Atoms and Ashes

Atoms and Ashes

From Bikini Atoll to Fukushima

Summary

'Absolutely stunning. . . a formidable achievement. A six-part historical thriller that is essential reading for both our politicians and the ordinary citizen' Kai Bird

Best-selling historian Serhii Plokhy returns with an illuminating exploration of the atomic age through the history of six nuclear disasters

In 2011, a 43-foot-high tsunami crashed into a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan. In the following days, explosions would rip buildings apart, three reactors would go into nuclear meltdown, and the surrounding area would be swamped in radioactive water. It is now considered one of the costliest nuclear disasters ever. But Fukushima was not the first, and it was not the worst. . .

In Atoms and Ashes, acclaimed historian Serhii Plokhy tells the tale of the six nuclear disasters that shook the world: Bikini Atoll, Kyshtym, Windscale, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. Based on wide-ranging research and witness testimony, Plokhy traces the arc of each crisis, exploring in depth the confused decision-making on the ground and the panicked responses of governments to contain the crises and often cover up the scale of the catastrophe.

As the world increasingly looks to renewable and alternative sources of energy, Plokhy lucidly argues that the atomic risk must be understood in explicit terms, but also that these calamities reveal a fundamental truth about our relationship with nuclear technology: that the thirst for power and energy has always trumped safety and the cost for future generations.

Reviews

  • A timely and enthralling study of the atomic age and its perils . . . a meticulously researched history
    Lawrence Freedman, Financial Times

About the author

Serhii Plokhy

Serhii Plokhy is Professor of History at Harvard University and a leading authority on the Cold War and nuclear history. His books include the Baillie Gifford award-winner Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy, Nuclear Folly, The Gates of Europe and The Last Empire.
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