Much is still unknown about the Chernobyl accident, mostly because of all the cover-up that has been done to keep the details of the event hidden from the world. But the effects of that event still haunt many today. Even the site of Chernobyl lingers with remnants of nuclear contamination.
Some writers tried to shed light on Chernobyl but details of the actual event - the backstory, the response, and the cleanup - were scant until several people came out with books that tackled the underlying sequence of events that surrounded Chernobyl.
Over the years, a few chronicles of the disaster by Soviet writers have reached Western readers, most notably “The Truth About Chernobyl,” by Grigori Medvedev, a former engineer at the plant, published in 1991. But aside from Piers Paul Read’s 1993 “Ablaze,” good reads by Western writers have been scant.
That began to change last year when Serhii Plokhy, a Harvard historian, weighed in with “Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe.” But Plokhy’s work focused more on the political aftermath, including the downfall of the Soviet Union that followed just five years later, than on the details of the accident.
Higginbotham, a British journalist, takes account of the political fallout as well, but the bulk of his book is about the accident and the response and cleanup — primarily the first seven months, which culminated with the rushed completion of the concrete-and-steel sarcophagus that entombed the remains of Unit 4.
In Higginbotham's book, he recounts the interviews he had with the central people who were concerned in Chernobyl, not just within the context of the accident but also outside it such as Maria Protsenko who was associated with Chernobyl for being the architect of the nuclear city of Pripyat.
Like most of the Soviet Union’s privileged atomic cities, Pripyat was a clean, comfortable place, a glorious testament to the Soviet system, and Protsenko’s job for seven years had been to make it even more glorious.
(Image credit: Jason Minshull/Wikimedia Commons)