Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes delivers a riveting account of the nuclear arms race and the Cold War.
In the Reagan-Gorbachev era, the United States and the Soviet Union came within minutes of nuclear war, until Gorbachev boldly launched a campaign to eliminate nuclear weapons, setting the stage for the 1986 Reykjavik summit and the incredible events that followed. In this thrilling, authoritative narrative, Richard Rhodes draws on personal interviews with both Soviet and U.S. participants and a wealth of new documentation to unravel the compelling, shocking story behind this monumental time in human history—its beginnings, its nearly chilling consequences, and its effects on global politics today.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of History eBook: Arsenals of Folly|
|Release Date: 10-09-2007|
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|Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
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|Parent title||Arsenals of Folly|
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Arsenals of Folly
Chapter One: To the Chernobyl Sarcophagus
On the Saturday morning in April 1986 when the alarms went off at the Institute for Nuclear Power Engineering of the Byelorussian Academy of Sciences, in a forest outside Minsk, the nuclear physicist Stanislav Shushkevich thought the institute's reactor was bleeding radiation. Its fuel assemblies, sealed inside aluminum cassettes at the bottom of a deep, stainless-steel tank full of distilled water, might have sprung a leak. Or something might have spilled in the institute's radiochemistry lab. Dosimeter operators began working their way methodically through the labs and offices and found radiation everywhere. It was in people's hair and clinging to their clothes. It registered two hundred times normal on the air filters. It was near danger levels at the front door.
The dosimetrists moved outside and discovered it there as well: on the sidewalk, on the grass, on the periwinkle crocuses pushing up through the dark litter of the forest floor. So the institute wasn't the source. An order over the public-address system warned everyone to stay indoors. Someone called the Lithuanian nuclear-power complex at Ignalina, one hundred miles northwest, and radiation was everywhere there too. Chernobyl, in the Ukraine, was farther away, two hundred miles southeast, where four big RBMK* thousand-megawatt reactors were lined up end to end in a building almost a mile long. Hundreds of people worked there, but the phones rang unanswered. Something was wrong at Chernobyl.
By afternoon, institute chemists had found radioactive iodine in the fallout, which confirmed that a reactor had exploded. For radioactive gas and smoke from Chernobyl to ha