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Book Review: A Timely History of Nuclear Catastrophes

In “Atoms and Ashes,” Serhii Plokhy offers a harrowing account of the world’s six major accidents and their aftershocks.

Top: Three Mile Island photographed in 1999, 20 years after the Unit 2 reactor failed. 

RUSSIA’S INVASION OF Ukraine not only reminded the world of all the usual horrors of modern warfare, but also stirred the long-slumbering spectre of nuclear catastrophe, both in the form of nuclear war à la “Dr. Strangelove” and of civilian disaster à la Chernobyl. When Russian forces occupied the Chernobyl nuclear plant and held its workers hostage, some worried about a new nuclear disaster in the making if the plant was damaged or if decommissioning operations were severely disrupted. Other nuclear plants in Ukraine, including the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station — the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, with six reactors — were threatened by invading forces. The dangers were severe enough that the International Atomic Energy Agency sent safety staff and continues to monitor the unfolding situation to ensure that things don’t get out of control.

At the moment, Ukraine’s nuclear plants seem to be safe, but fear and anxiety persist. As Serhii Plokhy details in “Atoms and Ashes: A Global History of Nuclear Disasters,” the memories of past catastrophes continue to haunt the idea of nuclear power, including any plans or hopes for a nuclear power renaissance in a world of worsening climate change.

Each of the book’s six chapters focuses on an individual nuclear accident, some famous, others more obscure, including relevant background information and historical context. ………………………………

May 28, 2022 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, incidents

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