Stellan Skarsgard Quotes

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Stellan Skarsgard

Stellan Skarsgard

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[Inside a military jeep, as Fomin and Bryukhanov prepare to meet Shcherbina...]

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. [Both exit the jeep] Pikalov!

[Pikalov joins in with Fomin and Bryukhanov to welcome Scherbina. Legasov is standing at a distance as Shcherbina, alone, is saluted by Pikalov]

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

Fomin: Deeply, deeply honored.

Bryukhanov: Naturally, we regret the circumstances of your visit, but as you can see, we are making excellent progress in containing the damage. [Pulls out his notepad] We have begun our own inquiry into the cause of the accident, and I have a list of individuals who we believe are accountable.

[Shcherbina reads through the note and gestures Legasov to join them]

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.

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

Fomin: As I presumed, he has no answer.

Bryukhanov: It's disgraceful, really. To spread disinformation at a time like this.

[Legasov, in a tense situation, says nothing and looks to Shcherbina]

Shcherbina: [Notices Legasov and turns to Bryukhanov] Why did I see graphite on the roof? Graphite is only found in the core, where it's used as a—neutron flux moderator. Correct?

Bryukhanov: [beat] Fomin, why did the Deputy Chairman see graphite on the roof?

Fomin: Well, that—that can't be. Comrade Shcherbina, my apologies, but graphite...that's not possible. Perhaps y—you saw burnt concrete.

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

Fomin: Comrade, I—I assure you—

Shcherbina: I understand. [Points to Legasov] You think Legasov is wrong. How shall we prove it?

Vladimir Pikalov: Our high-range dosimeter just arrived. We could cover one of our trucks with lead shielding, mount the dosimeter on the front.

Legasov: 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.

Pikalov: [grimly] Then I'll do it myself.

Shcherbina: Good.

[The Kremlin, Moscow: Valery Legasov enters the room with General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and Deputy Chairman Boris Shcherbina]

Mikhail 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.

Boris Shcherbina: 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 3.6 roentgen. I'm told it's the equivalent of a chest X-ray. So if you're overdue for a check-up...

Gorbachev: And foreign press?

Shcherbina: 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.

[Gorbachev and the committee begins to stand up]

Valery Legasov: [Pounds table] No!

Gorbachev: Pardon me?

Legasov: Uh, we can't adjourn.

Shcherbina: This is Professor Legasov of the Kurchatov Institute. Professor, if you have any concerns, feel free to address them with me later.

Legasov: I can't. I am sorry. I'm so sorry. [Frantically flips through the pages of reports] Page three, the section on casualties. Uh...[reads the reports] ‘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.

Shcherbina: [To Gorbachev] Well, there was a—a tank explosion. There's debris. Of what importance that could be, I have n—

Legasov: [Overlapping] 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]

Gorbachev: [Reads through the reports again] Um, Comrade Shcherbina?

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—

Legasov: Yes, 3.6 roentgen, which, by the way, is not the equivalent of one chest X-ray, but rather 400 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.

Shcherbina: Professor Legasov, there's no place for alarmist hysteria—

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

Gorbachev: 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.

Legasov: [Stammers] I'm, uh, I apologize. I didn't mean, uh...[clears throat] Please, may I express my concern as—as calmly and as respectfully as I—

Shcherbina: Professor Legasov—

Gorbachev: [Interrupts] Boris. I will allow it.

[Everyone sits right back down]

Legasov: Um...An RBMK reactor uses Uranium-235 as fuel. Every atom of U-235 is like a bullet traveling at nearly the speed of light, penetrating everything in its path: woods, metal, concrete, flesh. Every gram of U-235 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 100 years. Some of them, not for 50,000 years.

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

Legasov: Yes.

Gorbachev: Hmm. 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.

Shcherbina: A wise decision, Comrade General Secretary. I—

Gorbachev: And take Professor Legasov with you.

Shcherbina: Uh...[chuckles] Forgive me, Comrade General Secretary, but I—

Gorbachev: Do you know how a nuclear reactor works?

Shcherbina: No.

Gorbachev: No. Well, then how will you know what you're looking at? Meeting adjourned.

[Colonel General Pikalov returns from the testing to give his report]

Pikalov: It's not three roentgen. It's 15,000.

Bryukhanov: Comrade Shcherbina—

Shcherbina: [Turns to Legasov] What does that number mean?

Legasov: 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, [looks at his watch] 20 hours since the explosion, so 40 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.

Shcherbina: [Turns to the soldiers] Please escort Comrades Bryukhanov and Fomin to the local party headquarters. [Turns to Bryukhanov] Thank you for your service.

Bryukhanov: Comrade—

Shcherbina: You're excused.

Fomin: [As he's being taken away] Dyatlov was in charge. It was Dyatlov!

Shcherbina: Tell me how to put it out.

Pikalov: We'll use helicopters. We'll drop water on it like a forest fire—

Legasov: No, no, no. You don't understand. This isn't a fire. This is a fissioning reactor core burning at over 2,000 degrees. The heat will instantly vaporize the water or worse—

Shcherbina: How do we put it out?

Legasov: [Sighs] You are dealing with something that has never occurred on this planet before. [Shcherbina begins to speak] Boron. 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.

Shcherbina: How much sand and boron?

Legasov: [Scoffs] Well, I can't be—

Shcherbina: For God's sake, roughly!

Legasov: Five thousand tons. And obviously, we're going to need to evacuate an enormous area—

Shcherbina: Never mind that. Focus on the fire.

Legasov: 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.

Shcherbina: That's my decision to make.

Legasov: Then make it.

Shcherbina: I've been told not to.

Legasov: Is it or is not your decision—

Shcherbina: 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. [Walks back to the tent]

Legasov: Where are you going?

Shcherbina: I'm going to get you 5,000 tons of sand and boron.

[As Valery Legasov and Boris Shcherbina make their way to Chernobyl in a helicopter...]

Boris Shcherbina: How does a nuclear reactor work?

Valery Legasov: What?

Shcherbina: It's a simple question.

Legasov: It's hardly a simple answer.

Shcherbina: 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.

Legasov: 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...

[Legasov tries to find a pen in his pocket to draw a diagram. Scherbina hands his pen and a scratch paper to Legasov]

Legasov: [Draws diagram] In a nuclear plant, we use something called fission. We take an unstable element like Uranium-235, which has too many neutrons. A neutron is, uh—

Shcherbina: The bullet.

Legasov: [Impressed] 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.

Shcherbina: And the graphite?

Legasov: [Exhales] 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.

Shcherbina: Good. [Takes his pen back] I know how a nuclear reactor works. Now I don't need you.

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