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Manual for Survival: An Environmental History of the Chernobyl Disaster

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Winner of the Reginald Zelnik Book Prize in History
Winner of the Marshall D. Shulman Book Prize
Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Nonfiction
Finalist for the Ryszard Kapuscinski Award for Literary Reportage

"A magisterial blend of historical research, investigative journalism, and poetic reportage…[A]n awe-inspiring journey." ― Economist After the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, international aid organizations sought to help the victims but were stymied by post-Soviet political roadblocks. Efforts to gain access to the site of catastrophic radiation damage were denied, and the residents of Chernobyl were given no answers as their lives hung in the balance. Drawing on a decade of archival research and on-the-ground interviews in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus, Kate Brown unveils the full breadth of the devastation and the whitewash that followed. Her findings make clear the irreversible impact of man-made radioactivity on every living thing; and hauntingly, they force us to confront the untold legacy of decades of weapons-testing and other catastrophic nuclear incidents.

432 pages, Paperback

First published March 12, 2019

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Kate Brown

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Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,290 reviews120k followers
June 8, 2019
Chernobyl was not a single event but was instead a point on a continuum; the radioactive contamination of Polesia lasted more than three decades. Chernobyl territory was already saturated with radioactive isotopes from atomic bomb tests before architects drew up plans for the nuclear power plant. And, after Chernobyl as before Chernobyl, the drumbeat of nuclear accidents continued at two dozen other Ukrainian nuclear power installations and missile sites. Sixty-six nuclear accidents occurred in Ukraine alone in the year after Chernobyl blew. More nuclear mishaps transpired after the Soviet Union collapsed, including the fires in the Red Forest in 2017.

Calling Chernobyl an “accident” is a broom that sweeps away the larger story. Conceiving of the events that contaminated the Pripyat Marshes as discrete occurrences blur the fact that they are connected. Instead of an accident, Chernobyl might be better conceived of as an acceleration on a time line of destruction or as an exclamation point in a chain of toxic exposures that restructured the landscape, bodies, and politics.
Kate Brown has been tracking the 20th century’s glow for quite a while. Her first book, published in 2004, The Biography of No Place, winner of the American Historical Association’s International European History Prize for Best Book, looked at the Ukraine-Poland borderlands that Chernobyl had made uninhabitable. Her 2013 book, Plutopia, illuminated two towns, one in the US, one in the USSR, that were dedicated to producing plutonium for use in nuclear weapons, tracking the impact of these places on the environment, the residents, and the public’s right to know. Now, in 2019, She is back at it with Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future. If you are of a survivalist bent, you will be disappointed. Sorry, no blueprints. I expect the inspiration for the book’s title can be found in a piece she wrote for Eurozine, Dear Comrades! Chernobyl's mark on the Anthropocene. Brown reports:
In August 1986, the Ukrainian Ministry of Health issued five thousand copies of a pamphlet addressed to “residents of population points exposed to radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl atomic station. The pamphlet begins with assurances:
Dear Comrades! Since the accident at the Chernobyl power plant, there has been a detailed analysis of the radioactivity of the food and territory of your population point. The results of the investigation show that living and working in your village will cause no harm to adults or children. The main portion of radioactivity has decayed. The composition of the radioactivity in water, air, forest and shrubs is tens of times lower than the established norms. For this reason, you have no reason to limit your consumption of local agricultural produce. If villagers persisted in reading beyond the first pages, they found that the pamphlet’s confident tone trails off, like the telling of an unfunny joke: [offering a list of things they should not eat, and other actions they should take to minimize risk] The pamphlet is actually a survival manual, one that is unique in human history. There had been nuclear accidents before which left people living on territory contaminated with harmful levels of nuclear fallout, but never before Chernobyl had a state been forced to admit to the problem and issue a manual for the new reality.
This is not to say that governments had had no cause to do so before then. There was a lot of denial before and most of the denial remains. A more useful manual would have provided instructions for when and where to catch the bus that was going to take residents to new homes, far away. Well, some got to leave. Far too many were stuck soaking up the rays, just not from the sun.

Kate Brown - image from University of Maryland Baltimore County

Brown’s interest in Chernobyl is of long standing and significant depth. She makes use of recently declassified Russian material to continue her decades-long investigations. She also meets with many locals, residents, scientists, and government workers, to come up with a clearer on-the-ground picture of what the true long-term impacts of the Chernobyl meltdown have been.

There are two main elements she investigates here. First is the science. What are the facts? What were people exposed to? How far did the damage extend? How much exposure was there, to what, when, for how long? What resulted from that? The other, at least as significant, is a look at the process, the political considerations that went into deciding what to test for, when, and for how long. What were the political needs that impacted what information was actually released? She not only tells us what she learns, but writes about how history gets written, the challenge of deciding which sources are worth believing, and figuring out which official documents and which personal stories exist to divert truth-seekers from what really happened, and which are likely to provide good information. Her look inside the sausage factory of history-writing is fascinating.

Most chapters in the book include a ride-along with a local, someone who was there at the time of the 1986 blast, or someone who was involved in subsequent cleanup or research. You will meet Angelina Guskova, probably the world’s top expert on radiation sickness. She had been treating victims of radiation exposure since 1949. Alla Yaroshinskaya did research on the evacuation, finding secret government documents that showed how officials tried to cover up the accident. The big one at Chernobyl was hardly the first. There had been more than one hundred previous incidents at the facility. Alexander Komov did studies of the Pripyat Marshes (the area in which the power plant was located) and kept extra copies of his work so Moscow could not bury his research. It was found that the soil in the Marshes was particularly conducive to feeding radioactivity (strontium, cesium, iodine and plutonium) into the food chain. Dr Pavel Chekrenev, with the Zhytomyr Province Department of Health, managed to piss off a lot of people by seeing to it that the production of hides from the area was stopped. The hides were highly radioactive, but production was deemed by those in charge to be of higher importance than safety. For his efforts Dr. Chekrenev was demoted. The most moving of these portrayals was of a woman identified only as Halia, born in 1918. She had lived her entire life in a town in the Marshes. I was reminded of The Inner Light, the best of all possible Star Trek episodes, in which Picard lives an entire life in the course of an hour. Likewise, in just a few pages, we see nearly a century in the life of a woman and a village. It sings of the wonder that history offers to real researchers and historians. These profiles add a personal touch to a very dark time in human history. There is even a Bond film scene in which a Russian physicist disguises herself as a cleaning woman at a conference and tries to slip to a visiting American scientist actual research information about the Chernobyl fallout.

