All Quotes tagged Fission(9)

[The Kremlin, Moscow: Legasov and Ulana Khomyuk explain the consequences of a nuclear meltdown with full water tanks]

Ulana Khomyuk: When the lava enters these tanks, it will instantly superheat and vaporize approximately 7,000 cubic meters of water, causing a significant thermal explosion.

Gorbachev: How significant?

Khomyuk: We estimate between two and four megatons. Everything within a thirty-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 two hundred 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.

Gorbachev: What do you mean, ‘impact’?

Legasov: 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 one hundred years.

Gorbachev: [visibly shaken] There are more than fifty million people living in Byelorussia and Ukraine.

Legasov: Sixty, yes.

Gorbachev: And how long before this happens?

Legasov: Approximately 48 to 72 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.

Gorbachev: My permission for what?

Legasov: Um, the water in these tanks... the level of radioactive contamination—

Khomyuk: They'll likely be dead in a week.

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

Gorbachev: Comrade Legasov... all victories inevitably come at a cost.

[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.

[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.