A riveting account of the chilling precursors and deadly aftermath of the 1986 Soviet nuclear disaster from the bestselling author of Alive.
This highly readable and deeply researched exposé draws upon unclassified data from the former Soviet Union and a wealth of firsthand interviews to give a complex and human account of one of the worst nuclear catastrophes in history.
Starting in 1942, when a young Russian physicist named Georgi Flerov warned Stalin that the Americans were building an atomic bomb, author Piers Paul Read recounts the birth and growth of atomic energy in the USSR—and the construction of the V. I. Lenin Nuclear Power Station at Chernobyl. Embedded in this story are the KGB cover-ups, power grabs, safety oversights, and risky decisions that set the stage for the explosion of the station’s fourth reactor on April 26, 1986.
According to Soviet authorities, only thirty-one people lost their lives due to the Chernobyl disaster, but its consequences were far too big for even the Kremlin to sweep under the rug—though the authorities certainly tried. Radiation burns and nuclear debris could not be concealed, and the cloud of radioactive material spewing from the damaged reactor was monitored throughout Europe. In the areas most immediately affected, there was a leap in the incidence of thyroid cancer. Moment by moment, Read takes us through the chaos and horror of the meltdown, and voice by voice, he records the stories that reveal the lasting repercussions of that day.
Set in a regime where demotion was considered a fate worse than death and silence had the power to kill, Ablaze tackles the social and technological chain reactions that wreaked havoc not only on the USSR’s power supply but on the strength and stability of the nation. It is a must-read for anyone interested in Soviet-era history or the promises and perils of nuclear power.
Read's taut, riveting probe of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion and its aftermath reveals the full magnitude of the disaster as perhaps no other book has done. The English journalist ( Alive ) spent months in Russia, Byelorussia and Ukraine in 1991 interviewing scores of survivors, officials and scientists. Focusing on the human side of the catastrophe, he gives a blow-by-blow account of the accident, complete with reconstructed dialogue, then explores the Soviet cover-up and Western experts' efforts to estimate the effects of a disaster that may ultimately claim more victims than WW II, suggests Read. Instead of acknowledging reactor design flaws and poor safeguards, Soviet officials brought scapegoats to trial, in what Read likens to Stalin's show trials. Drawing on interviews and on newly declassified Soviet medical records, he assesses the plight of residents in the far-flung contaminated zone and discloses that most of the 600,000 cleanup and rescue personnel suffered severe damage to their immune systems. Photos. 50,000 first printing.