I just watched Chernobyl Episode 2, and 3 heroic workers volunteer to sacrifice themselves and return to the power plant to take care of some water tanks.

In episode 1, Anatoly gave the order for two people* to go and pump water in the core (since he stubbornly thought it hadn't exploded).

Are these two events related? I mean, do the 3 heroes need to go in because of that catastrophic command of Anatoly?

These two people are shown in the hospital, ill, in episode 2, a slim guy, and another one with squared black glasses.

1 Answer 1


Are these two events related? Not entirely.

As you say, Anatoly Dyatlov is asking people to go and make sure water is pumped into the core because he is under the illusion that the core is undamaged and that it needs water to prevent a classic meltdown. This is where (even when the fission reaction is shut down) the decay of unstable fission products generates enough heat over time to melt the fuel.

Akimov and Toptunov go and make sure water is running, by manually turning valves. However before the incident, there was some water already flowing through the core. Dyatlov has only issued this order because they can't tell through the control panels whether there is water or not flowing.

So with some of these valves already open, the explosion in the core is likely to have broken pipes and resulted in water spilling into the basement anyway. We see Akimov and Toptunov wading through some water to get to the valves.

Then there are the Firefighters. A large crew of Firefighters were trying to put out the fires in the building and (unknowingly) the reactor itself, and run a large number of hoses for a number of hours before its realized what dangers they are in. They are very likely to have contributed to the amount of water gathering under the reactor.

So (in my amateur opinion), there would likely have been a significant amount of water under the reactor anyway.

  • OK your Avatar I am already convinced. :) But you say that the false command of Anatoly contributed to the amount of water, thus the "Not entirely" answer. Is my understanding of your answer correct?
    – gsamaras
    Jul 1, 2019 at 18:34
  • IIRC, in the show they mention the firefighters' hoses and the fact that no one had turned them off, so the basement had been filling with water since the first response. I don't recall them mentioning Dyatlov's command to run the pumps as a reason - the relative contribution is never explicitly stated, but I agree with your assessment that there would have been a problem whether or not the pumps were run. Jul 1, 2019 at 18:34
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    Its worth noting that the show exaggerated the power of the potential steam explosion. For some reason they referred to it in 'megatons' ... on the level of a fusion/hydrogen bomb. It would have been bad, and spread more of the core in the environment, potentially making cleanup harder, but it would not have been an explosion of the scale indicated.
    – iandotkelly
    Jul 1, 2019 at 18:38
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    Oops - sorry. Its not that important to the plot fortunately.
    – iandotkelly
    Jul 1, 2019 at 18:39
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    @Darren ... I don't think so. Those valves were not for draining anything, they were for delivering water up into the core. They were obeying the pointless order to ensure water is flowing into the core. They couldn't do it automatically because the control system wasn't functioning. The 3 people go into the building later to open a 'sluice gate' ... not open valves.
    – iandotkelly
    Jul 2, 2019 at 12:01

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