The destroyed plant - image from wikipedia

You will learn some pretty horrifying and surprising items in Manual for Survival. Did you know that the Soviets used an area near Chernobyl for testing tactical nuclear bombs? How about using a novel approach to dealing with the problem of long-burning underground gas fires?
…in 1972…a team of scientists from a closed military research lab tried to use a nuclear bomb to put out an underground gas fire in a pipeline near Kharkiv. The gas fire raged out of control for the better part of a year. Arriving to help, physicists from a top-secret bomb lab drilled a hole down two kilometers next to the burning gas well and planted a 3.8 kiloton nuclear bomb in the shaft. Soviet bomb designers had detonated peaceful nuclear explosions (PNEs) in other parts of the USSR to smother gas fires. They were confident that this secret “Operation Torch” would work. [All went as planned, for about twenty seconds.] And then something went awry. A scorching jet mixed with earth and stone from the gas well shot up improbably high. The blaze rose higher than any skyscraper to pierce the summer sky. A minute later, witnesses ducked from the force of a blisteringly hot shock wave. Radiation levels in nearby communities climbed to harmful levels.
Oopsy. One of the larger surprises is the difficulty scientists had in establishing control populations for studies. Residents of the northern hemisphere (primarily) had been on the receiving end of fallout from hundreds of nuclear bomb tests in the 50s and 60s. (There have been over two thousand overall) Radioactive materials are pervasive enough that when future scientists study our era, they will be able to date the specimens they find by the presence or absence of radioactive isotopes, just as scientists were able to determine when the incoming asteroid ended the Cretaceous by coating the planet with a layer of iridium. If you find yourself in ”the zone” you might want to get out ASAP. The Zone of Alienation sounds like psycho-babble about an inability to connect with other people, but it was the 30-kilometer circle around Chernobyl that was deemed unsafe for habitation. You’ll learn about The Third Department a super-secret government agency that focused on dealing with radiation issues.

The Soviets were not alone in missing opportunities and often passing on doing the right thing. The baseline study of radiation impact, the long-term study the USA did on the effects of radiation on the Japanese population after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, did not begin until five years after the event. How many died or acquired illnesses during that span? How many immune systems were ravaged by exposure, not only to the blast, but to food grown on tainted fields, and water carrying radioactive materials. After USA bomb tests in the Pacific, Marshall Islanders were monitored for medical impact, but no medical aid was provided. Very Tuskeegee. It was government policy in the USSR that low exposures over a long period were not particularly harmful. But it took actual science, actual research to show that this is not the case. Low levels times many days/months/years = bad outcomes.

A CIA map showing radiation hotspots as of 1996, ten years after the melt-down - image from wikipedia

The focus of the book is on events, history, and impact in what is now Ukraine and Belarus. But attention is paid as well to the role of Western powers, the USA most significantly, and international organizations, in doing their part to keep a reinforced concrete seal on information about the damage done by exposure to radioactive materials, and on how widely the materials dispersed. The global market of the 21st century is doing for radioactive materials what the jet stream did for 20th century fallout, and may be spreading the toxins even more widely.

Brown does a pretty good imitation of Poirot/Holmes/Marple as she follows clues to get the real skinny on what had taken place. There is one particularly revelatory sequence in which she tracks the source of some serious toxicity to incoming raw materials.
The wool workers did not know that picking up the radioactive bales was like embracing an X-ray machine while it was turned on.
There is a lot of information in Manual for Survival, and it will not help you sleep at night. We have been led to believe that nuclear power plant accidents are black swan events. Kate Brown reminds us that this is not the case. Just at Chernobyl, there had been over a hundred incidents before the final blow. Since 1964 there were accidents every year in Soviet nuclear reactors that caused death, injury, or released radioactivity. She makes the case that casualty reports from such happenings are certain to understate the long-term mortality and health impacts. It is in the interest of those operating such plants, and often their governments, to see to it that thorough examinations of nuclear accident aftermaths are either not done, or are controlled, and the dissemination of findings seriously constrained. More significantly, she uses the Chernobyl accident as a beginning point for talking about the existence of radioactive pollution across the planet.

I have minimal gripes about the book. The hardcover comes in at 312 pages of actual text, without adding on for notes, and other extras, which is a very manageable load. It does, though, read pretty slowly at times, as Brown digs a bit deeper into this or that subject than is amenable to sustaining reader interest. But those passages have a short half-life, and you are quickly on to yet another riveting tale of dark events, some dark-hearted people, and tales of courage and heroism as well. A pretty fair tradeoff.


Kate Brown has written a fascinating, eye-opening, and engaging analysis of what happened in 1986, how the Chernobyl disaster holds implications far beyond the immediate explosion that devastated Pripyat, Ukraine, killing and poisoning thousands ever since. She shows the significance of the event itself and the implications for radioactive damage from that and many other sources. Manual for Survival may not offer a blueprint for how to clean up the mess we have, or save us from the potential for harm that seems to keep growing across the planet, but it does offer lots of material for thoughtful discussion about ways forward. For instructions on how to stuff this genie back into the bottle we’re gonna need a bigger manual.

Published - March 12, 2019

Review posted – March 1, 2019

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Interviews - these focus on her earlier book, but are worth checking out
-----Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs - Plutopia: Nuclear Families in Atomic Cities, with Kate Brown - by Stephanie Sy – video – 4:41
-----DiaNuke.org - Birth Defects Near Hanford: Watch Interview with 'Plutopia' Author Prof. Kate Brown - video - 28:30
-----History News Network - Kate Brown: Nuclear "Plutopias" the Largest Welfare Program in American History - by Robin Lindley
What happened was that people I talked to gave me more questions and insights. You have to weigh all of your sources and crosscheck them. You can have an archival source and cite it, but it may not be right. And someone can be drawing from their memory, and he or she might be wrong, and memories are often wrong. But using both sources to cross-reference one another is an effective way to get a richer story than if you just use one source.

Items of Interest
-----Eurozine – Brown’s article, referenced in the review - Dear Comrades! Chernobyl's mark on the Anthropocene
-----Al Jazeera – An article by Brown on how Russia is currently going about squashing the spread of science they do not like - Russia uses ‘foreign agents’ law to muzzle dissent
-----American Historical Association – a wonderful article by Brown on her approach - Being There: Writing History for a Postmodern World
-----NY Times – February 12, 2019 - The Atomic Soldiers - a moving video in which soldiers present at US nuclear tests in Nevada recall their experience, then, and since – by Morgan Knibbe
-----Wall Street Journal - Chernobyl: Drone Footage Reveals an Abandoned City - impressive drone footage of the now ghost town of Pripyat - shot between 2013 and 2016
-----INSIDE CHERNOBYL, IT IS CRAZY (Inside the Red-Zone) a video (14:01) of a visit to the site from 2017 - nice to get a close-up visual, and some nice bits of info
-----Washington Post -May 17, 2019 - I oversaw the U.S. nuclear power industry. Now I think it should be banned. - By Gregory Jaczko - pretty compelling stuff
-----NY Times - June 2, 2019 - A thoughtful look at the excellent HBO mini-series, the final episode of which airs tomorrow - Plenty of Fantasy in HBO’s ‘Chernobyl,’ but the Truth Is Real - by Henry Fountain

Image is from the HBO series

-----The Atlantic - June 3, 2019 - Photos From the 1986 Chernobyl Disaster - 18 shots here - worth a look

A Soviet technician checks the toddler Katya Litvinova during a radiation inspection of residents in the village of Kopylovo, near Kiev, on May 9, 1986 - image from the Atlantic article - credit Boris Yurchenko / AP
Profile Image for Jan-Maat.
1,535 reviews1,789 followers
December 13, 2019
Godzilla vs Marie Curie

"The system of collecting medical data was interconnected with the political system" (p.164) says ex soviet epidemiologist

Silly introduction
Reading, I was reminded of Dirk Gently’s holistic detective agency, firstly because of the electric monk which the aliens send out to inspect their spaceship because they don’t want to know the truth they want reassurance, and the software sold to the US military which provides a justification and a rationale for what ever action you have carried out no matter how unjust or irrational it may have been. And there was plenty in this book about the consequences of the Chernobyl explosion that reminded me of those Douglas Adams jokes.

