By David Nelson
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It is significant that the man in charge of directing 22 PERSPECTIVES ON MODERN WORLD HISTORY Historical Background on the Chernobyl Disaster the overall atomic program was Stalin’s secret police chief, Lavrentii Beria. Beria’s other responsibilities included running the notorious Soviet concentration camp system, or gulag, where political prisoners and other “enemies of the state” were sentenced to long terms of hard labor in unspeakable conditions. Tasked with producing uranium for the atomic bomb program, Beria simply used concentration camp labor to mine and process the radioactive material.
A measure of their unacceptability may be seen in the fact that, upon German unification in 1990, West German nuclear specialists inspected and then hurriedly shut down all PERSPECTIVES ON MODERN WORLD HISTORY 31 Chernobyl five Soviet-designed WERs that had been operating on East German soil. Other Eastern European countries that still operate WERs have come under heavy pressure from the western community since 1989 to shut down their reactors for the same reason. Despite safety questions the WER design was nevertheless seen as the centerpiece of Soviet nuclear power in the foreseeable future.
Khmelnytskyy SLOVAKIA AUSTRIA HUNGARY Kalinin BELARUS POLAND Miles Leningrad ESTONIA DENMARK 200 400 Black Sea GEORGIA ARMENIA TURKEY Armenia Aktau TUR K AZERBAIJAN IRAN UZBEKISTAN ME NI ST AN Taken from: David F. Duke, "Russia Agrees to Take the World's Nuclear Waste: But Where to Put It,"
, © 2000–2002 Gale, © 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania] on 28 March 1979, which struck the first serious blow against nuclear power and, in the minds of many but not all, dispelled illusions about the safety of nuclear power stations.