Chernobyl: The Final Warning (1991 TV Movie)
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It is no secret that the accident was caused by a highly risky experiment unauthorized by the higher-ups in Moscow. The local operating staff desired to check the recovery of this unit (one of four at the site) following a turbine trip, wherein the turbine-generator was intentionally tripped off-line. What they didn't understand in detail was the response of the nuclear reactor to such an event, and they failed to immediately engage whatever active reactor safeguards were installed to prevent such an accident. Also, unlike general practice in the US, France, the UK, and elsewhere, the plant was not equipped with containment vessels or structures to withstand the physical pressures of credible (let alone hypothetical) reactor accidents.
In short, due to the unique physics characteristics of this particular type of reactor (of which several were built in various countries,) it underwent a predictable positive reactivity transient and exploded. The neutron moderator is graphite, which burned. Hence the fire. The nuclear fuel containing all of the radioactive fission products was dispersed in the explosion. Lacking a pressure containment, these lethal compounds and elements were free to travel wherever the atmosphere carried them.
The entire accident, in all of its manifestations, was carefully reviewed in detail by the international technical community long after the event. This review was conducted over a period of many months, with almost unanimous consensus. As one result, a similar facility in the US was shut down and decommissioned.
As another, management heads rolled in Chernobyl, Moscow, and places in-between. Precious lives were (and still are being) lost. The penultimate far-reaching effect of this tragedy is also yet to be dispelled - the public's fear of nuclear power and its potential consequences.