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The explosion at Chernobyl was ten times worse than that at Hiroshima and was due to a combination of human error and imperfect technology. Using a real-time split-screen format reminiscent of the hit series, 24, this programme examines the 60 critical minutes leading up to the explosion at the power station on 26th April 1986.
Each minute unfolds narrating the events from the perspectives of key characters involved including Chernobyl’s deputy chief engineer and his staff in the control room as well as innocent bystanders, the wife of one of Chernobyl’s workers and two fishermen working in Chernobyl’s warm waste waters.
With an extraordinary combination of drama and state of the art CGI graphics, Disaster at Chernobyl climaxes with the reconstructon of the final seconds leading to the disaster, the explosion itself and its terrifying aftermath.
Narrated by: David Morrissey
Producer: Tom Lasica
Director: Renny Bartlett
Executive Producers: Dan Korn & Andre Barro
Producer: Simon Berthon
Executive Producers for Discovery Networks Europa:
Bettina Hatami & Susie Worster
2004 Discovery Communications, LLC.
at 23 minutes past 1:00 on the morning of April the 26th 1986 the world was seconds away from its worst ever nuclear accident reactor number four the Chernobyl nuclear power station in the Soviet Union exploded five minutes later a phone call recorded at the time is the first alert of a tragedy in the making by morning the physical devastation was revealed but much worse was to come the disaster Chernobyl brought death and disease they brought the very idea of nuclear power it's question and within the Soviet Union the trauma of Chernobyl was so great that many see it as the first step in the breakup of the communist regime this film tells the story minute by minute second-by-second of the one hour countdown to tragedy it's seen through the eyes of the key actors in the drama the workers who were accidentally led to their deaths and the innocent bystanders who looked on based on documented evidence and eyewitness reports it has been filmed on location inside the surviving areas of the Chernobyl nuclear power station the control room at Chernobyl reactor number 4 it is here that all the key decisions in the coming hour will be taken the future of the reactor in the world beyond is in the hands of three men at only 26 Leonid Topton off is senior control engineer his job is to control the enormous power in the reactor sym natsot Alexander akimov is the shift Foreman the captain of the ship stops Yahweh's beliefs older than another mind them but tonight he is outranked deputy chief engineer Anatoly Dyatlov who's in charge Detlef is one of the Soviet Union's nuclear engineers he's also a hard man operating in a harsh system there is a further vital character the newly commissioned reactor number four itself one of the communist regimes proudest technological achievements tonight the control room is preparing for a safety test on the reactor watching this rubella pass to do something about a stolen vehicle chef that is scary without emotion is the other but a fateful argument is brewing between the two senior engineers and the at love about the level of power at which it is safe to begin the test stop nice would use needles nervous continues normally since of mcgovern this invisible cover is your sister new magnet I are about that since you up in my reunion euros 50 megawatt Chernobyl is harboring two deadly secret the first is a potentially fatal flaw in the reactors design which the engineers are unaware of the floor that makes it highly unstable when run at low power the second secret concerns the man in charge Anatoly Dyatlov zone history is scarred by the very technology he is seeking to dominate tonight the ATLA and the reactor will face each other in a battle of strength that will destroy them both 31 minutes past midnight the argument over the power level at which the safety tests on Chernobyl reactor number four can begin throws ever more serious motion is what they teach in twister regime stillness this is again a tacit armada why if you can detect negligee the test has been demanded by Russia's atomic energy authorities and stems from the Cold War fear of being attacked that still grips the Soviet Union a few years before the Israeli Air Force bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor built by the Russian since then Soviet scientists have demanded tests on their reactors to see what would happen if they came on the enemy attack and their power supply was knocked out but deputy chief engineer Anatoly Dyatlov is deliberately ignoring top-level advice on how the tests should be done the guidelines state that the reactors power should be between seven hundred and a thousand megawatts when the test begins Dyatlov wants to do the test at only 200 megawatts to preserve the cooling water that stops the reactor overheating he believes there is little risk unfortunately that night it was not a single man in the control room but he saw as his equal there really wasn't anyone there who was a stronger character was professionally qualified whose opinion you yeah trainee abided Sasha by oh it's soluti the Maquis are aboard Oh the outlaw is not in fact an unreasonable man rather he's a creature of the communist system that has raised and promoted him he was born a fisherman's son in Siberia and ran away from home at the age of fourteen he's overcome these on promising beginning mr. rise through the ranks as an engineer he is a party man who tries to follow the rulebook but he's aware that in the nuclear industry the rulebook in reality often don't match to get things done shortcuts an improvisation or sometimes the only answer wining the power down has led to it dropping too fast one mile away from Chernobyl is the DOMA to town of Pripyat everyone who lives here works at the power station though they don't know it all these people's destinies will be dictated by the events unfolding in control room number four among them soundly asleep is Nikolay foaming the chief engineer of Shinobu who left the order for the safety test to be carried out a few