Seeing a nuclear reactor start up is cooler than my sci-fi dreams

Ka-freaking-boom. The piercing blue flash reverberates through the water and looks cooler than my imagination. If watching movies has taught me anything, it's that when you see that particular shade of glowing blue, something superhuman is happening. And yes, a nuclear reactor starting up is as powerful as it gets.


Why does it glow blue? It's the Cherenkov radiation:

Cherenkov radiation is electromagnetic radiation emitted when a charged particle (such as an electron) passes through a dielectric medium at a speed greater than the phase velocity of light in that medium.

It's going faster than the speed of light (in water). The blue glow is basically a sonic boom but for light.

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I don't understand the notion of "on" with respect to the process the camera is looking at. I thought it was just a bunch of fuel rods lowered into super pure water, the rods are filled with pellets of nuclear fuel and are refined to such a degree that they naturally generate heat. When in proximity to other pellets and rods the heat builds to around 730 degrees heating the water. Where is there an on switch in all of this? The only thing I can think of is that they keep the pellets from touching each other and then push them together so they touch for the maximum heat effect. Is that the on moment?