Video: this is what a Chernobyl-level nuclear meltdown looks like

The #2 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan is currently at risk of a meltdown, and this situation is being compared to what happened at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine in 1986. This incredibly rare silent film was taken on location just days after the meltdown at Chernobyl, killing the filmmaker in the process.

Russian filmmaker Vladimir Shevchenko worked for Central TV in Ukraine in 1986, giving him unprecedented access to the Chernobyl zone immediately after a meltdown and explosion completely destroyed reactor number four of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The dangers of radiation, or at least what constituted safe exposure levels, weren't entirely understood at the time, at least not by the general public, and most of the people you see in this film likely received lethal doses while working close to the destroyed reactor.

Shevchenko decided to climb up onto the roof of the plant himself to get footage looking directly into the destroyed reactor core wearing only a cotton facemask for protection. He died of cancer a few weeks later.

Even if a meltdown does happen in Japan, due to higher safety standards and advance warning, it's not likely that things will get as bad as they did in Chernobyl, but it's still sobering, and scary, to see what can happen when a nuclear accident occurs.

Via YouTube

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