Welcome to the episode number 17 of the Authors of Mass Destruction podcast. My name is Natasha Bajema, aka WMDgirl on Twitter. I’m a fiction author, national security expert and your host for this podcast.
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- I have two related headlines for this week:
- “Why HBO’s “Chernobyl” Gets Nuclear So Wrong” by Michael Schellenberger on forbes.com on 6 June
- “What HBO’s “Chernobyl” Got Right, and What It Got Terribly Wrong” by Masha Gessen in the New Yorker on 4 June
- For the past ten years, I’ve taught a class about WMD and film and I always remind my students that films and even documentaries based on fact are narratives created by writers and directors. What does the director want you to think?
- HBO Mini-Series “Chernobyl” about world’s worst nuclear power plant accident that took place in the city of Pripyat, part of the Soviet Union. The entire population was forced to permanently evacuate after being exposed to toxic levels of radiation, but Soviet officials publicly downplayed the incident in the press. As a result, we still don’t quite understand the effects of the fatal explosion—conflicting accounts.
- The reactor fuel melted and caused an explosion, sending plumes of radioactive material into the air. Radioactive dust contaminated vegetation and water supply in the region.
- About 32 people died of acute radiation sickness within three months of the incident.
- Some confusion about the consequences of a nuclear power plant meltdown and the effects of radiation
- Radiation contagious like a virus
- Reference to a megaton nuclear weapon
- Helicopter crash
- Chernobyl writer Craig Mazin insisted in a tweet that “the lesson of Chernobyl isn’t that modern nuclear power is dangerous…The lesson is that lying, arrogance, and suppression of criticism are dangerous.”
- Terrified millions of people about nuclear power – check out Google trends
- In his Forbes article, Schellenberger complains that Chernobyl gets “nuclear” all wrong.
- In the New Yorker article, Masha highlights what Chernobyl got right—the depiction of the Soviet culture at the time. It falls short in its depiction of the Soviet system
Let’s get to the interview. This week, I talk to Tara Drozdenko who is the Managing Director of Nuclear Policy and Nonproliferation at the Outrider Foundation. In this episode, we delve into what makes a nuclear story compelling and what nuclear stories we think writers should tell today to have impact.