Cover Image: Chernobyl

Chernobyl

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Are you interested in what happened at Chernobyl?  If so, this is definitely the book for you.  This book delves into the whole story of what happened on that fateful day on April 26, 1986.  From the complacency of the staff to the defects in the reactors themselves, Ian Fitzgerald tells us the story of what happened and helps to explain the why.
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“Back in the control room, Dyatlov and his colleagues looked at each in confusion as a low, ominous rumble filled the air and what felt like a small earthquake shook the walls. Seconds later, … a louder, more intense explosion blew out the lights and temporarily plunged the control room into darkness. Something very bad had happened, but what? No one at that moment suspected the reactor was gone. That possibility was unthinkable.”

My thanks to Arcturus Publishing for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘Chernobyl’ by Ian Fitzgerald.

The subtitle of this book pretty much sums up its content: ‘The Devastation, Destruction and Consequences of the World's Worst Radiation Accident’.  

I was pleased that Fitzgerald placed the accident in context noting earlier nuclear accidents as well as previous incidents at Chernobyl before April 26 1986. It becomes clear that there had been many warning signs including reports by the KGB that were ignored by officials.

As it was the night of the accident proved to be a ‘perfect storm’ of small factors that added up to the reactor explosion with ill effects that will last hundreds, if not thousands, of years. He closes with an account of the accident at Fukushima in 2011, considered the world’s second worse nuclear disaster.

I appreciated how much history Fitzgerald managed to pack into this relatively short volume including background on the U.S.S.R. and the possible future for the nuclear power industry. His writing style was economical and always clear. 

There are plenty of photographs throughout as well and it closes with a timeline and sources for the illustrations.
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Whenever there are arguments about the safety of nuclear energy, the name Chernobyl is raised. This book is a fascinating history of the USSR and the place of Ukraine in its hierarchy. It also goes some way to explaining how important Ukraine is to modern-day Russia. 
This is an extremely in-depth look at what was, later discovered to be, an accident waiting to happen. Lack of knowledge, untrained staff, and political pressure conspired together to cause this catastrophe. 
This is a well-researched and written book, interspersed with illustrations. The level of detail is astonishing but never boring. It is a testament to how little was known about the effects of radiation on humans and the mistakes which were made. It highlights the fascinating change from focusing on nuclear weapons to harnessing it to create energy. 

I enjoyed reading it, crammed with facts and interesting information. Having read other books and watched documentaries on the subject, I would place this book as one of the definitive works on this topic.
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When the Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine exploded at 26 April 1986, I was a teenager living in a small town of Bavaria. I wasn’t allowed to play outside for a good while, our annual harvest of blueberries in the forest was forbidden, and mushrooms went off the cooking plans for several years. What doesn’t sound harsh imprinted my feelings toward nuclear energy and I still look positive on Germany’s phasing out of nuclear reactors. The Chernobyl disaster has been a long time ago, but with the ongoing war in Ukraine, my interest in it was brought back when the Russians dug trenches around the plant.

The author doesn’t focus on the details of the explosion but gives also a broader context. There’s been a history of accidents before Chernobyl around the world, and there were reasons why Western countries didn’t apply the technical flaws of the Chernobyl reactor design anymore. Also, the aftermath of Chernobyl and it’s impact to our days is analyzed.

Why did it come to that, who is responsible, humans or technology, how did the political situation of the USSR lead to the catastrophe and how it influenced the ultimate breakdown of that political system. Those are still relevant and highly interesting questions that the author answers thoroughly.

Of course, the major block in this book is centered around the day of the catastrophe itself, how multiple errors led to it, how they contained it under enormous human sacrifices.

This is a very accessible book which can be read by anyone interested in the topic. While not shallow in technical details, it doesn’t dig too deep into them.
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This is a really good history of nuclear energy, how it was created, and the basic backstories of some key players in its creation. 

Then we dig into Chernobyl, how it happened and the aftermath. 

I found this so refreshing because it wasn't that long! When you're looking for a book on a historical event, sometimes you really just want the important details but most drag it out to 1,000 pages, leaving you begging them to get to the point.

So I'm being quick to the point with this review. I recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about Chernobyl and if I had to pick one book to send to a friend on the subject, this would be it.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy to read for an honest review.
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I’ve been quite fascinated with 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant explosion for a while, having read quite a few books on the subject (and perhaps having almost memorized the excellent HBO mini-series about it as well as even watching a documentary about building a New Safe Confinement around it). And despite knowing in depth the details of the catastrophe, the wrong decisions made, the flaws in RBMK reactor designs, the cleanup, the health and financial fallout and resultant political consequences, I still eagerly jump on the chance to read yet another book on the subject and look not as much for the account of events but for how the story is told. Because every viewpoint, every choice of what to focus on brings certain things into new light and new perspective. 

