Everything You Need To Know About Chernobyl, HBO’s Insanely Popular New Show

Why you need to be watching Chernobyl right now

Once Game Of Thrones finished and we were left in a world without Daenerys Targaryen, what was a die hard HBO fan with a Foxtel subscription to do? Binge on Chernobyl, naturally.

As the newest miniseries from HBO, Chernobyl follows the real events of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, when a nuclear facility exploded in what was a then-Ukrainian city in the Soviet Union. It’s since become the highest rated show in history on IMDB, beating out Game Of Thrones, Breaking Bad and even Planet Earth for the top score. So, what’s the big deal?

What is Chernobyl about?

Chernobyl follows the story of scientists Valery Legasov (played by Jared Harris) and Ulana Khomyuk (Emily Watson) and politician Boris Shcherbina (Stellan Skarsgård) as they follow the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which is considered one of the worst man made catastrophes in the history of humankind. The blast, which saw the nuclear core completely exposed, saw about 100,000 die of long term health effects and the entire surrounding precinct evacuated forever.

How much of HBO’s Chernobyl is based on the truth?

The main story is the truth, but with a bit of artistic liberty. The main scientist, Valery, didn’t get woken up in the middle of the night. In fact, he found out about the disaster at that first meeting where he was invited as an expert. He also had a family, and his daughter has since spoken out about his tapes, which were real explained his experience of the explosion and the events following.

The character of Ulana is fictional, and instead draws on the experiences of many scientists working on the accident. So no, she didn’t burst in and save the day. In fact, some experts have questioned in there were any female scientists involved at all.

There were a few other small changes, including the crash of the helicopter, which actually happened two weeks after the event, not days later. Likewise, the claim that contaminated groundwater could wipe out most of Eastern Europe was an artistic hyperbole, with producers telling Variety it was “an exaggeration.” 

Where can I watch Chernobyl in Australia?

Like with Game Of Thrones, the only (legal) way to watch Chernobyl is via Foxtel.

What were the long lasting effects of the Chernobyl explosion?

The long term health effects of the Chernobyl explosion were severe. According to reports, up to 90 per cent of local children developed cancer, and 5 per cent of adults. An estimated 100,000 people died due to radiation. Animals in the Chernobyl exclusion zone are famously deformed. And although you can visit the Pripyat power station today, radiation levels aren’t safe to stay long. People who work inside the tourist site can only work for three weeks before having time off, and visitors can’t stay longer than a few hours close to the power station. You can read up on the current radiation levels here

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