On April 26, 1986, a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukrainian city of Pripyat exploded and began spewing radioactive smoke and gas. Firemen discovered that no amount of water could extinguish the blaze. More than 40,000 residents in the immediate area were exposed to fallout 100 times greater than that from the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan. But the most serious nuclear accident in history had only begun.
Based on top-secret government documents that came to light only in the Nineties, during the collapse of the Soviet Union, The Battle of Chernobyl reveals a systematic cover-up of the true scope of the disaster, including the possibility of a secondary explosion of the still-smoldering magma, whose radioactive clouds would have rendered Europe uninhabitable. The government effort to prevent such a catastrophe lasted for more than seven months and sacrificed the lives of thousands of soldiers, miners and other workers.
The Battle of Chernobyl dramatically chronicles the series of harrowing efforts to stop the nuclear chain reaction and prevent a second explosion, to “liquidate” the radioactivity, and to seal off the ruined reactor under a mammoth “sarcophagus.” These nerve-racking events are recounted through newly available films, videos and photos taken in and around the plant, computer animation, and interviews with participants and eyewitnesses, many of whom were exposed to radiation, including government and military leaders, scientists, workers, journalists, doctors, and Pripyat refugees.
The consequences of this catastrophe continue today, with thousands of disabled survivors suffering from the “Chernobyl syndrome” of radiation-related illnesses, and the urgent need to replace the hastily-constructed and now crumbling sarcophagus over the still-contaminated reactor. As this remarkable film makes clear, The Battle of Chernobyl is far from over.
Released in 2006. Director: Thomas Johnson. Documentary film.
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