Ablaze: The Story of the Heroes and Victims of Chernobyl
Early on the morning of April 26, 1986, the nuclear reactor at the fourth unit of the V. I. Lenin power station at Chernobyl exploded. In the terror and panic that followed, an engineer grabbed a dosimetrist to ask for a radiation level and was told it was off the dial. "With a dread feeling in his heart, Sasha Yuvchenko at last realized that they were all almost certainly doomed to die...." Piers Paul Read's enthralling account of this disaster and its aftermath is filled with acts of courage - as well as bumbling confusion, secrecy, lies and cover-ups. To chronicle the catastrophe, he interviewed the engineers and operators who were on duty during the fateful test that was being conducted on the night of April 25; talked to the director of the power station, who was serving a ten-year sentence for negligence; and visited the hitherto top-secret institutes once run by Beria's Ministry of Medium Machine Building: the Kurchatov Institute, Moscow's Hospital No. 6 and the once-closed city of Obninsk. This is the first account to take advantage of the declassification of nuclear information in the former Soviet Union and the loosening of tongues that followed the failure of the coup in 1991. The author also gained access to the transcripts of the trial of the Chernobyl reactor operators, as well as the protocol of the previously secret Medical Commission, and other confidential reports. In the years that followed the accident, the trauma of Chernobyl became a major factor in the fall of Communism in the Soviet Union. The government covered up the deficiencies in the reactor's design, deceiving Western experts in Vienna and making scapegoats of the personnel, but, because of the accident, the Russian people had lost faith in the system. Now, seven years later, despite the reassurance of some experts, others still believe that Chernobyl may ultimately claim more victims than did World War II, and relocation continues from contaminated areas in Russia, Belo-russia and the Ukraine. Ablaze: The Story of the Heroes and Victims of Chernobyl is the definitive account of the greatest environmental disaster in the history of mankind.