hundred yards away Natasha yoschenko was being kept awake by her two-year-old son to carry from her window Natasha can see the lights of the nuclear power station where her husband engineer Sasha yoschenko is working a routine night shift as he passes through the kilometer-long Turbine Hall such as thinking not of work but of the upcoming May Day holidays there was something about that night something unusual for some reason I got all dressed up the weather was remarkable very warm of a spring I went off to work in a terrific mood but my wife said that all night our son Khalil was crying she didn't sleep a wink deucey deucey my leg because it was it others are also among them two fishermen one Misha noble maintenance man casting for fish attracted by the power plants warm waste waters 24 minutes to 1 a new problem disturbs the concentration of the increasingly Force operators senior unit control engineer Boris tally-hawk controls the flow of water through the reactor he's also used to our arms like this raucous a Tony bobbins press for the water levels in the separated ramus it was always difficult to control them at low power operator is now about them above all the operators knew about it so I didn't feel afraid 22 minutes to 1 the reactor has ground to a complete halt the at love makes a fateful decision you filthy dog but I forgive I would slit like anybody she's guilty you gone to raise power after cold 30 the shift actually had to pull all the control rods out of the reactors it but it looked almost this was like cooking a gun control rods of the accelerator and the brakes of the nuclear reactor below the 50 foot reactor lid are 1661 uranium filled fuel rods which descend into the reactors core the splitting of the uranium atoms releases enormous heat from the fuel rods which turns water into steam the steam drives the giant turbine which generates electricity to control this power 211 boron control rods are spread throughout the reactors core if they're raised power accelerates if they're taken out altogether the engineers lose their ability to apply the brakes that is exactly what the active tells his mentor Spanish nozzle monado's nastanovich learn Anatole step on that absolutely yes the military will additionally to project a reactor and impose latest novel Sabatini was more the crisp Italian apology is a technology of the quail is Patania moulded provisional sevawwyeah a TBS kazoo yesterday new cultures killing numerous Kohanga pre Kazan Yama goose by the tibia that they have hajima still be upon you partial one hello premium earlier not you mr. engineer the men's revolt has failed try Gerber Nakhimov power up the reactor within five minutes they've got power rising the at love has what he wants the star system Ichabod but the village I have Romanian pillow I am ready Musti the control room staff have every reason to fall in line to be a nuclear engineer as a prestigious and well-paid job they and their families live in the company town of prypiat the shops are well starve there's a new school in the museum nobody wanted to lose the job because losing the job would mean losing the flat in Pripyat under them and going elsewhere to some probably some ghastly outpost in Siberia the fear of getting sacked was the reason why they didn't speak out more effectively when they realized that they were doing something that could be very dangerous 8 Minister 1 another alarm what about menisci no one outside the control room knows about the argument going on there for workers like Sachi of chenko it's just another ordinary night this was not guilty' a silver thing ever there were no specific assignments for the shift I'd already done one shift and we all thought the reactor had been shut down I thought the test had been done on the earlier shifts outside the plant the night is still three minutes past one after the failed revolt the control room is now calm too the man have got the reactors power to the level deputy chief engineer Dyatlov wants it for the test mr. punch mr. overscan emotions – mr. McGovern chief usher the unites button Nepali government a national scrutiny Yaman judoka promotion a stiff somesort in government the statute provided is Patania very poor elimination stiff twisting Raghava the approach you was dynasty at the worship as per Iranian Revolution the beautifulness the existing plumbing of an engineer yay me all knowledge is neat parametric religion is Pattani Yaya societies Catan in the Pump Room mechanic villarica denture is visited by his friend foreman Valeri pareve chanko condemned choked has less than 20 minutes to live Emira spoke appointed him – Gabriel – Apollo rare chariot sir fresh air must be next on purpose anchors rounds is Sasha give chenko in the Mayton an innocent request will lead them back to the pumpkin near the reactors core the water shortage continues to set off alarms but still none of these engineers believes a serious accident is possible for the top man Nicolai foeman it's simply inconceivable fermion had done a correspondence course of nuclear engineering but he wasn't an expert in the field at all he had risen mainly because of his standing as a party secretary unlike that of who was aware that there were dangers in these reactors fermion believed everything he'd read and so when the issue of safety arose he'd say well the charges of an accident a completely remote about as remote as you were being hit by a meteorite even the safety conscious Alexander Achenbach who does understand the technology has officially estimated the chances of an accident at Chernobyl as one in ten million per year but Akimov and his colleagues do not know the reactor as well as they think they are the victims of years of coverup and negligence a rabbit shimmy booty mr. loveliness he had neither his public advocate celibate program in other countries from the 1960s the expansion of nuclear power has been a key target of the communist regime nothing has been allowed to get in the way not even the KGB these recently released KGB documents show the authorities ignored repeated warnings between 1979 and 86 the Chernobyl had serious design flaws Chernobyl's director victor bocharov