The next installment of my investigation of the Chernobyl catastrophe shows how the disaster occurred, the results, the inside stories of the people on the scene fighting to save Europe from a chain reaction and potential nuclear detonation many time larger than Hiroshima. The radioactive contamination, and the way the authorities downplay it, has direct relevance to what is happening today in Japan.
In the documentary film The Battle of Chernobyl (Thomas Johnson, 2006), we see how military and miners were not counted by the “official” death tolls currently floating around from the UN and IAEA. The film, after interviewing numerous key first person sources tells that 600 of the helicopter pilots who flew over the reactor died. Another 2,500 miners who dug a tunnel and room below the reactor died. Other military died, as well as people left behind in the evacuations.
On top of that, the cases of illness skyrocketed throughout the region.
The Chernobyl Syndrome:
“We’ve all got a bunch of symptoms, heart, stomach, liver, kidneys, nervous system. Our whole bodies were radically upset by the radiation and chemical exposure.”
“According to the military, of the 500,000 Chernobyl liquidators 20,000 have already died. 200,000 are officially disabled.”
Dr. Yuri Badazhevsky shows his experimental findings concerning cesium contamination of food:
“Look what happened when the mother was contaminated with cesium (137) during pregnancy… Look how many deformations, hairless, missing eyes, deformed skulls.”
“…I was horrified by how many deformed embryos developed in animals that had eaten cesium contaminated food. I obtained a horrible number of deformations in two weeks.”
Four out of five children in Belarus are considered ill.
“In Belorussia, 300,000 children are currently suffering the consequences of contamination.”
Mikhail Gorbachev laments the catastrophe and wishes for clean, safe alternative forms of energy, on camera.
“How many years is this going to go on? 800 years? 800 years! Until the second Jesus Christ is born, until he returns? Yes.”
-Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet Union
From the film’s website (DVD AVAILABLE):
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.
“Truly powerful and moving… contains an impressive amount of incredibly powerful and valuable archival information, as well as some revealing interviews.”—Vitaly Cheernetsky, KinoKultura: New Russian Cinema
“An epic documentary.”—Variety
“Powerful… an important film… Because so much of the story has been forgotten or concealed, the film’s momentum never flags.”—American Society for Environmental History Newsletter
“A mind boggling piece of work… peerless… painstakingly researched… This documentary has earned the highest recommendation for its clarity, its persistent revelations, and comprehensive examination of this dismal crisis.” —Michael J. Coffta, Educational Media Reviews Online
Best History & Biography Program, 2007 Banff World Television Awards
Best Documentary, 2006 Prix Italia Festival