Chernobyl’s Political Fallout

Philip Ball at The New Statesman:

All the same, some of the confusion and apathy in the aftermath of the explosion of Reactor Four was due to an inability to comprehend the enormity of what had happened: that the reactor and the hall housing it had literally been blown apart, its pieces scattered still glowing across the site and the fiery inner core exposed to the atmosphere. There is a sense in these accounts of the truly unearthly: Higginbotham mentions the “shimmering pillar of ethereal blue-white light, reaching straight up into the night sky, disappearing into infinity” as the intense radiation streaming from the reactor ionised the air itself. Senior figures wandered around the site in a daze, muttering about routine malfunctions even as they kicked aside immensely radioactive debris from the reactor core. Radiation levels at the site were so far off the scale that they defied belief and comprehension. Meanwhile, in Pripyat life went on as normal for a day and a half, children playing in the warm spring sunshine. A film taken of those events is marred by ghostly flashes and white streaks: ambient radiation burning itself into the celluloid.

more here.