and his senior managers rushed to get reactor number 4 open early so that they and their party bosses could win substantial bonuses safety came second Makana for director of hope our station complex was always at his wits end to meet deadlines to build these reactors for example the roof of the reactors was meant to have been built with fireproof materials but these type of materials didn't exist the roof had to be put on so he used combustible materials accidents were common and hushed up the very tests being done on this night should have been carried out before reactor number four was even opened now Archie Noble all these chickens are coming home to roost something deadly serious is happening in the reactors core that no one in the control room is aware of the few boron control rods still in the reactor are only partially inserted at the top so power is building into a hot spot at the bottom of the core where the sensors don't always detect it the reactor is now an invisible ticking time bomb twelve minutes past 1:00 the growing pressure inside to Nobles reactor number four is matched by the pressure within the man controlling the night's events deputy chief engineer Anatoly Dyatlov the add loft remains determined to push through the safety test despite the opposition in the control room one reason maybe power station politics the outlaw is in trouble with the local Communist Party for being rude to his workers his boss Nikolai foeman is due for promotion a successful test could help the outlaw get foeman's job and remove him from the engineers on the shop floor but Dyatlov also holds a darker more personal secret back in the 1960s he'd worked in Siberia installing nuclear reactors into submarines for the ethnicity away still alleged or there was a nuclear accident the investigation found that it happened as a result of dyatlov's actions though it was not shown to be his foot no seconds which he possessed like jagger Dyatlov was exposed to 200 rm3 lifetime's worth of radiation soon after the Siberian accident the ad loss son died of leukemia the most common disease children get from exposure to radiation it is said the tragedy changed made him more driven more willful tonight his will is set against the very nuclear power that may have taken his child 117 am less than six minutes to the start of the safety test the outlaw is confident the support that you provide but the hot spot continues to build unseen at the bottom of the core should remain on TV oh Jenny latest religious outside the control in life and gossip carry on as normal most women do not America's not a bitch terrible maybe an electrostatic effect is the patient's costo probability acronym doc suppose the Queen's tonic is true Moshe was not a neuticle Katerina Heidi stop restage party to the machine that will change the tone I gotta another aesthetic as the water see Beauty coma resistance now persecuted last me that noise chessboard oh it's real you lose the Queen Mother's da musica para pachenko through to the control room will lead and pass the reactor no usually the Vania the secretory most nights no respect zbyshek official parameter is Patania to begin Erica – your name answer shifting breath just get a big last possibility public last night Lamia pakka Appa Yakka throw the sheet Valley 0 – awesome you cheat where is your neck muscles Ruggiano secretion in Russian there's one example that you know must be back the test will shut off the power to the massive turbine and let it Coast backup diesel generators will take over but there's a 40 second gap before they kick in question is how effectively the slowing turbine will keep the water pumps going until the diesel generators take over without that water the reactor could boil dry like an immense kettle but to Dyatlov who continue to have no idea of the hot spot that has already built up the risk remains purely theoretical the power to the turbine is turned off over the next minute a terrifying chain of parallel events will unfold as the turbine winds down the pumps push less water through the reactors tall more and more steam is generated from less and less water steam pressure builds of the cause of visible hot spots with every passing second as the steam pressure rises it spreads to the pump paraffin chenko answers the huge reactor hall directly above the reactors lid to see something never witnessed before steam pressure inside the core is lifting the 350 kilo caps – the fuel runs out of their sockets princess audiences get your horses laughter sherry she still move our universe usually moistness here pressing the emergency a said five button automatically lowers the boron control rods to reduce power but it has an unforeseen and fatal effect the boron rods were in fact tipped with graphite and that short moment when they are first inserted into the reactor the graphite in fact leads to a surge in the power not a reduction from when the a said five button was pushed until the explosion the power increased hundreds of times then you mean Jana do this you like lettuce for you your phone's to let you cry they're two minutes 11 seconds new security was washed now we're in motion is to be whistled it's at its middle the disaster is now seconds away steam pressure the reactors hot spot can't be contained fifty control and fuel rod shafts are torn apart power rockets turning the whole reactor into a volcanic steam pressure cooker but you must be other scary scary scary opossum alternatives here let's begin the booth as the Bureau sorry were you after the first explosion I thought the problem was a hydraulic blast in the deaerators that he opened it red I wanted to try to switch the setting to compensate but then the second explosion happened seconds after the first blast we heard the second a massive explosion I didn't know what it was we only felt the blast wave it smashed my door with the 500 ton safety cap blown up and her being sucked in below the reactor becomes a giant blow torch blasting 50 tons of nuclear fuel into the atmosphere ten times Hiroshima 700 tons of radioactive graphite are blown around the plant clouds of dust are sucked into the control room accompanied by a strange