Chernobyl The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe
A Chernobyl survivor and award-winning historian “mercilessly chronicles the absurdities of the Soviet system” in this “vividly empathetic” account of the worst nuclear accident in history (The Wall Street Journal).
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On the morning of April 26, 1986, Europe witnessed the worst nuclear disaster in history: the explosion of a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Soviet Ukraine. Dozens died of radiation poisoning, fallout contaminated half the continent, and thousands fell ill in the years and decades that followed.
In Chernobyl, historian Serhii Plokhy draws on new sources to tell the dramatic stories of the firefighters, scientists, and soldiers who heroically extinguished the nuclear inferno and put the reactor to sleep. While the immediate cause of the accident was a turbine test gone wrong, Plokhy shows how the deeper roots of Chernobyl lay in the nature of the Soviet political system. He examines the flaws of the Soviet nuclear industry, tracing them back to the authoritarian character of Communist party rule, the regime’s control of scientific information, and its emphasis on economic development over ecological and humanitarian concerns. Only five years later, the Soviet Union would fall apart, destroyed from within by its discredited ideology and its dysfunctional managerial and economic systems.
Today, the risk of another Chernobyl looms as nuclear energy falls into the hands of authoritarian regimes in the developing world, where struggling economies and an alarming lack of expertise collide with outsized political ambitions based on nuclear capability.
A moving and definitive account of a twentieth-century disaster, Chernobyl is also an urgent call to action today.
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