Sober introduction
Like everyone else I am prone to having opinions. When it comes to civilian nuclear power my opinion was that it was an interesting idea worth exploring in the 1950s but well past its sell by date by the end of the 20th century – there are lots of ways of boiling water to produce steam to turn a turbine why use a particularly complex one? And on the issue of Chernobyl I long suspected that the suggested death toil was far too low because in 1991 the USSR collapsed and in the wake of that life expectancy collapsed and emigration was far easier – if immigrants from the Soviet Union died from cancer would those deaths be attributed to Chernobyl?

This book is a investigation into the aftermath of the Chernobyl explosion, chapter by chapter Kate Brown tracks down and researches various stories, most stranger than fiction. As a consequence the book as a whole pulls in a variety of directions, the impression at times can be contradictory, the stories Brown tells are still unfolding, in the background is the worldwide business of civilian nuclear power and the legacy of nuclear weapons testing so the scope is at once hyper local – concerning the precise ecology and way of life in the communities most heavily affected by Chernobyl and universal – or at least concerning the whole of the northern hemisphere where she says because of nuclear testing one can hardly speak with a straight face of a ‘natural’ level of background radiation everywhere north of the equator to the Arctic is in receipt of additional unnatural levels of radiation due to human policy.

what I didn’t like
This is a great book in many ways, but there were quite a few things that I did not like, there are not enough maps in a book that is full of geography. I was lost as she referred to provinces and regions, the USSR had republics and Oblasts, again maps might have helped or a glossary, or an appendix, which would also have been useful with regard to the measurements of radiation curies and sieverts and so some of which was early integrated into the text – smoothly done but near impossible to find and refer back to as you read further, similarly an appendix about radioactive elements which ones were breathable, which could get into the food chain, and those that can’t. Finally I found the title of the book impossible to remember – even when it sat in my lap I had to read the spine to recall what it was called. At a couple of places I found her use of language strange – sporting metaphors and using the noun ‘ash’ as a verb, but aside from the title I feel what all of this does is to make the story more approachable, more of a detective walking the backstreets, having late night telephone conversations with retired scientists, hanging out in libraries and archives than a formal, academic text, it is intended to be friendly, the reader is with Brown gathering clues trying to get a glimpse of the big picture.

Godzilla vs Marie Curie
Brown narrates how after WWII the MGM film Madame Curie (1943) was released in Japan, science is the path to a better world Curie says in the film , Japan’s response came in 1954 in the form of Godzilla. And this, I posit, is the central issue of this book, indeed of nuclear power itself. Is nuclear power a raging destructive force that can casually crush us all, or is it controllable, subject to rationality and intrinsically safe, on the third hand is it worst of all, a mixture of both, soberly productive until it explodes and vents radioactive wrath across the landscape?

It could never happen here
You could read this book with its tales of unofficial deaths, rising cancer rates, damage to children in utero, and lasting uncertainty as to if the worst Chernobyl damage has passed or is yet to come and be reassured that it can’t happen here. Nor is that in Brown’s view a hopelessly optimistic view, something that emerges is that the outcomes are determined by local factors, not the political level but down at the ecology – the soil conditions and climate, how the affected land is used, how people live. Chernobyl is not Three Mile Island or Fukishima, nor can many easy lessons be learnt and transferred on. Chernobyl was built on the (mostly) drained Pripyat marshes, the soils were poor, the people lived often in simple huts, drinking the milk of their own cows, burning wood from the forests, using the manure and ashes to fertilise their vegetable plots. Further the Chernobyl plant was designed to produce weapon’s grade plutonium in addition to generating electricity. So you could read this book and feel relatively reassured – it won't happen here.

Science progresses funeral by funeral
Apparently one Jim Smith writing in the journal of radiological protection argues that Brown systematically ignores the vast body of knowledge in the international scientific literature. Unfamiliar as I am with such knowledge I can only say that Brown engages repeatedly with international studies and research on the damage done on Chernobyl – all of which she finds wanting and inadequate. Repeatedly she shows how research groups were either infiltrated or guided by the KGB – to the extent that several times data sets stored on computers were removed along with floppy disks over night.

More subtly, international experts accepted the orthodoxy of the Life Span Study – which commenced in 1950 and tracked the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts – that concluded that it was high dose radiation that caused problems – not chronic low doses, further more for scientists working on domestic nuclear power programmes – such programmes by definition have to be safe otherwise we are faced with a situation in which our governments are recklessly unleashing Godzilla generally in poor rural regions of the country purely so that they can sit at the grown up’s table as masters of nuclear power and progressive, scientific states. Both of these prejudices implicitly worked together so repeated studies found no link between an increase in cancers and Chernobyl, other studies compared ‘affected’ zones with control zones and found no appreciable difference between the two – though as Brown points out the control zones were themselves affected by radioactive fallout.

By chance while reading there was a documentary on the TV about the BSE/vCJD crisis in Britain during the 1980s. The story was exactly the same, the government stressed at first there was absolutely no risk to humans, scientists who suggested there might be suddenly found that they lost their jobs and were reassigned, now that it is accepted that human deaths did result, it remains unclear if those 200 or so deaths to date are the complete death toll or simply the tip of a future iceberg. It is in the nature of government, or for that matter any organisation, to be authorative, and to at least give the impression of being in control, even if faced by Godzilla, or by more traditional horsemen of the apocalypse. Likewise the peak Chernobyl damage may have passed, or it may still be unfolding, Brown is recording an era before a paradigm shift, the international scientific consensus is that low doses of radiation are mostly safe, some marginal voices suggest that they aren’t – the cases of the ‘Radium Girls’ in the USA in the 1920s, Alice Stewart who from 1956 found that x-raying pregnant women doubled the incidence of childhood leukaemia, and Thomas Mancuso’s study of worker’s health records at Hanford plutonium plant in the USA found more cancers than predicted even at low dose exposures, “what matters to humans is how the radiation acts in bodies” (p.68) but that is a profound mystery and requires an understanding of how particular people live in certain environments. Pleasingly, an official reaction in the USSR was victim blaming – the problem was not radiation – it was the stress of relocation or Radiophobia – if only those people could settle down and love the radioactive atom just as Dr. Strangelove recommended. Brown points out that the international studies were made up of physicists not doctors, after Hiroshima General Leslie Groves, head of the Manhattan Project ”sought to frame the atomic bomb as just a very powerful conventional explosive” (p.33) to avoid it being banned like chemical and biological weapons. The Orthodox position was that Nuclear power was the way of Marie Curie, a route into a clean, reliable future.