smell gases released from the core leave a metallic taste like ozone after a thunderstorm it is in fact the stench of death the dust is the cloak of the invisible killer of radiation the control room operators are far enough away from the reactors core to survive the explosion but somewhere which they have not many will face days weeks even years of agony as radiation burns them to death from the inside what struck me was what had happened to my wall its cast concrete a metre thick I saw it in the corner of my room bending as if it was made of rubber like this it got dark immediately the lights went out steam wrapped around everything dust steam darkness and a horrible hissing noise Cinderella post I thought it could be an earthquake or maybe war the reactor was the last thing on my mind but the bhumata detailed that was my operator Victor dr. ankles I only recognized him by his voice his face was burnt all covered in blood just below that Victor was still in shock he said to me that he had been near the pumps together with or Sinofsky the second pump operator and that he stayed there and I should help them when I reached him he was shivering you know when a man isn't shocked he just indicated with his hands and said but what did I find it ruins that's all I saw if he had been there he would have been buried under the pillars there's so much in place of the ceiling that was only sky a sky full of stars at 3:00 a.m. I was vomiting violently it was the first sign of radiation sickness at six o'clock I couldn't even get to the first-aid post by myself they helped me there put me in an ambulance and took me to the medical station Sachi you've chenko will survive others are dying the radioactivity pours out of the reactor to be blown across Bella Russia towards the heart of Europe the real nightmare is still to come by the morning of April the 26th the KGB was filming the devastated scene of the worst nuclear accidents in history whoever shot this declassified KGB footage absorbed a massive dose of radiation the next day the people of Pripyat were officially told the worst Bishop's they were short yodel the following night I was taken to Moscow by plane only five people survived from those who were on board then my family was evacuated with the entire city it would take a full week for all 135,000 people to be evacuated the radiation count was so high the flashes from it burns straight on to this film 30 kilometer zone of exclusion was declared the zone frozen in time like a modern Pompeii over 600,000 Soviet men and women were brought in to contain the radioactivity they worked in hellish often chaotic conditions with extraordinary bravery in order to safeguard the rest of the world many of them had no protective clothing whatsoever everything they touched burned with radioactivity the poisonous cloud spread beyond borders across much of the northern hemisphere washed into the earth by the rain the radioactive dust lives on in plants animals and human beings within the Soviet Union in the changing times of a new openness the political effect was profound she was major nidal Donna's questionable dad over here much obviously Adam named electrolysis I think it both a symbolic in a very real way Chernobyl was the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union I think in a symbolic way the sort of meltdown the explosion was caused by all the inherent contradictions in Soviet system and therefore it's it's a very good paradigm if you like a symbol of what was to happen Ginobili ëthe toll though horrifying has turned out to be smaller than many first feared the scientific consensus is that it will cause some 10,000 cancers in Russia and 25,000 worldwide over a 70-year period as yet the only proven rise in disease is in thyroid cancers in children motherfu you it is an individual human lives that the cost is most visibly the fisherman spent the night watching the fireman fight the radioactive flavors until they started to feel ill within hours their skin went black a nuclear tan that foreshadowed the deaths 30 workers including fire crew on the site died from acute radiation poisoning the learn academic Ock was vaporized in the explosions while at his post in the Pump Room Allari para ver junco died six weeks later of radiation burns suffered trying to find his friend cadet Chuck Alexander akimov died 15 days after the explosion from radiation poisoning as long as he could speak he said I did everything right I don't understand why it happened leonid topped enough died three days after akimov he too protested his innocence to the grave saying he'd done everything he could the chief engineer of Chernobyl Nikolai foeman was sentenced to 10 years hard labor but was soon released due to a mental breakdown he's now set to drift in and out of lucidity miraculously Sasha Savchenko survived as did his wife Natasha and their son Carole but that night lives on in his memory and in his body I had 15 skin graft operations in the first year the burns didn't show themselves at once they appeared after I got to the hospital in Moscow they ripened when I was in the recovery unit my skin was all black when they pulled back the sheets my skin peeled off like Xerox powder I have to be careful now for instance I can drive a car but I can't do repairs I can't touch petrol or oil the wounds won't heal the blood won't congeal properly there are other things but you get used to them all you just live with it Anatoly Dyatlov received a massive 390 REM of radiation but even this five lifetime's worth of radiation didn't kill him he lived on until 1995 when he died of a heart attack di Clough served four years of his 10 year sentence and in a remarkable interview given shortly before he died he argued that in the battle between himself and the reactor only one side could be blamed did he act Bruno you wouldn't him quick splat that's the reactor shouldn't have been in operation for he went digital data may be the real blame lies with the Atomic Energy Authority is stinky at them not having the correct documentation when where it was needed made the explosion of the reactor in the reactor March straight to its gamesswag I'm sure