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Snapshots in History: April 26: Remembering the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster

April 26, 2013 | John P. | Comments (0)


On April 26, let us pause to remember the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that occurred at Pripyat, Ukraine on April 26, 1986 when an explosion and fire occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, resulting in the wide dispersal of radioactive particles into the atmosphere, especially over the western sections of the then-USSR and neighbouring European countries. Arguably the worst nuclear power plant disaster in history, the Chernobyl event is only one of two such events classified as high as level 7 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) established in 1990 by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the other being the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011 in Japan.  Toronto Public Library collections provide access to materials containing information on the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, including the following:


The age of catastrophe disaster and humanity in modern times

The age of catastrophe: disaster and humanity in modern times / John David Ebert, 2012. Book.

Man-made disasters are on the rise and the efforts to keep nature and civilization separated are not likely given their interconnectedness. It is more challenging to distinguish natural disasters from man-made ones. Ebert analyzed a number of post-World War 2 or “neomodern” disasters such as Bhopal (1984) and Chernobyl (1986) as well as several disasters of planetary scale, including Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans (2005) and the Tohoku Earthquake, Tsunami, and Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant meltdown (2011).


Chernobyl crime without punishment

Chernobyl: crime without punishment / Alla Yaroshinska, 2011. Book.

Russian journalist Yaroshinska documented the disinformation campaign by the then-Soviet government to avoid responsibility and admittance of wrongdoing of the Chernobyl disaster. This book, while coming out 25 years after the 1986 event, brought matters into the 21st century by documenting government inertia on the part of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine as millions of people have sought justice, compensation, and recognition of suffering as a result of the disaster. Radioactive pollution still permeates the surrounding environment. This book also questioned the efficacy of nuclear power.


Visit sunny Chernobyl and other adventures in the world's most polluted places

Visit sunny Chernobyl: and other adventures in the world's most polluted places / Andrew Blackwell, 2012. Book.

Not everyone would appreciate this account of “extreme tourism” in visiting polluted places such as Chernobyl. However, journalist Blackwell tackled the task with humour and seriousness both in asking pertinent questions but also in the need to appreciate the Earth for what it is and not what one would like it to be. Environmental stewardship and economic desires continue to be in conflict. Canada is not off the hook either as the Alberta oil sands are considered.


Voices from Chernobyl the oral history of a nuclear disaster


Voices from Chernobyl: the oral history of a nuclear disaster [1st Picador ed.]  / Svetlana Aleksievich, preface and translation by Keith Gessen, 2006. Book.

This book won the National Book Critics Circle Award category for general non-fiction . Journalist Aleksievich interviewed hundreds of people affected by the Chernobyl disaster - from the general population to firefighters brought in to deal with the fire without proper protective equipment. The interviewees demonstrated the anger, angst and uncertainty with which they have lived.



Consider the following fiction title about the Chernobyl disaster:


The sky unwashed a novel

The sky unwashed: a novel / Irene Zabytko, 2000. Book.

This debut novel was inspired by real life experiences of villagers who defied the forced evacuation of their community in the Ukraine in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster. In the novel, Starylis was presented as a farming town that served as a bedroom community for the nuclear plant workers. Yurko Petrenko, who along with his wife Zosia worked at the Chernobyl facility, developed radiation sickness. While Yurko’s mother Marusia remained with her ill son in Kiev, Zosia and their children went to Moscow in search of a better existence. After Yurko died, Marusia went home to Starylis to live out the rest of her life, despite the declaration by the government that the area was uninhabitable.



Consider watching the following DVDs:

Chernobyl diaries / Olivia Taylor Dudley et al., 2012. DVD. Feature Film. Holds can be placed starting on May 15, 2013.

Six tourists hired an extreme tour guide to take them to the abandoned city of Pripyat, Ukraine, where the former workers of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant once lived. The group came into contact with mutant beings. This film may appeal to those who enjoy horror films.


Radioactive wolves: Chernobyl's nuclear wilderness / Klaus Feichtenberger et al., 2011. DVD. Documentary.

Filmmakers and scientists teamed up to research wolf packs and other wildlife thriving in Chernobyl’s so-called “dead zone” surrounding the encased reactor with its concrete sarcophagus.


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