Black comedy
Fittingly there was a lot of black comedy, after the initial Chernobyl explosion it was decided to slaughter the meat herds in the most affected areas - the problem was that the resulting meat and carcasses were radioactive, some of this was turned into sausages, one refrigerated carriage full of meat was sent to Georgia - customs officials detected that it was highly radioactive and sent the meat back to the Ukraine where the carriage sat on a siding until the refrigeration unit broke down (radiating all the while) the KGB managed to whip up a work crew to dig a pit where the meat was then buried.

Brown hears of women workers in a wool sorting factory who were awarded 'liquidator' status (like the men who physically cleared radioactive waste off the roof of the Chernobyl plant). She investigates and finds that they were sorting and handling radioactive wool in unventilated areas, eventually the management have the most radioactive wool piled up in an enclosure close to the loading bay where it remained, of the 200 wool sorters working there at the time of Chernobyl, only ten were still alive by the time that Brown visited.

The book is full of such stories - officials in the USSR produced plans to show that stock rearing was perfectly safe - provided as per plan collective farms used only imported animal feed and kept their animals US style in concrete barns, the plan was fine, apart from that it bore no relation to the realities of stock rearing in Belarus and Ukraine - where animals grazed in the open.

Cost benefit analysis
In case you might think that radiation was the worst thing that could affect communities in western Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, the IAEA hired a consultant, Simon French to do a cost benefit analysis for the Belarus authorities (pp288-90) this showed that the cost of relocating villages vs potential cancer deaths (using figures from the Life Time Study that prove that low doses of radiation are harmless) could potentially bankrupt the state. Effectively, even before the arrival of consultants to stick the bayonet into the dying, both Ukraine and Belarus had taken that position in any case. In the immediate aftermath of the explosion a vast effort was undertaken to shift expectant mothers and young children to summer camps as far as possible from Chernobyl, but after that the state preferred to manage down expectations by denying risk, with the advent of Gorbachev's Glasnost' policy damage from Chernobyl became a hot political issue and post Soviet authorities were keen to invite in experts from the IAEA to 'prove' that conditions were 'safe', which they invariably did. Unfortunately rates of cancer continued to rise, particularly of the intestinal tract, as did birth defects.

how safe is safe?
At one point Brown describes the Chernobyl plant as having been leaky even before the accident, how leaky I wondered, are nuclear power plants generally. Nuclear power plants in Brown's view are only part of the problem - nuclear weapons testing has released a huge amount of radioactivity in the northern hemisphere, far, far more than was released by the Chernobyl meltdown, the residual area of the Pripyat marshes was used for bomber training during the Soviet period, Brown argues that long before the Chernobyl meltdown the level of background radiation throughout the northern hemisphere was already unnatural. This sits alongside her reflection on increasing rates of cancer and decreasing sperm counts and other fertility problem. Correlation isn't causation, and optimism is very nice - but like radioactive waste perhaps I prefer not to be too closely associated with it. Brown's book is not a call for caution, but does demonstrate the need for medically led research, an epidemiology independent as far as practicable of our political structures "the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must" as Crowley's translation of Thcydides puts it.

Contemporary life is rich in things that we mostly casual accept but which are dangerous, the issue is just where you draw the line, or more importantly where other people decide to draw the line. In that sense this is a brilliantly unsettling book, read it and see what you think.
Profile Image for Jake.
199 reviews37 followers
April 2, 2019
.I'm a fan of nuclear power. I started reading this book to gain a convincing argument against nuclear power. I don't think this is a good book for that. At each stage Kate uses flowery language to invoke fear in the reader and doesn't provide a convincing argument about why I should be afraid of nuclear power. She clearly did the work to back up her claims, having done exhaustive work to collect the information about what actually happened, but having read the book I don't draw the same conclusions about even the same events. There are hundreds of peer reviewed papers and actual radiation scientists that differ from her accounts and she makes assertions that anyone with any kind of understanding of radiation and the effects on the human body would dismiss as fear mongering. When someone works as hard as she has I'll take the time to read what they have to say but I do not like the book. I'd give it three stars but she purposely set out to deceive people with this book.
Profile Image for Katie.
145 reviews
December 20, 2018
Another amazing, well written and interesting book from Kate Brown. I have to say I am biased, I think her work is amazing. The depth of research and scope of topic is incredible, but she manages to keep the book easy enough for anyone to read and understand. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in Chernobyl and world politics. Or just anyone.
Profile Image for Angy.
359 reviews30 followers
January 6, 2020
Al libro le voy a poner 3,5 puntos.
Para empezar quiero contaros que cuando lo solicite pensaba que iba a ser otro tipo de libros, aunque luego pensándolo mejor y recapacitandolo con algunas amistades me he dado cuenta de que este libro es "un ensayo" o eso creo yo porque bueno ya sabéis que yo no suelo pone, ni mirar etiquetas. Eso ha sido un motivo por el cual este libro me ha gustado y lo he disfrutado pero a la vez no. Voy a intentar explicaros todo mejor poco a poco.

Antes de nada me gustaría comentaros un poco en cuantas parte esta dividido el libro y en que podéis encontrar en cada una de ellas, no suelo hacerlo pero creo que con esta es muy interesante porque así podéis elegir si queréis leer unas partes antes que otras o si sencillamente algunas os las queréis saltar.

Parte I. El accidente
Liquidadores en el hospital  6. En el podemos leer que cogían a perdonas dentro de las diferentes fabricas a los que bautizaban con el nombre de liquidadores y eran los encargados de apartar los alimentos y productos contaminados y enterrarlos. Por lo que esas personas obviamente estaban muy expuestas.
Refugiados . Nos cuentan algunas historias sobre gente que vio como amigos y familiares fallecían tras el accidente por estar tan en contacto con la exposición y la explosión.
Creadores de la lluvia. Me sorprendió saber esto ya que según nos cuentan en este apartado echándole yodo a las nubes de polvo tras la explosión  podían conseguir que lloviera para que no se extendiera aún más la radiación.
Operadores. Nos cuenta como siempre es bueno que haya niveles más bajo para poder echarle la culpa a la hora de los accidentes.
Ucranianos. Empiezan a aparecer los primeros científicos haciendo pruebas a los ucranianos para ver el nivel de radiación que tenían en su cuerpo.

Parte II. supervivencia radiactiva
 Una madeja de interrogantes.
Pieles limpias, agua sucia.
Las salchichas de la catástrofe. Estas las he agrupado primero porque no quiero que se haga tan extensa como parece que va a ser y porque todo trata sobre los diferentes caminos por el que se trasmitía la radiación, es decir agua, comidas, etc. 

Parte III. naturaleza artificial.
La moradora del pantano.
El momento de aceleración. Este apartado para mi ha sido un poco el más aburrido porque trata sobre todo de científico estudiando a la diferentes razas, entre ellas la arañas que es la que más nombran y sobre todo de gente que estuvo allí pero no fue afectada por la radiación.

