Atoms and Ashes
From Bikini Atoll to Fukushima
Baillie-Gifford award-winner 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.
Praise for Atoms and Ashes
A revealing tour of some of the most terrifying experiences involving nuclear power. Plokhy excels in unpacking the human and systemic factors that contribute to nuclear disastersNature
A superbly crafted but enormously frightening history of nuclear disasters . . . without ever preaching, Plokhy constructs a formidable case for consigning nuclear power to the pastGerard DeGroot, The Times
A timely and enthralling study of the atomic age and its perils . . . a meticulously researched historyLawrence Freedman, Financial Times
Absolutely stunning. A formidable achievement. Plokhy has written a six-part historical thriller that is essential reading for both our politicians and the ordinary citizen. We have survived the Nuclear Age for three-quarters of a century, but this book calmly reminds us that accidents happen?and will surely happen again. His stories of nuclear accidents are riveting and frighteningKai Bird, co-author of American Prometheus
Gripping . . . Plokhy combines newspaper interviews, memoirs, government reports and secondary sources to give a vivid account of the perils of nuclear powerTLS
Plokhy's gripping, measured accounts of human error and staggering heroism in the face of the terrifying forces of nuclear power get under the skinSimon Ings, The Telegraph
Expertly concise. . . this account of the downhill slide of atomic power since its heyday in the 1950s illustrates why it can never be the solution to global heatingRobin McKie, Observer
Frightening . . . With catastrophic climate change bearing down on us, nuclear power has been promoted by some as an obvious solution, but this sobering history urges us to look hard at that bargain for what it isJennifer Szalai, New York Times