Chernobyl: Predicting the Future, Narrating the Past-Emre Güntekin
Chernobyl, HBO’s 5-episode mini-series, opened a big debate after its final on June 4th. In turkey, while some describe the series as a black propaganda due to being an American production, the majority of the people focus on the threat posed by nuclear power plants. Surely, the ongoing construction of nuclear power plants plays a great role, in Turkey.
Well, then, what should we do? Should we keep silent on such an important issue for humanity simply by saying black propaganda, or should we tell the truth behind a great sin committed in the name of “socialism” by conveying whatever it really is? Obscuring the fact that the USSR had a criminal record a mile long about of nuclear energy during the Cold War was at least as nasty as that of its Western opponents. Playing ostrich about the role of USSR’s in the Chernobyl disaster only benefits the anti-communist propaganda. Indeed, not only in the USSR but also in the West many nuclear accidents took place throughout the 20th century, and most of them were whitewashed as the interests of states, which were more important than the future of humanity, especially in the Cold War atmosphere. In order to comply with the interests of the American state, HBO of course tells us about Chernobyl instead of the nuclear disaster took place on the Three Mile Island in 1979. Or will we simply approve the bespoke series that the NTV channel is preparing to shoot in Russia, in response to HBO’s series, which will describe the role of CIA agents in Chernobyl disaster?
After the Chernobyl disaster, a wide area of approximately 50 million people, especially Kiev where 2.5 million people were living in and Pripyat which the power plants were in- was heavily affected by radiation. What really expanded the tragedy was that tens of thousands of people living in the power plant area began to be evacuated after 36 hours and that necessary information was kept dark from the public. Even today, it is difficult to estimate that how the disaster affected humanity and ecology. After the disaster, the rapid rise of cancer cases in Turkey, especially in the Black Sea region, is attention-grabbing. At this point, being blind to the Stalinist bureaucracy’s faults, which is the responsible of the disaster under the name of not to be a stooge for the US black propaganda, should be the last thing that revolutionaries do.
If we talk about the series briefly… The series starts with the minutes of the accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Pripyat, in the northern part of Ukraine, and the audience encounters tragedies experienced by nuclear power plant workers and fire-fighters who wanted to intervene in the accident in the first place. The striking scenes in the first episodes shows that how those heroic workers affected by the extreme level of radiation and how their bodies destroyed in a very short period.. While Moscow tries to cover up the accident in the first place, after European countries like Sweden and Germany measured extremely high level radiation in their lands, this makes it difficult to hide the reality for a long time. While Vice President Boris Scherbina and Scientist Valery Legasov were appointed to take the necessary measures about the accident, throughout the series, it is possible to observe how the Moscow bureaucracy works and the interests of the bureaucracy was the priority rather than the safety of the people. In the final, Valery Legasov explains the facts at the court at the cost of paying the price: how the nuclear reactor was activated before the security tests were completed, how security measures were loosened to reduce the cost of reactor construction, and how science was brought down for the sake of the interests of the Soviet industry.
This is how the series screens the history. Well, what were the developments caused the Chernobyl disaster happen and what did happen after the accident?
Humanity has learned the destructive potentials of nuclear technology, which developed rapidly in the 20th century, with horrible experiences. The atomic bombs which were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, was one of the greatest tragedies capitalism caused. However, both the US which became stronger after the war and the USSR continued their nuclear activities as trumps against each other. Moreover, in the Cold War era, they used their nuclear powers to increase the tension at the expense of causing new disasters like Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Both superpowers used nuclear power plants to meet their energy need also they used this plants as veils for their nuclear weapons projects. Maybe, a nuclear war didn’t happen, but nuclear power plants caused many disasters during the 20th century.
Capitalism pushes human health and safety into the background in any industrial production process to respond the profit ambition by bending the rules of security and control mechanisms that is the the unwritten rule of capitalism today. To abandoning the security measures in a nuclear reactor in order to avoid lagging behind in military competition is equivalent to abandoning millions of people and an ecological destruction. The construction of the fourth reactor built in Chernobyl, using the wrong materials in order to reduce the cost and activating the reactors before the necessary safety tests are completed, are historical realities rather than a HBO delusion.
After the accident, not only in the USSR, but in almost all countries where there are nuclear power plants, the masses demonstrated that they do not want to live with the possibility of a nuclear disaster. After the accident, the masses in Western Germany, Poland, France and the USA took to the streets saying “We do not want more Chernobyl!” not only because of their anger towards the USSR; they did so because of their anger against their own ruling classes, which poured out great resources to keep up with the nuclear race, hide nuclear accidents from people and destroyed the nature with nuclear tests. There arose a political trend towards the closure of nuclear power plants and the elimination of nuclear weapons on a global scale. Indeed, one and a half years after Chernobyl, on December 8, 1987, Reagan and Gorbachev signed an agreement to limit the short and medium range ballistic missiles carrying nuclear warheads. This agreement remanined current until Trump withdrew it last year.
Let’s talk about Turkey… After the Chernobyl disaster, especially in Thrace and the Black Sea regions, high radiation levels are measured. We remember that the ministers of the military regime drank the radiation tea ,which grows in Black Sea region, saying “A little radiation is beneficial to human health.” on live podcast. The cost of this irresponsibility has been paid with a rapid increase in cancer cases, especially in the Black Sea Region. Today it’s worse. Having a nuclear power plant in Turkey which is ruled by one-man regime is a real threat. Because the regime only thinks about the profit, calls every disaster as “will of God”, takes no responsibility of any accidents on the contrary, punishes those who uncover the truth. Ironically, considering the fact that Rosatom, which built the nuclear power plant in Akkuyu, was the company that built Chernobyl under a different name in the past, it is clear what kind of danger we will face.
Nuclear energy is not a must for humanity. All the nuclear catastrophes, especially Chernobyl, have taught us painful lesson that not only the people living in that geography pay the price of a nuclear accident, but the future of all humanity is endangered. Of course, as in the past, capitalists will continue to impose nuclear armament covered by nuclear energy.
This is why saying “NO to NUCLEAR!” is the duty.