Parte IV. política posapocalíptica.
La mujer de la limpieza
Sospechas en la KGB. En este apartado ya empiezan a aparecer los problemas políticos que arrastraremos hasta el final del libro y es que algunos quieren ocultar todo lo ocurrido y hay gente como una científica que se disfraza de limpiadora para intentar que todo salga a la luz.

Parte V. Misterios médicos
Pueblas directas.
La desclasificación del desastre.
Autoayuda entre superpotencias.
Sonámbulos en Bielorrusia.
El gran despertar. Este es uno de los apartados que más lagrimas me han sacado sobre todo una mujer que aunque le llegaba información de panfletos para sobrevivir ella tenía que ignorarlos porque no podía hacer nada y solo luchaba por vivir. Y también los mandamases se pelean por el poder mientras la gente muere.

Parte VI. la ciencia al otro lado del telón de acero.
Envíen a la caballería
La huela dactilar de Marie Curie
Expertos internacionales
La búsqueda del desastre
Cáncer de tiroides: primera señal de aviso
El efecto mariposa
Tras la ciudad perdida
La sombra roja de Greenpeace
El ucraniano tranquilo. Creo que esta es de las partes más aburridas del libro porque es todo el rato ver como los organismos y diferentes políticos se pelean por ser el que tenga el poder de las pruebas, si ven que otros la necesitan no se la dan por entorpecer y al final mientras la gente sigue pasándolo mal. 

Parte VII. artistas de la supervivencia
La Pietá
La vida al desnudo. Nos cuentan como los supervivientes siguen intentando salir del boquete donde lo han metido. Y también nos cuentan que es posible que en más de 100 años la contaminación siga dando vueltas y que puede ser que a otros países, entre ellos Europa, puede que hayan llegado productos radiactivos. Por lo que puede que sea un virus que se corra por todo el mundo!.

Conclusión. La recolección del porvenir. Un resumen de todo lo que ha pasado y lo que puede seguir pasando.

Al final quiero poner un puntos positivos y puntos negativos que más resaltaría de la historia.

Puntos positivos:

Nunca había leído un libro así, es cierto que nunca he leído ensayo, aunque no creo que sea lo mio, creo que si hubiera leído el libro más despacio, podía haberlo disfrutado más. Aunque eso si creo que he aprendido muchísimo.

Puntos negativos:

Me ha parecido un tanto repetitivo, en el momento en el que sale el cáncer de tiroides lo ha repetido muchas veces. Es obvio que si los políticos y empresas se pasaban todo el tiempo mandado a investigar y luego deshaciéndose de pruebas y teniendo que volver a investigar. Y que encima salían cada vez más y más problemas físicos pues había que contarlo. Y que si realizas varias entrevistas con varios puestos diferentes sobre el mismo tema tienes que acabar hilándolo pero tal vez hubiera dejado el libro en 200 o 250 páginas centrando un poco más la información.
¿Recomendado? si no te molestan leer libros pesado y que necesitan tiempo y sobre todo si te interesa el tema.
¿Releerlo? Pues tampoco lo veo necesario.
Reseña completa en mi blog el día 8 de enero del 2020 en:
Profile Image for Brian D..
25 reviews1 follower
May 8, 2019
Revising my review after reading many contravening takes on this event.

A well-written book, perhaps, but even while reading I thought it seemed a bit improbable; as if the author was heavily aligning the facts to support a forgone conclusion.

The idea that bureuacratic scientists would suppress data to avoid government payouts to citizens affected by weapons testing is just plausible enough to hook you, but the story does not hold up to critical examination. Why would so many agree to cover this up? Claiming that the only credible scientists were Greenpeace activists was a huge red flag.
Profile Image for denudatio_pulpae.
1,299 reviews20 followers
June 17, 2022
Życie po Czarnobylu.

Trzydzieści lat po awarii w Czarnobylu wciąż brakuje nam odpowiedzi, za to obszarów niepewności jest aż nadto. Jak dowodziłam, nieświadomość skutków działania niskich dawek promieniowania to po części skutek rozmyślnych działań. Jeszcze przed rokiem 1986 eksperci w ZSRR i poza jego granicami wiedzieli o związkach między radioaktywnością a nowotworami tarczycy u dzieci, ale ukrywali dowody epidemii rozprzestrzeniającej się wokół dymiącego bloku w Czarnobylu, zaprzeczali faktom, bo w przeciwnym razie wydałyby się znacznie gorzej wyglądające konsekwencje prób z bronią jądrową”.

Ile ofiar tak naprawdę ma na koncie katastrofa czarnobylska? Co z obszarami najbardziej skażonymi i ludnością, która tam mieszka? Czy my możemy czuć się bezpieczni? Jak promieniowanie wpływa na nasze życie?

Kate Brown odwaliła kawał solidnej roboty próbując znaleźć odpowiedzi na podobne pytania. Było to zadanie trudne, ponieważ fakty dotyczące tej katastrofy zostały wielokrotnie zniekształcone przez polityczne zagrywki. Dezinformacja, przemilczenie niewygodnych danych – wszystko to zaciemnia obraz tej katastrofy. Książka „Czarnobyl. Instrukcje przetrwania” zmusza do refleksji. Szczególnie, jeżeli wydaje się Wam, że ta sprawa jest już dawno załatwiona i spoczywa bezpiecznie pod betonowym sarkofagiem. W tym samym czasie na rynek europejski trafiają radioaktywne jagody z Polesia – jak się zmiesza te wysoko radioaktywne z tymi normalnymi, a całość transportu mieści się w normie – to wszystko jest w porządku. Smacznego!

Niedocenianie konsekwencji Czarnobyla sprawiło, że ludzie nie byli przygotowani na kolejną katastrofę. Opisywanie awarii czarnobylskiej w myśl hasła „u nas by to nie przeszło” kładzie nacisk na szczególną nieporadność, korupcję i tajność panujące w państwie sowieckim. Reporterzy dowodzili, że w otwartym, demokratycznym społeczeństwie, gdzie branża energetyczna jest w rękach prywatnych przedsiębiorców, nie mogłoby dojść do katastrofy na skalę Czarnobyla. A jednak kiedy w roku 2011 tsunami runęło na elektrownię atomową Fukushima-Daiichi, japońscy biznesmeni i władze polityczne zareagowali zdumiewająco podobnie do przywódców sowieckich. Skrajnie zaniżali skalę katastrofy (stopienie rdzeni trzech reaktorów), wysyłali strażaków niechronionych przed wysokimi poziomami promieniowania, z rozmysłem nie udostępniali społeczeństwu informacji o stopniu skażenia ani wytycznych zdrowotnych. Nie podano dzieciom profilaktycznych dawek jodu, za to zwiększono dopuszczalny poziom promieniowania w szkołach z 1 do 20 milisiwertów rocznie, czyli do międzynarodowej normy dla pracowników zakładów jądrowych. W ciągu następnych miesięcy administracja zdrowotna opierała się przed sprawdzaniem poziomu skażenia żywności, zbywano też niepokoje rodziców dotyczące problemów zdrowotnych dzieci oraz odnotowanego przez pediatrów przyrostu liczby guzków i nowotworów tarczycy”.

