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538 pages, Hardcover
First published February 12, 2019
“The temperature inside the reactor rose to 4,650 degrees centigrade—not quite as hot as the surface of the sun.”
“The roof of the twenty-story building had been torn open, its upper levels blackened and collapsed into heaps of rubble. They could see shattered panels of ferroconcrete, tumbled blocks of graphite, and, here and there, the glinting metal casings of fuel assemblies from the core of a nuclear reactor. A cloud of steam drifted from the wreckage into the sunlit sky.”
“Graphite blocks that had once formed the core of the reactor lay everywhere—some turned white, perhaps by the heat of the explosion, but otherwise intact. Around them, levels of radiation reached as much as 10,000 roentgen an hour: enough for a fatal dose in less than three minutes.”
“And even the machines intended for use on the surface of the moon were no match for the inhospitable new landscape they encountered on the roof of the ruined plant. Their artificial brains scrambled, their wheels stuck in the bitumen, hung up on blocks of masonry or snarled in their own cables, one by one the robots all stuttered to a halt.”
“Reactor Number Four was gone. In its place was a simmering volcano of uranium fuel and graphite—a radioactive blaze that would prove all but impossible to extinguish.”
[Evgeny Velikhov] asked Deputy Minister Silayev to call Gorbachev with a message: "Tell him that our outhouse is overflowing, and they'll have to climb a mountain of shit."Midnight in Chernobyl is a comprehensive account of the events leading up to and resulting from the meltdown of Reactor Number Four at Chernobyl power station. It details not only the technical failures that led to the meltdown, but also the interpersonal dynamics and prevailing attitudes of secrecy and sycophancy within the USSR governmental structure that contributed to the disaster. It also explores the subsequent confusion around how to contain the nuclear fallout and the monumental efforts by so many firefighters, plant operators, scientists, doctors, and ordinary citizens to undo the damage and save lives.
When General Pikalov... forecast the decontamination work would take up to seven years to complete... the hardline Politburo member Yegor Ligachev exploded in fury. He told Pikalov he would have seven months.There were so many nuggets of gold like this one within the book. The focus on each individual person, and their motivations and emotions, brought them to life on the pages. It turned what could have been a dry nonfiction account into a captivating read.
"And if you haven't done it by then, we'll relieve you of your Party card!"
"Esteemed Yegor Kuzmich," the general replied, "if that is the situation, you needn't wait seven months to take my Party card. You can have it now."
The staff of Soviet nuclear power plants, faced with ever-increasing production targets and constantly malfunctioning or inadequate equipment, and answerable to a bewildering and dysfunctional bureaucracy, had long become accustomed to bending or ignoring the rules in order to get their work done. pg 68-9Overall this was superb. The history of the event and the subsequent effects were addressed. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in learning about the Chernobyl incident in the fullest detail. Thanks!
The reactor was a pistol with the hammer cocked. All that remained was for someone to pull the trigger.
And from somewhere in the heart of the tangled mass of rebar and shattered concrete - from deep inside the ruins of Unit Four, where the reactor was supposed to be - Alexander Yuvchenko could see something more frightening still: a shimmering pillar of ethereal blue-white light, reaching straight up into the night sky, disappearing into infinity.
Their throats itched, they felt dizzy, and there was never enough water to drink. Some men suffered nosebleeds, while others began vomiting. Called to help clear the chunks of reactor graphite lying on the ground near Unit Three, a detachment of chemical warfare troops arrived in a truck and began to pick them up using their hands.
Such tasks exposed the liquidators to their maximum allowed annual doses of radiation – often in a matter of seconds. In the high-radiation areas of the Special Zone, a single task that anywhere else could be completed by a single man working for an hour might now require thirty men to work for two minutes each. And the new regulations dictated that as soon as they each reached their 25 rem limit, they should be sent from the zone, never to return. Each job had to be measured not only in time but also in the number of individuals who would have to be “burned” to accomplish it. In the end, some commanders resolved that it was better to keep deploying the men they had – men who had already been exposed to their limits – than to burn fresh troops in the danger zone.