Paying For Disaster

TITLE: ABLAZE

AUTHOR: PIERS PAUL READ

PUBLISHER: RANDOM HOUSE; 362 PAGES; $25

THE BOTTOM LINE: The tale of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl is told with uncommon depth and vividness.

The basic story of what happened on April 26, 1986, at reactor 4 of the nuclear power station near Chernobyl, in the Soviet Ukraine, is well known by now: an explosion and fire; the death of 31 people from acute radiation exposure and dozens more from diseases plausibly related to milder exposure; the likelihood of a surge in cancers over the next few decades; the poisoning of crops and livestock. The...

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