Książka Kate Brown była dla mnie lekturą trudną, momentami przesadna kwiecistość stylu i niepotrzebna wzniosłość przeszkadzały, jednak myślę, że mimo tych wad, warto się z nią zapoznać. Moim zdaniem w tej katastrofie nie są najważniejsze przyczyny, przebieg czy winni. Najważniejsze są skutki długofalowe i to, czego możemy się nauczyć, aby w przyszłości uniknąć podobnych sytuacji. Energetyka jądrowa bywa demonizowana, ale daleka byłabym od popadania w drugą skrajność, w której bagatelizuje się konsekwencje katastrof takich jak Czarnobyl czy Fukushima. Jesteśmy tylko ludźmi, którzy popełniają błędy – myślenie pt. „nam to się na pewno nie przydarzy” bywa bardzo złudne.
Profile Image for Seth Austin.
188 reviews88 followers
July 24, 2019
Access: Chatswood Public Library

The clear triumph of Kate Brown’s Manual for Survival is her exhaustive parsing of classified archives, in order to distil the nuances of a deeply misrepresented industrial disaster. The approach taken to the subject matter is a no-holds-barred exegesis of political malfeasance, while also making a devoted effort to lift the fog over the correlative (even causal) effects of the disaster. Her delivery of the decidedly dry literature is presented with a clear urgency and passionate narrative voice, while still maintaining an academic objectivity to the contaminated facts. Misguided generalizations, economic pressures, and sociopolitical hubris are - what I take away to be - the driving forces that lead the governing bodies of the then-USSR to utterly abandon the health and wellbeing of over a million Eastern European citizens. While HBO’s miniseries took the approach of broad-scope entertainment, Brown’s interest lies in factual excavation; both are deeply engrossing but in vastly different ways.

The criticism I hold towards Brown’s long-form exploration is a questioning of whether or not she delivered on the promise of her title. Her research is framed as a “guide to the future” and yet the vast majority of her chapters take the form of retrospective analysis rather than prospective projections. While I expected evaluations of Chernobyl’s effects moving forward, I received a historical account of criminal and moral mismanagement. Equally fascinating - yes, I can’t help but feel like she subverted my expectations; for better or worse remains to be seen. Furthermore, I found her structural approach to be disjointed and loosely categorized. Chapters teasing medical outcomes seemed more concerned with politics; sections promising environmental analysis came off more focussed on the social impacts. This isn’t to suggest that these topics are dull or uninteresting - on the contrary, they are all the source of my own grim, personal curiosity. My intent is simply to highlight that her organization of the material seemed confusingly fluid in both topic and thesis. Granted, this is mere opinion - some may find her ability to interweave the elements at play to be a strength, rather than a weakness. It just so happens I lean in the latter direction.

Lastly, I felt a dull disengagement at sporadic points throughout the book. Upon reflection, I realized these periods of what one might call boredom, coincided directly with instances of repetition - a fault I can only fairly ascribe to history rather than Brown herself. To learn that the government ignored the incidence of childhood thyroid cancer as it doubled, quadrupled, septupled was profound the first time around. Yet seemingly every chapter returned to this notion in chorus-like fashion, with geography being the only difference of note. The impact of her continual return to instances of government oversight offered diminishing returns. Again, I realize that history dictates how events played out, yet Brown chose to hammer this point home repeatedly.

In spite of some historical circularity, Brown’s synthesis of the events surrounding the 1986 incident is nothing short of fascinatingly comprehensive. She delves into the minutia of cause-and-effect, uncovering the facts that HBO didn’t have nearly the time frame to provide. The moral and logical failures of the Soviet response are nothing short of disturbingly fascinating. Images of iodine-laced skies, flesh literally melting from workers’ bodies, and eerily mutated plant life are all conjured with brutal yet beautiful detail.

All of this due to what is ultimately little more than unrestrained chemistry. All at the hands of an invisible spectre silently poisoning everything in its path... leaving nothing but corruption in its wake.

Profile Image for Damian Sowa.
10 reviews
June 26, 2019
Excellent book, very well researched, and written like a narrative instead of a non-fiction fact-pile. It is truly astonishing, however, at the international involvement in keeping the Chernobyl disaster under cover, and in covering up the true extent of the disaster & human impact.

We all live in "patriarchal" societies, and having done so rely on our governments to implement safeguards on our technology, and to protect us when they have access to life-threatening information. The governments of the world - USA, Japan, Europe, USSR/Russia, UN -- all failed the people in the affected regions of Belarus and Ukraine by willfully covering up information and willfully refusing to investigate health concerns. The reasons are "national security" and "greater good" all fail the test when thousands of children are dying and have cancer.

Remember this the next time you vote, and how far you want to trust your government
Profile Image for Laura.
839 reviews12 followers
March 26, 2019
This is an exhaustively researched work, which attempts to get to the truth of the health effects of the Chernobyl disaster of 1986. Brown’s writing is engaging despite the sometimes dry subject matter. This book is as much an indictment of the international scientific community as it is of the Russian government’s handling of the accident.
Profile Image for Karen.
559 reviews1 follower
April 30, 2022
This is a very interesting — and horrifying — book. Those who found the recent HBO Chernobyl mini-series intriguing likely will also be interested in Manual for Survival. While HBO’s Chernobyl focused mainly on events during and shortly after the Chernobyl accident, Manual for Survival also focuses on the long-term health effects (of which there were many).
Profile Image for micusiowo.
468 reviews26 followers
July 6, 2021
Bardzo porządnie napisana, bardzo porządnie udokumentowana pozycja nie tyle o samej katastrofie, ile o jej wieloletnich konsekwencjach.
Profile Image for Kain.
452 reviews11 followers
September 3, 2022
Bardzo ciekawa książka - katastrofa czarnobylska od zupełnie innej strony niż zwykle. Tu mamy nie co i jak się stało, a przynajmniej jest to znacznie mniej istotne - tylko jakie były reakcje rządzących i przede wszystkim konsekwencje dla ludzi żyjących na terenach dotkniętych opadem...i wszystkich innych.
Profile Image for Peter Tkačenko.
Author 17 books188 followers
August 12, 2019
Welly well, you will come to learn a lot about emergency management, thanks to scrupulous study in archives you will become somewhat skilled in recognising radionuclides and radioactivity levels and their dangers, but for me, this book is about Soviet Union itself in the first place. For better or worse (usually rather worse), that was a truly fascinating country. Equally huge, monstrous, powerful, yet fragile, deeply cynical and at the same time able of great humanist feats.
Profile Image for Martina .
248 reviews36 followers
August 27, 2021
26. apríl 1986 - dátum, ktorý sa mnohým spája s obrovskou tragédiou, ktorá poznačila chod Sovietskeho zväzu a navždy zmenila jeho podobu. S výbuchom černobyľskej atómovej elektrárne. Aj napriek dosiaľ zverejneným informáciám a pomerne dlhej dobe, ktorá od tragédie ubehla, sa vedci neustále pokúšajú objaviť nové súvislosti, poukázať na dlhoročný problém v podobe zverejňovaných dezinformácií a politického zastierania, ktoré je s haváriou bezprostredne spojené.

