I pressed play on the DVD and, an hour later, sighed with relief when the credits rolled. The Chernobyl Diaries was a film with huge potential, but was in fact a huge letdown. Even though it was created by Oren Peli (the same dude who made hide-behind-your-hands Paranormal Activity) it lacked storyline and the whole ‘horror’ element. It felt as though Peli rushed this film, without stopping to think and build the suspense or the plot. Put it this way, if you watch the trailer, you pretty much get the whole film in three minutes.
Disappointment aside, I was intrigued by the history behind the film and decided to do some research- triumphantly bypassing Wikipedia. I knew the basics: the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 is thought to be the biggest of its kind in history; with radiation 10 times greater than that caused by the Hiroshima bomb; and cases of the affected still being accounted for today.
I further discovered that it happened on April 26th, when an ‘experiment’ in reactor 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant went wrong. The plant wanted to see ‘whether the cooling pump system could still function using power generated from the reactor under low power should the auxiliary electricity supply fail.’ However, due to a failure of the lowering of control rods (which regulate the fission process in a nuclear reactor) the output of power dropped rapidly resulting in an almost complete shutdown. Not good.
In a panic, the reactor night shift workers began to raise the control rods in order to balance the output, but they rose to a threatening level causing the reactor to overheat and the water cooling system to turn to steam. Everything began to turn into meltdown: the emergency shutdown button was pressed and the control rods began to lower which unexpectedly caused the power intensity to multiply by 100. This in turn began to cause explosions of fuel pellets leading to two main explosions- one of which blew the roof off the reactor. Air was sucked in which reacted with the flammable carbon monoxide gas causing a fire that burned for nine days. I’m no expert on nuclear power plants, but as you can probably imagine, this was an intense experience which unfortunately had an abundance of consequences and repercussions.
The disaster caused more than 350,000 people to evacuate their homes that were close to the area. In particular, the city of Pripyat which was built to house the nuclear power plant workers (and had a population of around 49,000) has been left an eerie ghost town; of which is seen within The Diaries. To see the empty tower blocks and the rusting cages of the Ferris wheel causes a shiver to run down the spine. Family items are strewn across the floors; dodgem cars sit abandoned and nature has reclaimed the pathways.
The disaster left generations of people affected by the radiation which lead to an increase in thyroid cancer and leukaemia as well as a number of birth defects. This wasn’t something that lasted a few years, it has lasted decades.
Of course, just like with any other historical, disastrous event, there is a conspiracy. Thousands of people were affected- not necessarily physically, but psychologically and emotionally also- and a number of occurrences lead to some people developing the idea that this was no accident.
The theory is political. The government of the time were conducting an experiment on its own unsuspecting people, exposing them to a radioactive disaster in order to observe and record the effects radiation would have on people and the environment. You may ask why they would do such a thing, but the reason behind it is thought to be that it was preparation for a nuclear world war. They wanted to see if they had the strength to survive such an incident.
The idea came from a number of precautions and reactions taken (or in some cases not taken) with regards to the event.
Firstly, the towns around Chernobyl, including the infamous Pripyat, were not informed of the disaster until 36 hours had passed. By this time, surely, the radiation poisoning would have affected the areas closest.
For the workers, including the nuclear plant employees, firemen and recovery workers, protective clothing and equipment was not provided. No respirators or protective precautions? At a power plant? How strange.
Furthermore, stable iodine is a standard given any radiation disaster. The stable iodide capsules that should have been provided would have saturated the thyroid glands of anyone who had been exposed, thus preventing carcinogenic radioactive iodine-131 to react in the body which would then have caused thyroid cancer. However, these capsules were not distributed. This, along with a delayed ban on intake of milk and locally sourced vegetation, all point to the idea that the government wanted the affected people to be exposed.
Of course, I have only sourced these points from the internet in the space of an hour and I am not speculating, but I think this theory is more believable than the Faul McCartney conspiracy. This is only a taster; take a look at the websites and even watch the movie- you may be less disappointed than I was (although in honesty, I find the photos more scary than the film.)