The History of A Nuclear Catastrophe

Book - 2018
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An in depth look at the stories of firefighters, scientists, and soldiers who worked to extinguish the nuclear inferno of Chernobyl identifies the flaws of the Soviet nuclear industry.
Publisher: New York, NY :, Basic Books,, 2018.
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9781541617094
Branch Call Number: 363.1799094 PL
Characteristics: xvi, 404 pages, 10 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm


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Jun 16, 2019

After listening to the podcast, read a NYorker article talking about what the hbo series got wrong, and this book was mentioned as one of the few books with the facts about the disaster.

Oct 05, 2018

There are very few books on disasters that match the quality and insight of “Chernobyl.” Dr. Plokhy is Ukranian and speaks the local languages. He has ties to the region, and best of all he is an accomplished, clear, and informative writer. We get a good overview at the beginning of the political situation as Mikhail Gorbachev took office, and we get to know the people under him who were the ministers and party members responsible for certain decisions.

It’s carefully researched, and focuses less on the explosion moment itself as the people who were affected by the plant’s disaster. From the wives of firefighters to the minsters of the Union to the impact on nearby republics, Dr Plokhy has researched them all. His bibliography is extensive, if less useful for those who don’t speak Russian or Ukranian as he does.

There are terrifying scenes here, like firefighters unaware of what they’re being exposed to fighting graphite and oil fires. The denial that the reactor had experienced an accident is almost unbelievable, except that we see the denial in so many other events. It isn’t too much of a stretch to say that Chernobyl was the beginning of the end for the USSR, and Dr. Plokhy shows us how that worked.

This is not a light book, but his writing talent makes it easier to read and digest than many I’ve read. I strongly recommend it for anyone who wants to know how this disaster became possible, how it happened, and the impact on people and institutions for years to follow. Five of five stars.


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