Chernobyl 1986: The real-life disaster behind the film on Netflix

27 July 2021, 17:16 | Updated: 27 July 2021, 20:39

Radio X

By Radio X

The Chernobyl disaster is the subject of a 2021 film on Netflix, but do you know the facts behind the movie? Find out more about the real-life event here.

2019's critically-acclaimed HBO miniseries, Chernobyl, saw the devastating national disaster - which occurred in Ukraine in 1986 - dramatised for the small screen.

Now, two years on, Russia's response to the treatment has arrived on Netflix. Chernobyl Abyss, or Chernoby 1986 as it is called on the streaming site, stars and is directed by Danila Kozlovskiy and tells the story of the disaster through the eyes of a firefighter named Alexey.

While the film does draw on the main real-life story, it's fair to say it does use its poetic license to tell the tale. But what is fact and what is fiction?

Find out about the harrowing true story behind the Chernobyl disaster and its after-effects for years to come.

Chernobyl 1986 is on Netflix now
Chernobyl 1986 is on Netflix now. Picture: Netflix

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What happened at Chernobyl in 1986?

On 26 April 1986 in Chernobyl near the city of Pripyat in Ukraine (the former Soviet Union), a reactor in a power plant experienced a sudden surge of power during systems test. The subsequent explosion and fire at the No. 4 reactor released huge amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere and caused devastating effects to those nearest to it. An inexperienced team and inadequate designs at the plant were later found to be the cause of the disaster. It remains, with the Fukushima accident in 2011, the worst nuclear disaster in history and to this day it is the worst nuclear power plant disaster in history.

How many died at Chernobyl?

According to the BBC, the internationally recognised death toll shows that 31 died as an immediate result of Chernobyl. Two workers died at the site of the explosion, another died in hospital soon after due to their injuries and 28 operators and firemen are believed to have died within three months of the accident. The UN estimates that only 50 deaths can be attributed to the disaster, but the true toll will probably never be known. In 2005, the UN predicted some 4,000 people would die from exposure to radiation.

According to the World Nuclear Organisation, Acute Radiation Syndrome or ARS was originally diagnosed in 237 people onsite and in those involved in the clean-up. 134 cases were later confirmed. The website adds: "Of these, 28 people died as a result of ARS within a few weeks of the accident. Nineteen more workers subsequently died between 1987 and 2004, but their deaths cannot necessarily be attributed to radiation exposure".

Did anyone survive Chernobyl 1986?

Chernobyl had about 14,000 residents before its evacuation. The nearby city of Pripyat was not immediately evacuated this only began one and a half days before the accident was publicly acknowledged by the Soviet Union. However, about 49,000 people were evacuated from the area. When the exclusion zone increased to 30 km a further 68,0000 people were evacuated.

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The 35th anniversary of Chernobyl was commemorated on 26 April 2021
The 35th anniversary of Chernobyl was commemorated on 26 April 2021. Picture: Celestino Arce/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

What is the aftermath of Chernobyl?

According to an article on verywealth.com written on 31 May 2020: "There has been a 200 percent increase in birth defects and a 250 percent increase in congenital birth deformities in children born in the Chernobyl fallout area since 1986."

The civil and military personnel, known as the Chernobyl Liquidators, were called upon to deal with the the immediate and after effect of the disaster. According to the WHO, 240,000 recovery workers were called upon between 1986 and 1987. Though the figures widely vary, and there is much debate over the disaster's after effects, Vyacheslav Grishin of the Chernobyl Union recorded 60,000 of the liquidators from Ukraine and Belarus dead and 165,000 left disabled.

Since its evacuation, the Chernobyl site has been cordoned off and there is an exclusion zone around the plant, which stretches for 30km.

The plant itself was buried under slabs of concrete, called a sarcophagus, in order to prevent more radiation and contaminated material from leaking.

According infoplease.com: "Some 3,000 workers are currently employed inside the zone of alienation, but they do not live there. Workers are regularly monitored for radiation and can only work a limited number of shifts per week. Workers are needed at the site because the remaining 3 reactors, although no longer operational, still contain nuclear fuel that needs to be monitored. The site is to be cleared by 2065."

There are believed to be around 500-1000 mostly-elderly residents who either refused to evacuate the exclusion zone or who returned to it illegally.

The Chernobyl disaster is still commemorated in the Ukraine, with the 35th anniversary observed this year on 26 April 2021.

Chernobyl 1986 is available to watch now on Netflix

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