“Former top aides to President Donald Trump have begun an aggressive push to combat the teaching of critical race theory and capitalize on the issue politically… some of them have begun working with members of Congress to bar the military from holding diversity trainings and to withhold federal funds from schools and colleges that promote anything that can be packaged as critical race theory.” — Politico, 6/23/21

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As the chief engineer of this nuclear power plant, it is my responsibility to ensure that the plant continues to operate as safely and efficiently as possible. But recently, there has been a growing fringe movement among certain scientists and academics advocating a dangerous educational doctrine that threatens the very fabric of our operation.

They’re trying to teach everyone about radiation.

The doctrine they’re pushing, known as Critical Reactor Theory, is the notion that nuclear power plants, if not properly maintained, can reach uncontrolled supercriticality — a state of runaway nuclear fission chain reactions that can lead to reactor meltdown. The theory claims that nuclear power plants have a long history of such meltdowns, and that even after years of efforts to eliminate them, meltdowns still happen to this day. This extremist dogma has now reached the hallowed halls of our beloved plant, where activists are calling for us to educate employees on the causes of meltdowns and how to prevent radiation from getting out of control.

Well, not on my watch.

These Critical Reactor Theory crusaders are obsessed with pointing out the myriad ways in which a lack of fundamental understanding about radiation leads to reckless behavior that puts our employees in jeopardy every day. But what am I supposed to do? Tell my technicians to stop using the control rods to warm up their hot pockets? Shut down the heavy water hot tub? Board up the reactor core steam sauna?

Why should we be forced to rethink the incredible lifestyle that comes with working at the biggest nuclear plant in the world just because a few people at the plant happen to get cancer and die every year? Why should we be forced to examine whether their deaths were the result of systemic behaviors within our plant when we’ve all been perfectly happy pretending they just made bad personal choices that led to their untimely demise? This nuclear plant is perfect just the way it is, as it always has been, and nobody is going to take away our fuel rod funnel cakes while I live and breathe. The high heat of a thermonuclear reaction is the only thing that can render that perfect crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside taste, and nothing you say will convince me that Funnel Cake Fridays are a toxic and lethal practice that needs to stop immediately “for the sake of employee well-being.”

Besides, is teaching the employees about radiation really the best way to make the power plant safer? Are they actually better off learning that time-honored traditions like “Geiger Counter High Score” and “Spent Fuel Shuffleboard” are actually injurious to their health? Wouldn’t they just grow to hate the power plant that they know and love rather than gradually adopt measures to improve safety and become more conscientious employees overall?

When Robert Oppenheimer, the founding father of nuclear technology, said, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds,” are we really to believe that he was talking about the destructive potential of nuclear power if used in irresponsible and/or nefarious ways? Of course not. He was obviously talking about the destruction (in the metaphorical sense) of the totally uncool pre-nuclear world we were living in before he invented the most amazing and notoriously safe technology that has ever existed. These radiation zealots would have us believe that Oppenheimer was a tortured scientist who came to regret his most famous achievement after witnessing its potential for mass murder. It is a slap in the face to our collective memory of Oppenheimer as the atomic God-hero — who never once quoted Hindu scripture as a warning against nuclear proliferation — that we know him to be.

We need to put an end to this revisionist interpretation of nuclear technology, and stick to the accepted narrative that we have always known to be true: this nuclear power plant does not have any radiation in it.

To those that argue that our nuclear power plant was literally built on radiation as a means of energy generation, I say, “prove it.” And not just by pointing out that coffee isn’t supposed to glow in the dark, or that spontaneous skin burns “aren’t normal.” I mean really prove it.

Until then, I don’t see anything I should be worried about other than making sure I’m first in line for Funnel Cake Friday. Because if I don’t get that delicious fried bread in my system, I’m going to have a meltdown.

Anatoly Dyatlov
Deputy Engineer, Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant