Adam Higginbotham, Author of Midnight in Chernobyl

Published on06 MAR 2020

Adam Higginbotham discusses his investigation into the 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station; the legacy of the disaster for the people of Chernobyl; and what the disaster meant for the Soviet Union prior to its collapse.

On common themes of disasters from the sinking of the Titantic to Chernobyl: “What all of these accidents, like the 737 Max, Chernobyl, and Titanic, have in common is that they're made up of this long chain of events and each link in the chain will not necessarily on its own cause a disaster, but if circumstances line up in just the wrong way, a consonance of events is joined together and then that results in an accident. And, in that sense, all of these things were all present in the design and the way in which the workers at the plant were accustomed to working.”

The impact of Chernobyl on the fall of the Soviet Union: “[Gorbachev] realized to his horror that the system he’d inherited was actually far more rotten than he had imagined…. Then he realized that he really had to move quickly and his idea was to save the Soviet Union through these reforms. But in moving quickly and in introducing economic reforms, which weren’t really that well thought out. If it was possible for them to have worked at all, they certainly weren't going to work if he plunged into them as deeply and as quickly as he did. And it’s those reforms that ultimately led to the unravelling of the USSR.”

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