THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER An invaluable contribution to history Serhii Plokhy, Evening Standard Tells the story of the disaster and its gruesome aftermath with thriller like flair Midnight in Chernobyl is wonderful and chilling written with skill and passion Luke Harding, The Observer Superb, enthralling and necessarily terrifying every step feels spring loaded with tension extraordinary The New York TimesEarly in the morning of April Reactor Number Four of the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station exploded, triggering history s worst nuclear disaster In the thirty years since then, Chernobyl has become lodged in the collective nightmares of the world shorthand for the spectral horrors of radiation poisoning, for a dangerous technology slipping its leash, for ecological fragility, and for what can happen when a dishonest and careless state endangers not only its own citizens, but all of humanity But the real story of the accident, clouded from the beginning by secrecy, propaganda, and misinformation, has long remained in disputeDrawing on hundreds of hours of interviews conducted over the course of than ten years, as well as letters, unpublished memoirs, and documents from recently declassified archives, Adam Higginbotham has written a harrowing and compelling narrative which brings the disaster to life through the eyes of the men and women who witnessed it firsthand The result is a masterful non fiction thriller, and the definitive account of an event that changed history a story that is complex, human, and terrifying than the Soviet myth Midnight In Chernobyl is an indelible portrait of one of the great disasters of the twentieth century, of human resilience and ingenuity, and the lessons learned when mankind seeks to bend the natural world to his will lessons which, in the face of climate change and other threats remain not just vital but necessary This book is the best docu drama book I have ever read It is so readable I kept thinking I must put it down and get to sleep and suddenly it is 3 am I highly recommend it. A real good chronicle of the massive disaster affecting that Ucrainian power station A nerve breaking story and a real one a really fine complement to watching the excellent Netflix series on the same subject This is a very good book on the Chernobyl disaster It reads like an overall introduction, as includes the technical, historic, geographical, medical, legal and other aspects of the facts before, during and after the sinister April day of 1986.Of those aspects cited above I would say the best told are those historic from the selection of the exact location, the construction and the events in the USSR before the nuclear accident The author is very good detailing the decadency of the USSR, perennially plagued with corruption, disdain alcoholism and worse, and how this decadency not only helped but provoked Chernobyl it is like a story foretold.To these eyes the book slows when going through technical and medical fields, perhaps it is necessary to have an above than average knowledge of these fields to fully understand Chernobyl.But, to repeat, a very good introduction to a key moment in world history that in most parts reads like an international thriller. This is a wonderful book It covers the causes and effects of the Chernobyl catastrophe, and the event sequence of its occurrence, better than any popular work has yet done I do have one gripe about the technical presentation below , but the book overall is so outstanding that I m giving the five stars anyway, and never mind the logical inconsistency.The main aspects of the story of the Chernobyl nuclear explosion and meltdown are the history of the USSR nuclear industry the society and environment within which the civilian electricity generation arm of the industry operated the technical aspects of the disaster itself the enormous Soviet recovery effort the medical, health and environmental effects and the long term consequences and aftermath No author can be a specialist at them all, but Mr Higginbotham nevertheless handles than all with equal facility, thoroughness and clarity It s a tour de force.One of my other reviews is of Chernobyl History of a Tragedy by the Ukrainian writer Serhii Plokhy It s good but is simply outshone by Midnight Mr Higginbotham s work is superior in its technical exposition of the disaster in its use of numbers and radiation metrics in its description of the immediate Soviet response on the construction of the sarcophagus on what happened inside the entombed reactor in subsequent years and, critically, in its assessment and identification of the underlying causes In an unsentimental way, Midnight also expresses compassion for the victims as well as the poignancy of the consequences affecting individuals Lastly, and in contrast to Mr Plokhy, Midnight seems to me to remain at all times politically disinterested and impartial.For identification of underlying cause as opposed to the immediate technical triggers of the accident I can do no better than quote from page 347 the origins of the Chernobyl disaster lay in a combination of scientific, technological, socioeconomic, and human factors unique to the USSR The Soviet nuclear industry, lacking even rudimentary safety practices, had relied upon its operators to behave with robotic precision night after night, despite constant pressure to beat deadlines and exceed the plan that made disregard for the letter of the regulations almost inevitable Case rests.The gripe Yes Mr Higginbotham s technical account of how fission reactors operate pp35 38 doesn t maintain a continuous logical thread Reading and re reading didn t clarify for me the inherent design flaw of the Soviet RBMK reactor One sentence on p38 threw me and left me guessing In reactors that use water as both coolant and moderator, as the volume of steam increases, fewer neutrons are slowed, so reactivity falls This seems counterintuitive surely, if fewer neutrons are slowed, reactivity would tend not to fall Explanation came from a high school physics text that I paraphrase and summarise thus Natural uranium comes in two isotopes Uranium238 99.3% and Uranium235 0.7%.Fission is caused by neutrons striking uranium atoms.Fast neutrons are caused by fission of U235 atoms.Fast neutrons striking U238 do not cause fission.Fast neutrons striking U235 cause negligible fission.Slow neutrons are only slightly absorbed by U238, and cause negligible fission Slow neutrons striking U235 cause fission.For U235 fission to happen such that a self sustaining chain reaction may occur, there needs to be sufficient mass of U235 at least 2 3% enriched in the total U238 U235 mass of uranium.Then, a good neutron moderator water or graphite is needed to slow down enough fast neutrons to sustain a chain reaction in U235.If the moderator is water most Western reactors , and if the water boils and turns to steam, steam is far less effective as moderator than water, fewer neutrons are slowed and the continuing U235 reaction stops spontaneously.If the moderator is graphite Chernobyl RBMK and if surrounding coolant water boils and turns to steam, neutron moderation by the graphite is unchanged the chain reaction continues but the neutron absorbtion function of the coolant water reduces.Moderation by the graphite as a consequence increases reactivity increases heat increases coolant water turns to steam and the escalation expressed as the positive void continues.The unchecked result is fire in the graphite.To control and reduce moderation by the graphite, the control rods must be inserted in the graphite core, and they must work.A layman s sequencing, perhaps, which I am sure experts will fault But it is logically joined up and is superior to the explanations given by either Messrs Higginbotham or Plokhy.Gripe allowed for, Midnight in Chernobyl is a fabulous book that I recommend unreservedly.
- CD de audio
- Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster
- Adam Higginbotham
- 16 June 2017 Adam Higginbotham