well, he's a medical doctor. If he says it's safe, it's safe.

- Not if they stay here.
- We're staying here.

Yes, we are, and we'll be dead in five years.


I'm sorry, I...

I'm sorry.








Thank you.

A nuclear plant in Sweden has detected radiation and identified it as a byproduct of our fuel.

The Americans took satellite photos.

The reactor building, the smoke, the fire.


SHCHERBINA: The whole world knows.

The wind has been blowing toward Germany.

They're not letting children play outside...in Frankfurt.


Want a smoke?

PETER JENNINGS: There has been a nuclear accident in the Soviet Union and the Soviets have admitted that it happened.

The Soviet version is this:

One of the atomic reactors at the Chernobyl Atomic Power Plant near the city of Kiev was damaged, and there is speculation in Moscow that people were injured and may have died.

The Soviets may have been fairly quick to acknowledge the accident because evidence in the form of mild nuclear radiation had already reached beyond the Soviet borders to Scandinavia.
















I said turn around. This is a restricted zone.

I'm from the Byelorussian Institute for Nuclear Energy.

Do you have permission?

Listen to me, I need to speak to someone urgently.

Turn around right now, or I'll arrest you.

If you arrest me, you should take me to the highest possible authority.

LEGASOV: We have to start a radiological survey.

Sector by sector, on foot, dosimeters in hand.

Are you all right?

Of course.


The guards arrested this woman at the south checkpoint.

- I'd have put her in a cell...
- But he thought you should know that I know.

I know that your reactor core is exposed.

I know the graphite is on fire, the fuel is melting, and you're dropping sand and boron on it, which you probably thought was smart, but you've made a mistake.

Ulana Yuriyvna Khomyuk, Chief Physicist, Byelorussian Institute for Nuclear Energy.

And you are Valery Alexeyevich Legasov?

Smothering the core will put the fire out, but the temperature will eventually increase...

LEGASOV: Believe me, I'm perfectly aware.

But I estimate at least a month before it melts through the lower concrete pad,

- which gives us time...
- No, you don't have a month.

You have approximately two days.

Yes, the fuel would take a month to reach the concrete pad here.

But first... it's going to burn through the biological shield here by Tuesday.

And when it does, it's going to hit these tanks...bubbler pools, reservoirs...

Reservoirs for the ECS. I understand your concern, but I confirmed it with plant personnel.

- The tanks are nearly empty.
- No, they were nearly empty.

Each of these points here, here, and here all drain to the bubbler pools.

I'm guessing that every pipe in the building ruptured.

And then there are those fire engines that I saw on the way in.

The fire hoses are still connected.

They've been gushing water into the structure this whole time.

The tanks are full.

The tanks are full.



I have ten minutes, then I'm back on the phone apologizing to our friends, apologizing to our enemies.

Our power comes from the perception of our power.

Do you understand the damage this has done?

Do you understand what's at stake?


Professor Legasov will deliver our briefing.

There is some good news.

The air drops are working to douse the fire.

There's been a reduction in radionuclide emissions, but the fire will not be extinguished for at least another two weeks.

There is also an additional problem.

Nuclear fuel doesn't turn cold simply because it is not on fire.

In fact, the temperature will likely rise as a result of the blanket of sand we've dropped.

The uranium will melt the sand, creating a kind of lava which will begin to melt down through the shield below.

You have made lava?

I anticipated this.

I believed there was time to reinforce this lower concrete pad before the lava reached the earth and contaminated the groundwater.

But as it turned out, I was worried about the wrong thing.

Uh, um...

It was my understanding that these large water tanks under the reactor were essentially empty.

This is Ulana Khomyuk of the Byelorussian Institute.

Thanks to her insight, we are now aware that the tanks are, in fact, full.

Of water. Why is that a problem, professor?


When the lava enters these tanks, it will instantly superheat and vaporize approximately , cubic meters of water, causing a significant thermal explosion.

How significant?

We estimate between two and four megatons.

Everything within a -kilometer radius will be completely destroyed, including the three remaining reactors at Chernobyl.

The entirety of the radioactive material in all of the cores will be ejected at force and dispersed by a massive shock wave, which will extend approximately kilometers and likely be fatal to the entire population of Kiev as well as a portion of Minsk.

The release of radiation will be severe and will impact all of Soviet Ukraine,

Latvia, Lithuania, Byelorussia, as well as Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and most of East Germany.

What do you mean "impact"?

For much of the area, a nearly permanent disruption of the food and water supply, a steep increase in the rates of cancer and birth defects.

I don't know how many deaths there will be, but many.

For Byelorussia and the Ukraine, "impact" means completely uninhabitable for a minimum of years.

There are more than million people living in Byelorussia and Ukraine.

Sixty, yes.

And how long before this happens?

Approximately to hours.

But we may have a solution.

We can pump the water from the tanks.

Unfortunately, the tanks are sealed shut by a sluice gate, and the gate can only be opened manually from within the duct system itself.

So we need to find three plant workers who know the facility well enough to enter the basement here, find their way through all these duct ways, get to the sluice gate valve here, and give us the access we need to pump out the tanks.

Of course, we will need your permission.

My permission for what?

Uh, the water in these ducts, the level of radioactive contamination...

They'll likely be dead in a week.

We're asking for your permission to kill three men.


Comrade Legasov...

(CLEARS THROAT) all victories inevitably come at a cost.



LEGASOV: And open the sluice gate valve... here.

The valve will be difficult to operate, so we'll need three men who will need to know the basement layout.

And, of course, any volunteers will be rewarded.

A yearly stipend of rubles.

And, uh, for those of you working in reactors one and two, promotions.

Why are reactors one and two still operating at all?

My friend was a security guard that night, and, uh, she's now dying.

And we've all heard about the firemen.

And now you want us to swim underneath a burning reactor?

Do you even know how contaminated it is?


I... I don't have an exact number.

You don't need an exact number to know if it'll kill us.

But you can't even tell us that.

Why should we do this? For what, rubles?


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, and now you make yours.

And go into that water.

Because it must be done.