Adam Higginbotham – Midnight in Chernobyl

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The definitive, dramatic untold story of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, based on original reporting and new archival research.

April 25, 1986 in Chernobyl was a turning point in world history. The disaster not only changed the worlds perception of nuclear power and the science that spawned it, but also our understanding of the planets delicate ecology. With the images of the abandoned homes and playgrounds beyond the barbed wire of the 30-kilometer Exclusion Zone, the rusting graveyards of contaminated trucks and helicopters, the farmland lashed with black rain, the event fixed for all time the notion of radiation as an invisible killer.

Chernobyl was also a key event in the destruction of the Soviet Union, and, with it, the United States victory in the Cold War. For Moscow, it was a political and financial catastrophe as much as an environmental and scientific one. With a total cost of 18 billion rubles – at the time equivalent to $18 billion – Chernobyl bankrupted an already teetering economy and revealed to its population a state built upon a pillar of lies.

The full story of the events that started that night in the control room of reactor number four of the V.I. Lenin Nuclear Power Plant has never been told – until now. Through two decades of reporting, new archival information, and firsthand interviews with witnesses, journalist Adam Higginbotham tells the full dramatic story, including Alexander Akimov and Anatoli Dyatlov, who represented the best and worst of Soviet life; denizens of a vanished world of secret policemen, internal passports, food lines, and heroic self-sacrifice for the motherland.

Midnight in Chernobyl, award-worthy nonfiction that reads like sci-fi, shows not only the final epic struggle of a dying empire, but also the story of individual heroism and desperate, ingenious technical improvisation joining forces against a new kind of enemy.

Author: Adam Higginbotham
Narrator: Jacques Roy
Duration: 13 hours 55 minutes
Released: 19 Dec 2002
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Language: English

User Review:

oxford persistent

The story of the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in 1986 is one that rhymes with other chronicles of human disaster, such as the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters. In each of these stories, a constellation of institutional inadequacy, human error, heroism and the distortions of after-action investigations to serve institutional needs become the bones that are dressed out by accounts of terrible events that leave a thoughtful reader haunted by questions of how we allowed things to get to the point where people died.
Midnight in Chernobyl is a deft and powerful example of this genre of investigative writing. The book weaves the personal stories of those who lived through the horror of the accident with the story of how political considerations contributed to the conditions that led to it. The author also makes sure to highlight the heroism of relatively unknown men and women who sought to mitigate the disaster, to save lives, often at the cost of their own. The ticktock of what happened gives way at times to utterly haunting descriptions of the extreme phenomena that occurred at the epicenter of a nuclear catastrophe.
Midnight in Chernobyl leaves the reader with many questions about how we manage societies, large scientific projects and how we live in the world that are as apposite now as they were in 1986.