Facing extinction: will we consent to our own negation?
‘Is this the greatest TV series ever?’, a chorus in the progressive media asked as UK miniseries Chernobyl premiered across the world in May. It was not difficult to see why. Over five one-hour episodes, it tells the story of the 1986 nuclear disaster in the USSR in the Priprayat/Chernobyl region of Ukraine, beginning at the point when the control team have been briefly stunned insensible after one of the plant’s four reactors has exploded. This event, after the reactor goes into meltdown, starts a process that would see one Hiroshima’s worth of radiation pumped into the planet’s atmosphere every hour for weeks on end. The series unfolds the narrow averting of a global catastrophe – the exposed core melting through a concrete foundation to the groundwater, blowing up the other three reactors and sending enough material into the air to make Eastern Europe and the western USSR permanently uninhabitable – through the partial, spot transformation of the Soviet system, the sheer enormity of the potential consequences emboldening bureaucrats and scientists to challenge the attempted political management of the event.
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