It’s been 33 years since Reactor Number Four at the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station in Ukraine exploded, venting radioactive material into the atmosphere. That radiation rolled over huge swaths of what was then the western part of the Soviet Union, and the explosion entered history as one of the worst nuclear power plant disasters. As with accounts of any disaster, there are three major questions: What happened, why did it happen, and could it happen again? Several books investigate the answers: In 2018, for instance, there was “Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe” by Harvard professor Serhii Plokhy, and in March there will be Kate Brown’s “Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future.” But the most comprehensive, most thoroughly detailed history yet to appear in English is Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Disaster by Adam Higginbotham. The author, along with his research partner Taras Shumeyko, has conducted extensive interviews and compiled background material over ten years, creating a compelling, panoramic account of the disaster set in its broader context but still working with those three fundamental questions, starting with “what happened?” Thanks to the nature of Soviet Union, answering such a question was complicated from the start.
CS Monitor 31st Jan 2019 read more »