The Guardian

Chernobyl’s cover-up is a warning for our nuclear future | Kate Brown

Before expanding nuclear power to combat climate change, we need answers to the global health effects of radioactivity
Illustration: Bill Bragg

In 1986, the Soviet minister of hydrometeorology, Yuri Izrael, had a regrettable decision to make. It was his job to track radioactivity blowing from the smoking Chernobyl reactor in the hours after the 26 April explosion and deal with it. Forty-eight hours after the accident, an assistant handed him a roughly drawn map. On it, an arrow shot north-east from the nuclear power plant, and broadened to become a river of air 10 miles wide that was surging across Belarus toward Russia. If the slow-moving mass of radioactive clouds reached Moscow, where a spring storm front was piling up, millions could be harmed. Izrael’s decision was easy. Make it rain.

So that day, in a Moscow airport, technicians loaded artillery shells with silver iodide. Soviet air force pilots climbed into the cockpits of TU-16 bombers and made the

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Guardian

The Guardian4 min readPolitics
China's Young Climate Heroes Fight Apathy – And The Party Line
Zhao Jiaxin and Howey Ou are trying to convince Beijing to take radical carbon-cutting action
The Guardian5 min read
If The World Ran On Sun, It Wouldn’t Fight Over Oil | Bill McKibben
The climate crisis isn’t the only reason to kick fossil fuels – the prospect of a war to protect Saudi crude reminds us of that
The Guardian4 min readSociety
Iceland Hosts First Major International #MeToo Conference
The first major international conference exploring the #MeToo movement is taking place in Reykjavik on Tuesday, hosted by the Icelandic prime minister, who said she hoped it would contribute to “relegating sexual harassment to history”. The three-day