Chernobyl Book Summary – History of Nuclear Catastrophe

Author: Serhii Plokhy

Short Summary
Chernobyl (2018) book by author Serhii Plokhy sheds light on the catastrophic event of the explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Moreover, the importance of good leadership is highlighted in this book.
chernobyl book

“Chernobyl is like the war of all wars. There’s nowhere to hide. Not underground, not underwater, not in the air.”
― Svetlana Alexievich

Detailed Summary

The book describes the heart-wrenching event of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion that happened on April 26, 1986. The explosion took the lives of many people. Not only this, but the aftermath of the explosion was worse.

The explosion knocked the 200-ton lid of the reactor through the roof. The radiation was emitted into the atmosphere, which affected many people. Chernobyl’s book is all about history, bad leadership, and arrogance.

“I’m not afraid of God. I’m afraid of man.”
― Svetlana Alexievich

Chernobyl Book Key Points

Does a nuclear war destruct the world? Read the events of Chernobyl to learn the government’s role, economic development, and leadership in protecting the people of their country.

How the Explosion took place  

“Man lives with death, but he doesn’t understand what it is.”
― Svetlana Alexievich

A nuclear fission reaction was carried out to generate energy. In the nuclear fission reaction, uranium is put in the rods. Nuclear power plants can generate a large amount of clean energy, but this process is also dangerous.

It needs to execute under professional supervision. People executing it should be really vigilant and expert.

In order to generate a large amount of clean energy, engineers use control rods, which control the reactivity of elements inside the core. Engineers especially use control rods to slow down the reactivity of elements in the reactors.

During the clear fission reaction, these rods remove, so the process carries out to generate energy.

What actually happened in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion was that a safety test was conducted. The safety test was done to see the reaction if the power was lost, which turned out to be an explosion. So, what they did was.

They lost the power for a short amount of time to see the plant’s reaction. Order to restore the power took 45 seconds which was long and became the reason for the explosion.

They had backup generators as well. They wanted to see when the backup power was started and whether the reactors could power themselves or not. So, for this, they removed the control rods and reduced the input power to the plant.

Bad leadership and Unprofessional behavior of the Staff

According to the author, the major reasons for the Chernobyl explosion are bad leadership, arrogance, and the unprofessional behavior of the staff. All these reasons became the cause of the explosion.

The night when the explosion took place, the leader Yuri Tregub was not well-informed about the safety test that had to be conducted. So, the deputy chief engineer Anatoly Dyatlov was assigned with him to oversee the operation. He arrived at 11 pm. The team had the go-ahead that started at 10 pm.

Anatoly was very rude and arrogant with the staff and leader, Yuri. He dismissed all their questions regarding the test and wanted the operation to continue. Moreover, he was very strict with the staff and wanted them to work fastly.

What they didn’t know was that the reactor had a design flaw. Because of that, the machine couldn’t maintain the power itself. A large amount of energy inside the reactor boiled water into steam. It increased the reactor’s temperature, so the power was spiked.

Leonid Totunov immediately pressed the emergency button. RMBK reactor was not legal anywhere else in the world and had a critical flaw because of its risky setup. The explosion happened and sent the radioactive material everywhere in the atmosphere and surroundings

After-Effects of Explosion   

“Death is the fairest thing in the world. No one’s ever gotten out of it. The earth takes everyone – the kind, the cruel, the sinners. Aside from that, there’s no fairness on earth.”
― Svetlana Aleksievich

The reactor was knocked through the roof when the nuclear power plant exploded. It could send radioactive material into the atmosphere. So, when the fire department arrived, they first focused on the roof.

Moreover, the radioactive heat started melting their boots, and the graphite pieces were everywhere. It took the life of 20 people, but its aftermath was worse.

A person found the metal piece in the tires of his truck. He didn’t know what it was, so he lost his skin from the deadly metal graphite when he tried removing it. Besides this, many people got sick because of the radiation.

The chances of cancer increased because of it. And so many people got terrified and had panic attacks because of the explosion. So, the explosion not only took the life of many people but also affected them in so many ways.

Besides, the explosion teaches us how a leader’s attitude is important and influences the staff’s performance. We should be responsible enough to lead a team and take responsibility for our bad decisions.

You might be interested in reading the First They Killed My Father Book Summary

Who would I recommend Chernobyl book to?

The Chernobyl book highly recommends to people who like history. Also, the people who are interested and tempted to read what happened at Chernobyl and how the explosion took place need to read this book to gain a more insightful and detailed account of the reasons behind the explosion.

Chernobyl Book Summary - February 2022

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