Chernobyl is one of the modern world’s “lest we forget” disasters, and in very recent times, two superlative historians wrote marvelous complementary histories of our worst nuclear power cataclysm. Ukrainian historian Serhii Plokhy, now at Harvard, penned an account unforgettably enriched by Ukrainian research in 2018, then in 2019 came journalist Adam Higginbotham’s vivid history. Now, apparently based on requests from readers asking “what about the other nuclear power crises?”, Serhii Plokhy has surveyed, from a historian’s perspective, our half dozen defining nuclear disasters. “Atoms and Ashes: From Bikini Atoll to Fukushima” tackles two accidents from the nuclear weapons world, Bikini Atoll in 1954 and Kyshtym in 1957, then cycles through England’s Windscale (oft overlooked) in 1956, America’s Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986 (generously, the author does not just recycle his 2018 masterpiece but adds original material), and Japan’s Fukushima in 2011, Each chapter is a model of accuracy, depth, insight, and drama.
Atoms and Ashes is a bountiful cocktail that suits both the general reader and the student. It comes highly recommended.