The cost of lies: Chernobyl

Lee G. Sobotka, professor of chemistry and physics at Washington University in St. Louis

Lee Sobotka will present a "chalk talk" style presentation on the Chernobyl disaster (which occurred in April 1986) and its long term effects.

A popular HBO series was aired this summer detailing, and dramatizing, what happened at Chernobyl in 1986. The creators of this series were not afraid of technical scientific details, as they realized the story had a scientific core wrapped in how humans, as well as the Soviet bureaucracy, responded to complex truths, both politically troublesome and culturally traumatic. This talk will focus on the scientific core of the story, leaving the human issues to after-lecture discussions. I will start with a discussion of the nuclear science required to understand how nuclear reactors work. The practical application of this science to run, control and generate electricity will be outlined. The technical drivers of what went wrong at Chernobyl will then be discussed. By the end of the lecture the three issues associated with all nuclear reactors (accidents, waste and proliferation) will be discussed. It is my hope that this lecture, presented at the level of general chemistry & physics, will better position all for informed discussions of persistent world issues.

Read Sobotka's recent article on Chernobyl.