Americká historička Kate Brown výskumu atómovej tragédie venovala roky - skúmala dokument za dokumentom, zisťovala názory jadrových vedcov, cestovala do zasiahnutej oblasti, kde s povedala rôznych pracovníkov i prostých ľudí, "hrabala" sa v archívoch a získané informácie sa pokúšala kriticky zhodnotiť. Brownová konfrontuje doteraz zverejnené záznamy s tvrdou realitou - nepribližuje len všeobecne známe fakty o samotnom výbuchu a udalosti, ktoré sa udiali bezprostredne po nej, no celú problematiku skúma s odstupom rokov, zaujíma sa o dlhodobý vplyv radiácie na život a zdravie ľudí z oblastí v blízkosti elektrárne, ako aj tých, ktorí žili vo vzdialenejších lokalitách a radiácia ich zasiahla nepriamo prostredníctvom distribuovaných potravín či rádioaktívneho spadu. V neposlednom rade približuje politické pozadie havárie, upozorňuje na nezmyselné rozhodnutia, zastieranie faktov, konštruovanie poloprávd a zdôrazňuje, aký obrovský vplyv mala celá politická zástierka na kvalitu života v krajinách bývalého Sovietskeho zväzu roky po výbuchu.

Ak patríte k tým, ktorí už majú čo-to načítané a rozmýšľate, čo nové by vám kniha Černobyľ: Príručka prežitia mohla ponúknuť, buďte bez obáv - Brownová v rozsiahlej štúdii mapujúcej priebeh katastrofy prierezom desaťročí predstavuje nový pohľad na skutočnosti a unikajúcej radiácii, zamoreniu, zvýšenému výskytu chorôb ponúka rozsiahlejší priestor. Pri čítaní budete len krútiť hlavou a zhrozene sa zamýšľať nad tým, ako mohla pýcha a snaha pôsobiť ako najsilnejšia veľmocť tak prevalcovať ľudskosť. Nie je to sústo, ktoré strávite za jeden večer, zostane vám ležať v žalúdku ešte pekne dlho, no rozhodne stojí za prečítanie.
Profile Image for David.
47 reviews4 followers
March 13, 2021
Kate Brown sa po vlastnom štúdiu v Petrohrade a Moskve štvrť storočia hrabe v archívoch bývalého Sovietskeho zväzu, aby podala komplexný, vedecký obraz o najväčšom technologickom nešťastí 20. storočia. Porovnáva často si protirečiace štatistiky, prináša nové informácie a hromadu nových pohľadov na archívne pramene. Mnoho z použitých zdrojov bolo odtajnených až po rozpade Sovietskeho zväzu. Viaceré v skutočnosti odtajnené ani neboli a len následkom ľahostajnosti a chýb pri ich archivovaní sa dostali do rúk bádateľov. Ak má možnosť, konfrontuje autorka materiály s rozhovormi, často práve s autormi týchto dokumentov. To všetko korení vlastnými, prekvapivo poetickými pozorovaniami z miest, kde sa celý príbeh odohráva. Kate Brown je totiž profesorka vied a technológií na Massachusettskom technologickom inštitúte.
Profile Image for Martin.
269 reviews9 followers
July 15, 2019
An amazing book a great sequel to Voices From Chernobyl and the recent HBO docudrama. Nonfiction that reads like fiction
Profile Image for Michael.
587 reviews11 followers
June 3, 2019
Recently I read "Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe" by Ukrainian historian Serhii Plokhy, published in 2018. See https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36204894-chernobyl. That book was to a great extent a blow-by-blow account of what happened before, during, and after the Chernobyl reactor explosion.

This book is much less about what happened in a descriptive sense and more about the meaning or significance of what happened for our collective future - what can be learned from this experience. First, however, she wants clarify what it is that should (or must) be learned by comparison to the generally whitewashed versions of what happened that obtained over most the time since the reactor failure in 1986 - and even now.

The books is divided up into five parts and covers a lot of ground - perhaps the way the book is organized could have been better. Some anecdotes provides seem to cover the same material multiple times. For much of the book, the author relies heavily on her own archival research in the former USSR along with interviews with survivors or others her were involved in decision making relevant to what happened. While Dr. Brown is a historian, and there are extentive endnotes in the text, this is more of a popular treatment of the subject than a scholarly work and she often talks about her activities doing research in the first person, and relays descriptions of her conversations with different figures.

Towards the end she moves to making generalizations about nuclear energy and safety, noting the harmful cumulative effects that she says have not been much considered from weapons testing as the starting point for what Chernobyl and Fukushima have continued - unmitigated spread of low level of radiation that is apparently more harmful than the nuclear power industry in particular would like us to understand. I don't disagree with her conclusions but I am unsure if the approach here is strong as far as convincing anyone.

One aspect that contrasts with the book by the Ukrainian historian is that Brown spends a significant amount of time discussing the impact of the reactor explosion on Belarus, which for several reasons had areas that suffered greater consequences than parts of Ukraine that were much closer. Belarus however has a totalitarian government, however, unlike Ukraine, and she was less able to get as much first hand information as she could from Ukrainian sources.

A book like this arguably should be two books - one to present the history and make the points the author wants to make and a second that presents a narrative of how she learned what she did. I don't think this book can possibly have done justice to the second of these.

84 reviews1 follower
January 6, 2019
I am so lucky to have won this book in Goodreads giveaway!
First of all, let me say that Kate Brown deserves ten stars just for the research she had to do to write this book. It was monumental! This is what I most appreciated about it: author did not just draw assumptions and jumpy to conclusions about the topic from the information about Chernobyl we have now. Instead, she conducted thorough research combing through many archives and interviewing countless people, traveling through Belarus and Ukraine and talking to people who lived through the tragedy. The stories of people included in the book gave it more soul, but the bulk of it was the research. I was surprised and outraged by the fact that world scientific community tried to diminish the effects of Chernobyl on health and well-being of people. I would expect it from Soviet leadership ( I grew up in early years of post-soviet Belarus and am familiar with the political goings there), but to think that such organizations like UNESCO and IAEA completely disregarded facts about failing health of the population after Chernobyl is shocking!
As I mentioned, I grew up in Belarus, north-western part of it, so the Chernobyl was always present in our minds, mentioned in history and geography classes. But never had I imagined the magnitude of international cover up that accompanied this tragedy. Everyone who is remotely interested not only in Chernobyl but nuclear accidents and wellbeing of our planet should read this book. Don’t be daunted by the size of it or the amount of the footnotes at the end. There is incredible amount of research included in this book, but it reads almost like a detective novel. I highly recommend it, and I definitely will be looking into more works by Kate Brown.
3 reviews
October 3, 2020
Didn't finish. Good but tells the same story over and over, this was affected that was affected, OK I get it.
271 reviews1 follower
May 16, 2019
Kate Brown writes with authority about the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. She covers the health effects of nuclides spewed out by the explosion of reactor number four which covered thousands of square kilometers of Soviet Republics and Europe. The rise in cancer rates of the youth of Belarus and Ukraine are detailed. She delves into the response of states, national and international governmental and NGO responses. What is shocking is to read how all of the relevant agencies worked to minimize the effects of irradiated soil on vegetables, fruits and livestock. Also, when Western agencies were involved as the Soviet Union dissolved there is a overt attitude that Soviet doctors were inadequate to the task as well as Western doctors were overly dependent on the A-Bomb long term study of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese study did not study low level radiation but a single high intense burst upon humans. This is like comparing apples to oranges. This is the reason that predicted cancer outcomes were nonsensically too low.