In this book Ian Fitzgerald places his focus on the broader context in which the catastrophe happened. The politics of nuclear energy, the impact of the political system both on what led to the event and the efforts to fix the issue later, and the fallout on the political landscape. 

Fitzgerald chooses to keep mostly neutral tone throughout, succeeding in objectivity with no frills, being quite straightforward in his language and explanations, getting to the point without much dallying. And so this book manages to remain concise and yet informative at the same time, making it a really good source of Chernobyl disaster overview. I do like that he also gives us a brief overview of Fukushima disaster, lest we forget that nuclear disasters can happen even outside of the problems that were plaguing the Soviet Union. We live in the world that still needs to find replacement for fossil fuels, and without nuclear power we still are running behind there. How to make the choice? It’s the balance of costs, and there’s not a quick alternative at the moment, which is quite sobering.

And since any book that is set in Ukraine at this point brings to mind the current war that is happening with Russia there, I do like that Fitzgerald does not shy away from reminding the reader that in 1991 Ukraine was going to be the world’s third largest nuclear power, but chose to give up those weapons in return for security promises. We see now where this decision led as the rest of the world is either dependent on Russian resources or simply fears the nuclear power Russia has. It seems that nuclear power failed Ukraine twice in very different ways, and it’s very frustrating and very sad.

4 stars.

—————

Thanks to NetGalley and Arcturus Publishing for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Chernobyl as a playground for politicians; the unique look into the international nuclear energy sector. 

In 'Chernobyl: The Devastation, Destruction and Consequences of the World's Worst Radiation Accident,' Ian Fitzgerald places the catastrophe in a broad frame of history and politics. 

I remember myself as a teenager, going through old journals my family kept at our dacha and finding 'the first-ever true account of the events.'  The story felt personal, and it became dearer to my heart when, years later, I found out my father-in-law had been a liquidator. People were promised free apartments for little help. He got an apartment - and lesions that appear on his skin during sunbathing. Still, he had never regretted his decision. 

Ian Fitzgerald puts Chernobyl into the context: the arms race during the Cold War, behind-the-scenes confrontations within the Soviet leadership, and the disaster's influence on the European/Russian political landscape. Fat-free language delivers a concise birds-eye overview, highlighting the vital points where the catastrophe could have been prevented or, at least, its effects could have been mitigated. From the number of the prior incidents, caused by defects in the reactor's design, and inadequate personnel training, the reader can conclude that, in actuality, Chernobyl was a question of 'when,' not 'if.' 

If not for the epilogue, which in length can be compared with a full-fledged chapter, I'd have rated the book five stars. The epilogue focuses on the international nuclear energy sector from 2011's Fukushima accident onwards. The text becomes more scholarly-oriented, thus harder to comprehend. The author abandons the position of an indifferent historian: the pages dedicated to modern Russia are under the strong influence of the year 2022's events. 

I recommend the book as a fresh, political viewpoint on Chernobyl. The book is a thought-provoking snapshot of usually underlooked machinations, domestic and worldwide, around the catastrophe. 

I received an advance review copy through NetGalley, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
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This was a fascinating and very well written book.  I enjoy reading up about, and learning about, the Chernobyl disaster
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nonfiction, science, historical-figures, historical-places-events, historical-research, radiation, cancer*****

Wilhelm Roentgen 1923, the Curies 1934, the Radium Girls 1920s, Nagasaki 1945.
Three Mile Island 1979, Chernobyl 1986, Fukushima 2011.
At the time of the Chernobyl disaster, the reactors were owned and operated by the Soviet Union but located in the state of Ukraine.
This book goes into the escalation of errors as well as the destruction of employees caused by the radiation.
Some of the factors are engineering based, but the majority of the information presented is clear and decidedly understandable. A necessary read.
I requested and received a free e-book copy from Arcturus Publishing via NetGalley. Thank you!
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I'm not usually a huge fan of history books, but this one really pulled me in. Fitzgerald's  no-nonsense prose leads you through the Chernobyl disaster's events from the historical background to today. I learned a lot about the history behind the current invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
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Chernobyl by Ian Fitzgerald offers a different perspective on the disaster. Crisply written, Fitzgerald explains what caused the disaster in a way the lay reader can understand. He spares the goriest of details but uses imagery and fact to make the horror of the event all too real. He deftly ties the fall of the Soviet Union to Chernobyl. It’s a link if not read of before on other books about that catastrophic event. Well worth the read. Thanks to #NetGalley and #Artucus for the opportunity to preview this book. #Chernobyl
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this early read.  I enjoyed the book.  I liked it’s “readability”.  I have read many books about this subject and couldn’t understand most of the content.   This book had a nice way of explaining the science.
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