The Social Impact of the Chernobyl Disaster, by David R. Marples, 313 pp, $14.95, New York, NY, St Martin's Press, 1988.
The soot-black and intensely radioactive plume of smoke from the burning Chernobyl reactor in April 1986 has served as a Rorschach inkblot test, as commentators worldwide read a spectrum of lessons about nuclear power and weapons, state secrecy, and emergency preparedness into its hazy outlines. The relative inaccessibility of Soviet society and literature and the special nature of radiation accidents in the mind of the public and media have further fueled speculation in the West. Two recent texts, written from quite different perspectives, have examined the accident in valuable detail.
The confidently titled Chernobyl: The Real Story is written by a radiation insider, Richard Mould, who is a noted health physicist and radiation historian, as well as a technical adviser to the International Atomic Energy Agency. In this superbly