Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy PDF Book by Serhii Plokhy


Click here to Download Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy PDF Book by Serhii Plokhy English having PDF Size 6.3 MB and No of Pages 381.

It was a big day—many in Moscow and throughout the Soviet Union believed that it signaled the dawn of a new era. On the cold winter morning of February 25, 1986—the temperature during the previous night had fallen to minus two degrees Fahrenheit—close to 5,000 warmly dressed men and women, including senior Communist Party and state officials.

Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy PDF Book by Serhii Plokhy

Name of Book Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy
Author Serhii Plokhy
PDF Size 6.3 MB
No of Pages 381
Language  English
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Military officers, scientists, directors of the large state companies, and representatives of workers and collective farmers (the “toiling masses”), descended on Red Square in downtown Moscow, which was decorated with a huge portrait of Vladimir Lenin. They were delegates to the Communist Party Congress.

The twenty-seventh since the founding of the party by a handful of idealistic social democrats in the late nineteenth century. Their mission was to chart a new course for the country for the next five years.1 Once they reached the Kremlin, the crowds moved toward the Palace of Congresses, a modern glass-and-concrete building decorated with white marble plates.

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It had been erected in 1961 on the site of buildings belonging to the sixteenth-century tsar Boris Godunov. The Soviet premier at the time, Nikita Khrushchev, wanted to rival the Great Hall of the People that Mao Zedong had opened in Beijing in 1959. The Chinese palace could seat 10,000 people.

The envious Soviets increased the seating capacity of their palace from 4,000 to 6,000 by putting almost half the building underground, where most of the seats of the meeting hall are located—only the balcony seats with boxes are above ground level. When it came to party congresses, which convened every five years.

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The Soviet leaders imposed a limit of 5,000 participants no matter how large the membership of the Communist Party became—and it was growing quickly—since filling the hall to capacity would have meant sacrificing the comfort of those in attendance. Now hopes ran high, in both party and society, that Gorbachev, who was full of ideas, would be able to reverse the deadly trend.

Hopes of rapprochement were rising in the West as well. In the United States, Reagan, tired of Soviet leaders dying on him, was looking for someone with whom he could do business. His close ally Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain told him that Gorbachev was such a man.

Reagan’s first meeting with Gorbachev, in Geneva in December 1985, was not without tension, but it opened the door to more productive subsequent dialogue, which was conducted not only by personal meetings and diplomatic channels but also by public pronouncements. In January 1986, Gorbachev surprised Reagan by putting forward a Soviet program for nuclear disarmament. Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy PDF Book

It was expected that he would further challenge the American president on disarmament in his forthcoming speech to the party congress.4 Gorbachev, preoccupied with finding solutions to the multiple Soviet crises, put considerable thought and effort into his report to the congress.

In the late fall of 1985, he summoned his two closest advisers—his chief assistant, Valerii Boldin, and Aleksandr Yakovlev, the former Soviet ambassador to Canada—to the state resort near Sochi on the Black Sea Coast. Perestroika—the radical restructuring of the Soviet political and economic system—still lay ahead; eventually, Yakovlev would become known as the grandfather of the movement.

The key concept at the time was uskorenie, or acceleration. It was believed that the system was basically sound and simply needed a boost by means of “scientific and technical progress,” the Soviet term for technological innovation. In the days leading up to the congress, Gorbachev shut himself up at home, reading his long speech aloud and timing it. Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy PDF Book

Read without a break or interruptions, it would be more than six hours in length. As Gorbachev practiced his oratorical skills, the delegates to the congress kept themselves busy visiting the stores of Moscow rather than galleries and museums. “Having come from all over the country, they were preoccupied with their own affairs,” wrote Gorbachev’s aide, Boldin, who had coauthored the speech.

“They had to buy many things for themselves, their family members, and acquaintances, who had ordered so much that it would be hard to transport even by train. Over the years, Briukhanov had attended quite a few commemoration ceremonies at the Chernobyl Park of Glory on May 9, Soviet Victory Day.

The cult of heroes of the Great Patriotic War, as the Soviet-German conflict of 1941–1945 became known in Soviet parlance, commemorated only those who had died wearing the Red Army uniform. The rest were largely forgotten. There would be no monuments to victims of the Holocaust or of the Holodomor. Both atrocities went unacknowledged. Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy PDF Book

A few minutes after the director’s car passed the monument to the war heroes, Briukhanov could already see the huge white tube of the Chernobyl plant’s cooling tower on the horizon. There, according to the official Soviet narrative, the shadows of the past were lifting: the miracle of technological progress was about to deliver a bright future.

To the right of the canal that the car was following, there appeared the walls of Unit 5, which was still under construction and surrounded by tall, powerful cranes. Then the white walls of the operating units came into view: Units 3 and 4 were joined together in one huge building; Units 1 and 2 were separate.

The area near the village of Kopachi had been chosen as the construction site of the nuclear plant, in December 1966. The search for the right place had begun a year before that, with a memo from the deputy head of the Ukrainian government, Oleksandr Shcherban, to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU). Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy PDF Book

A former vice-president of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences and an early enthusiast of nuclear energy, Shcherban had decried the lack of electrical-power-generating facilities in Ukraine, predicting a possible slowdown of the republic’s economic development if new sources of energy were not found promptly.

Shcherban knew that two nuclear power stations had been launched in Russia in 1964 and advocated the construction of three such stations in Ukraine: one in the south, another in the west, and a third in the area around Kyiv. He was soon backed by his superior, the head of the Ukrainian.