The book "Manual for Survival" is a cautionary warning about the fact that the human race has no adequate plans to deal with catastrophic nuclear disaster. Kate Brown has had access to many documents from both state sources from Belarus and Ukraine as well as Russian archives. She personally visited many villages that had and still have high levels of irradiated soil. This book is an absolute must read for the nuclear energy debate as it relates to the climate crisis.
Profile Image for Linda.
4 reviews1 follower
May 5, 2019
This book is well written and easy to read, despite the scientific and sociological depth of the material. My dad was born in the Pinsk marshes of southern Belarus. He left in 1942, in the midst of WWII. My family never knew the family that he left behind in Volka. It is so sad to read this book and realize that they must have had/continue to have a very hard life along the marshes since the Chernobyl accident. It's inconceivable that such an idyllic and old fashioned life style, so connected with mother nature could now be so invisibly poisoned. ='-[
Profile Image for Sandra Burns.
1,701 reviews22 followers
February 22, 2019
I read this, a bit at a time. What was done to those people was criminal. Saying their food and water were safe,after the accident.
As stated, I could only read a bit at a time. Was so angry!
She did a ton of research on this.
I had gone to a high hilly area, by 3 MIle Island, several months after the accident there. It glowed at night.
151 reviews
April 14, 2019
This book picks up where Midnight in Chernobyl left off. It is horrifying. If it's even half true, hundreds of thousands of people have suffered and died from radiation poisoning in the Chernobyl zone, and there is no real comprehensive international study of Chernobyl (or any other nuclear disaster, probably). Completely engrossing but just... horrifying.
Profile Image for Beverly.
534 reviews10 followers
December 29, 2018
I won a copy of "Manual For Survival" on Goodreads First Reads. This book is amazing. There was so much information about Chernobyl and the people of the area. It was fascinating, scary and a must read for everyone interested in our world.
Profile Image for Ivana Krekáňová.
Author 13 books37 followers
February 1, 2021
O tejto knihe sa píše, že je to dobrý doplnok ku knihám černobyľských svedectiev, napríklad tých od Svetlany Alexijevič. Po prečítaní potvrdzujem, že to je pravda, dokonca by som to možno otočila: knihy svedectiev sú výborným doplnkom k tomuto rozsahom aj záberom značne pôsobivému dielu.

Kate Brown strávila výskumom a štúdiom černobyľskej katastrofy desaťročie, často bola prvou západnou historičkou, ktorá v archívoch údaje študovala, a predstavuje ju mimoriadne komplexne: nielen bezprostredné aj dlhodobé dopady havárie na zdravie ľudí a na životné prostredie, ale aj politický a spoločenský kontext sveta pred (napríklad to, aký významný vplyv malo na podceňovanie a zľahčovanie údajov o zdravotných následkoch nielen chronické sovietske utajovanie, ale aj desaťročia jadrových skúšok počas studenej vojny či presadzovanie obrazu „priateľského“ atómu jadrovými energetickými spoločnosťami) a po (rozpad sovietskej vedy po ´89, neexistujúce štatistiky...).

Výborné to je, naozaj, a ani zďaleka nuda, miestami priam triler (ako sa sovietska vedkyňa snažila prepašovať na konferenciu západných vedcov dáta z terénu pod nosom KGB, ako kvitne obchod s černobyľskými čučoriedkami...). A potom sú tam aj takéto príbehy: grécke obilie zamorila černobyľská rádioaktivita, a tak ho poslali do Talianska. Tí ho však nechceli, krajiny sa rozhádali a kontaminované obilie nakoniec odkúpilo Európske hospodárske spoločenstvo, zmiešalo s neškodným obilím a poslalo do východného Nemecka a Afriky ako „pomoc“.

Celé to ponúka veľmi celistvý obraz udalosti a jej dôsledkov v globálnom kontexte. Trošku škoda nie úplne dotiahnutého prekladu.
19 reviews
February 2, 2023
This work is phenomenal. Combined with works such as "Radium girls", Kate Brown's research gives readers a solid foundation of skepticism of ideologies that encourage blindly accepting the messaging of self-interested leadership.

Science in its most noble form is honest; it looks at evidence and posits hypothesis that independent researches can verify. The challenge with the Chernobyl disaster is that it requires a world power to admit a mistake; this admission of guilt is something we do not often see.

Bureaucrats wanting to save face obfuscate reality, and the people (especially the poor) suffer. The wisdom of the common man shines forth through these disasters; people on the ground who are experiencing the effects of an egregious mistake are the ones who ought to have their stories told, and Kate Brown is their voice. It is a tragedy, but she has become a speaker for the dead.

Kudos to the many researchers who were blacklisted, and to Kate Brown, as they work to bring to light the full scope of the damage caused by the reactor explosion in Ukraine.

And one minor spoiler- at the end the author talks about the U.S. importing berries that have radioactive isotopes from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. This is scary!

Profile Image for Gemma Williams.
463 reviews6 followers
December 27, 2019
This fascinating and often chilling book considers the legacy of the Chernobyl disaster, the cover ups and obfuscation surrounding it which have led to massive underestimation of the impacts and the widespread false view that nature is thriving now in the Zone of Alienation, and the admirable courage and persistence of a few individuals who tried to discover the truth and make it known. I was especially interested to read about the effects of Western scientists' negative preconceptions about Soviet science and about the experience of Western NGOs, who had a lot to learn about working in this setting. I was also pretty shocked to learn how widespread radioactive contamination is and how unpredictable and intractable its spread. An eye opening and often uncomfortable read, but written in a very engaging and readable style.
Profile Image for Aleksandra Szranko.
682 reviews57 followers
September 12, 2019
Przeczytałam Czarnobylską modlitwę Aleksijewicz (niewątpliwy numer 1 w kategorii książek o Czarnobylu), obejrzałam Czarnobyl, wiem sporo (Aleksijewicz - tam jest wszystko, tam jest WSZYSTKO) (oprócz obrazków - te w serialu, urbeksach i u Kostina), nie mam czasu na czytanie słabo napisanej/przetłumaczonej?/zredagowanej? książki na temat, który jest tak - hm - wdzięczny.
Porzucam na 110 s. (22%).
Profile Image for Dana.
166 reviews25 followers
April 16, 2020
One of the most disturbing books I’ve read in awhile, about the total failure of a totalitarian government to protect its citizens during one of the worst public health and climactic crises in history. Cover-ups, blatant lies, propaganda, threats against dissenters ... all while people, animals, and the environment are dying. Chilling echoes of present day tactics by US government “leadership” during the current pandemic. Well written and impeccably researched, this is an impressive piece of investigative journalism.
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