By Piers Paul Read

On twenty sixth April 1986 the nuclear reactor of the fourth unit of the V.I. Lenin power-station at Chernobyl exploded. It was once a disaster of ancient proportions - many thousands suffered, and endured to undergo, from the results. To chronicle this catastrophe and its aftermath, Piers Paul learn interviewed the engineers and operators who have been engaging in the fateful try at the evening of twenty fifth April; he talked to the director of the power-station, serving a ten-year sentence for negligence; and he went to the hitherto top-secret institutes as soon as run by way of Beria's Ministry for Medium computing device development - the Kurchatov Institute, Moscow's health facility No 6, and the once-closed urban of Obninsk. during this account, learn takes good thing about the declassification of nuclear info within the former Soviet Union and the loosening of tongues that the failure of the coup in 1991. He additionally won entry to the trial transcripts, the protocol of the hitherto mystery clinical fee, and different private reviews. the result's not just the tale of the disaster, but additionally a parable approximately totalitarianism and its cave in.

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Extra resources for Ablaze: Story of Chernobyl

Sample text

No expense was to be spared, and the authority of Kurchatov, as scientific director, became greater than that of a minister. In the autumn of 1946 he was authorized to hire up to thirty-seven thousand workers to speed up the construction of the facilities he required. Where labourers were lacking, convicts took their place. Five thousand prisoners were transported from prison camps in Siberia to work on the facilities at Mayak, near Chelyabinsk in the Urals. Where zeal was lacking, Beria used terror.

Irene, the daughter of Pierre and Marie Curie, and her husband, Jean-Frédéric Joliot-Curie, a pioneer of nuclear fission, were both Communists and on international questions followed the party line. So too did a large number of Western intellectuals like Louis Aragon and Jean-Paul Sartre; there was therefore no reason for the Soviet scientists to doubt the existence of saboteurs and spies. Closed cities like Mayak and Obninsk were surrounded by barbed-wire fences and guarded by whole regiments of special troops.

I have emphasized the human side of the story because, in its essence, the accident was caused by human error – but human error of a complex kind. What happened in the fourth reactor early in the morning of 26 April 1986 is now known. What went on in the minds of the operators, and those who took charge after the accident, is not. To understand what happened, however, it is necessary to return to the genesis of the Soviet atomic programme in the days of Stalin and Beria; to understand the consequences of the accident we must follow the narrative almost to the present day.

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