Viktor Briukhanov gave Fomin all the support he could offer. “I do not think it’s particularly serious,” he said of Fomin’s physical condition. “He’s made good recovery,” he assured Medvedev. “He’ll get back to normal faster by working.” The party secretary of the power plant had convinced Fomin to come to work earlier than scheduled because Briukhanov was attending the party congress in Moscow. Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy PDF Book Download

And it was up to Fomin, as secondin-command, to take charge of the plant. To Medvedev, Briukhanov himself looked overworked and tired. The director was particularly concerned about units of the power plant leaking radioactivity. Altogether the leaks amounted to about 50 cubic meters (1,765 cubic feet) of radioactive water per hour coming from the drainage channels and air vents.

The steam extraction units were barely able to deactivate the radioactive water. They were holding so far, but had reached the limit of their capacity. The only effective way to deal with the problem was to stop the reactors and carry out the repairs, but that would jeopardize the fulfillment of the annual plan of electricity production, and Briukhanov was not ready to face the rage of the party officials.

Whose main concerns were deadlines and quotas. Briukhanov told Medvedev that he was considering a move somewhere else —thoughts of a possible job abroad that he had previously dismissed were now probably testing his resolve to stay in Prypiat. Alarm bells were going off not only in Prypiat but also in Kyiv. Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy PDF Book Download

On the day after the all-Union conference of vendors, Liubov Kovalevskaia, the Tribuna ėnergetika reporter, managed to publish a version of her earlier article about problems with the construction of Unit 5 in the Kyiv newspaper Literaturna Ukraïna (Literary Ukraine), the mouthpiece of the Ukrainian Union of Writers.

Much of it was taken verbatim from her Russian-language article in Tribuna ėnergetika and translated into Ukrainian. But the article in Literaturna Ukraïna was addressed to a wider audience and also made points of more general significance. While observing the obligatory idealization of Soviet socialism and praising the party for its accomplishments and concern about the Soviet people.

Kovalevskaia listed arresting examples of the problems faced by construction crews at the Chernobyl power station. According to her, out of 45,500 cubic meters of prefabricated concrete that the construction directorate had ordered in 1985, 3,200 cubic meters of concrete never arrived, and 6,000 cubic meters of concrete turned out to be defective. Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy PDF Book Download

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but in fact Diatlov’s order increased the intake of radioactive air from outside, and the outside air was far more contaminated than the air inside Unit 4. Those crew members missing immediately after the explosion had by now been located, with the exception of Valerii Khodemchuk, the circulating pump operator, who was on shift that night.

The part of the engine room where he had been working, at Level +10, had collapsed. Diatlov and two other engineers decided to try searching once again. They reached the entrance to the engine room but could not move much farther: the concrete ceiling had collapsed, and the door to the operator’s office had been smashed by a falling crane.

Water was pouring in from broken pipes on one of the floors above. Valerii Perevozchenko, the chief of the turbine shift, who accompanied Diatlov, climbed up to the office door but could not open it. He shouted through the door, but received no response. Soaked by the falling water, he had to turn back. Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy PDF Book Free

The radioactive shower would cost him his life. It was then that Diatlov began to feel exhausted. He was nauseous and could barely stand on his feet. Doctors would later estimate his dose of ionizing radiation at thirteen times above the emergency norm. At his level of biological damage, most people did not survive for more than sixty days.

Diatlov had given up fighting for the reactor. As he subsequently wrote in his memoirs, he knew the reactor was dead, but he lacked the strength to say so aloud. He assumed that there was no need for words: as an experienced engineer, Akimov surely understood the consequences of interrupting the flow of water to the reactor.

In fact, Akimov refused to admit that the reactor was damaged and kept pumping water. Some witnesses claim to have heard Diatlov giving instructions to do that very thing. Diatlov was probably of two minds himself, as he understood that there was no point in continuing to pump water but had nothing better to suggest. Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy PDF Book Free

The first signs that things might be worse than they appeared came when the delegation landed in Kyiv. The Ukrainian energy minister informed Maiorets that radiation levels at the plant were above the norm. From Kyiv they flew to Prypiat, where, to their surprise, they were not greeted by the plant’s managers—neither Briukhanov nor his second-in-command, chief engineer Fomin, was anywhere in sight.

But the always energetic and decisive Vasyl Kyzyma, the director of plant construction, was on hand. While local party officials took care of Maiorets, Marin and Maiorets’s nuclear expert, Shasharin, immediately got into Kyzyma’s Jeep-type vehicle and drove to the damaged reactor. There they got their first shock. The devastation was much greater than Briukhanov’s reports had led them to believe.

They could see the scope of destruction from the road. “Look at the mess we’ve landed ourselves in. That’s just great. Now we’re all lumped together with Briukhanov and Fomin,” complained Marin. Kyzyma also blamed Briukhanov. Shasharin remembered Kyzyma saying that “he had never expected anything else from that marshmallow Briukhanov. Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy PDF Book Free

In Kyzyma’s opinion it was bound to happen sooner or later.”6 Kyzyma stopped his car near a pile of rubble by the wall of Unit 4. They got out. “Without the slightest fear,” remembered Shasharin, “Kyzyma was walking about, looking very much in charge, and lamenting the fact that after all the effort that had gone into building the place, now they were walking around among the wreckage of the fruits of their labor.”

Marin was enraged by what he saw. Swearing, he kicked a block of graphite. Not until later did Shasharin realize that the graphite was producing 2,000 roentgens of radiation per hour. The particles of uranium fuel on the site emanated 20,000 roentgens. “We had difficulty breathing,” remembered Shasharin.

“Our eyes smarted, we were coughing severely and, deep inside, we felt extremely worried and vaguely anxious to get out of there and go somewhere else.” They drove to the plant’s underground bunker, where they found the managers.