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Library Journal Review
Award-winning author Brown (history, Univ. of Maryland, Baltimore Cty.; A Biography of No Place) writes a new history of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster that begins with text from the first survival manual ever issued to a population after a nuclear incident. The author's research then uncovers terrible truths that the official account of the disaster chose to ignore. Using archival records and interviews with those living in Ukraine and Belarus, Brown explores the environmental devastation that resulted from the incident. International scientists who wanted to promote the safety of nuclear energy deliberately downplayed the danger to the people still living in the Chernobyl area and to the flora and fauna in that region. For example, the official record states that only 44 people died as a result of the tragedy. Brown's research shows the actual death toll from radioactive isotopes to be in the hundreds of thousands, and engaging and accessible writing makes for a page--turning read. VERDICT This important work should be read by those concerned about the environmental impacts of nuclear energy and climate change. [See Prepub Alert, 10/1/18.]-Jason L. Steagall, formerly with Gateway Technical Coll. Lib., Elkhorn, WI © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
In a gripping book part scientific exploration, part Cold War thriller, Brown (Dispatches from Dystopia), a University of Maryland historian of environmental and nuclear history, investigates the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and reveals why ferreting out the truth about it is so difficult. The Soviet government assured the world that the meltdown's repercussions weren't severe, with only 54 plant staff and firefighters dead from acute radiation sickness, and minimal exposure of families, who'd been swiftly evacuated to safety. But behind that optimistic lie, there were secrets on all sides. The Soviet government didn't want to reveal how much it actually knew about radiation effects, or how it had learned that information. The American government, meanwhile, refused to share information from its own medical study of Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims with the Soviets. As the crumbling Soviet Union fought to avoid blame, historians and scientists struggled to document data before it disappeared, and Chernobyl victims found their lives dropped into the hands of bureaucrats more interested in covering up the truth than in helping them. Brown's indepth research and clean, concise writing illuminate the reality behind decades of "halftruths and baldfaced lies." Readers will be fascinated by this provocative history of a deadly accident and its consequences. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
On April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant's No. 4 reactor--located in the Ukrainian Republic of the USSR--exploded and propelled a massive amount of radioactive material into the atmosphere. What naturally happened next was a widespread nuclear fallout. Brown (MIT) has produced an exceptional study of that event, combining years of research in archives and numerous interviews with people ranging from scientists to bureaucrats to factory workers. Her research traces how various Soviet citizens managed, covered up, and lived (or not) with the consequences of a nuclear fallout that caused long-term damage to the environment and to the health of the surrounding populations. Particularly striking is the amount of information, analysis, and previously untold secrets Brown provides on this subject and her gripping, accessible approach. For example, Brown visits a wool factory in the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv where workers had received significant doses of radioactivity even though the factory was located far from the Chernobyl blast. She then reveals that people became sick when radioactive sheep wool arrived in their city. Brown's narrative compellingly demonstrates the far-reaching and often unexpected consequences of the disaster. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. --Melissa Chakars, Saint Joseph's University
Why don't we know more? That is the haunting question at the heart of Brown's searing account of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which occurred in August 1986. For decades, she observes, scientists have called for a long-term study on the deadly effects of Chernobyl. This is her noble attempt to examine the accident and its devastating medical and environmental consequences. The official story from the Ukrainian government was that only 54 men died from acute radioactive poisoning and several thousand children had nonfatal thyroid cancer. But other sources claimed more frightening statistics: in 2005, the UN Chernobyl Forum forecast from 2,000 to 9,000 future cancer deaths; worse, Greenpeace stated that 200,000 people had already died and predicted an additional 93,000 fatalities. Brown's goal was to substantiate every claim, cross-reference it, and use the archives as my guide. In her exhaustive account of the tragedy, Brown profiles people who responded immediately to the accident and residents who were left behind in the contaminated zones while also exploring the environmental consequences. An important endeavor as this nuclear debacle recedes further into history.--June Sawyers Copyright 2019 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
An award-winning historian challenges the notion that the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident had few consequences, arguing that the "public health disaster" killed at least 35,000 to 150,000 people and left most adults and children in affected areas sick with cancer, anemia, and other illnesses.In this explosive, exquisitely researched account, Brown (Environmental and Nuclear History/Univ. of Maryland, Baltimore County; Plutopia: Nuclear Families in Atomic Cities and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters, 2013, etc.) draws on four years of fieldwork in Soviet and other archives27 total, some previously unvisitedand in towns and farms in contaminated territories to provide a powerful story of the devastating health and environmental effects of radioactive fallout in areas outside the 30-kilometer Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. "The accounts of unspecific, widespread, and chronic illness, reproductive problems, and acute increases in cancer resound like a lament across the area of Chernobyl fallout," she writes. The official death toll from the exploding nuclear power plant was 54, but there was never any long-term study of health consequences, including the effects of exposure to radiation over time. After interviewing workers, evacuees, and scientists; visiting affected factories, swamp ecosystems, and abandoned towns; and examining transcripts of secret Politburo meetings and other documents, the author concludes that Soviet officials hid the radiation's impact through "secrecy, censorship, counterespionage, and fabricated news." In the face of Soviet "half-truths and bald-faced lies," international scientists nodded agreeably. Like the Soviets, Western officials blamed stressnot radiationfor health issues, out of fear of Chernobyl's implications for other radiation exposures and possible lawsuits. Brown's prose is sometimes technical but largely accessible and even turns poetic when she describes changed lives. She offers horrifying descriptions of the processing of radioactive meat and other foods for shipment to large cities and towns and of the continuing sale abroad of contaminated berries.This sobering book should be readand studiedby policymakers and citizens; pair with Adam Higginbotham's Midnight in Chernobyl to spark a renewed debate over nuclear power. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.