The explosion that shattered the Chernobyl nuclear power station at 1.23 a.m. on 26 April 1986 reverberated around the world. It sounded another ominous warning to the human race that the immense power of the atom, if not properly controlled, could threaten its very existence.
Over the past fifty years, advances in knowledge and the progress of science have carried human beings into space and enabled them to develop previously unknown sources of energy to serve their growing needs. In the same period, the world's population has doubled, confronting mankind-and above all the scientific community-with the task of finding ways to satisfy the escalating demand for food and energy. In many countries, nuclear energy began to supplement organic fuels, the traditional, but finite, source of power.
The Chernobyl disaster carried a timely message: once unleashed, either by accident or warfare, nuclear power cannot be confined within state borders. Its proper use and control must therefore be the concern of the entire international community.
This book, appearing on the tenth anniversary of the catastrophe, first gives an account of the development and organisation of the nuclear power industry in the USSR. It then describes the accident at Chernobyl and its aftermath, drawing upon the testimony of individuals involved in the dramatic battle to deal with its consequences. Authentic pictures show the extent of the destruction, the scope of the clean-up operations and the effects on the region and its population.
Hundreds of thousands of people, disregarding their own safety, fought to contain the disaster. Many of them died; many suffer from ill health and will die before their time. It is to these heroes of the Chernobyl disaster and to its innocent victims that this book is dedicated.