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When reactor no. 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded in 1986, American nuclear officials grew nearly as worried as Soviet leaders. No one thought that dangerous levels of Chernobyl fallout reached North America, so why were bureaucrats of the US Department of Energy and Department of Justice so concerned? Chernobyl occurred during a critical time in US history when the extinguishing of the Cold War led to the de-classification of nuclear secrets. Among those secrets was evidence that US officials and army generals had turned to the American heartland to carry out experiments in the relationship between human health and chronic low doses of manmade radiation. The search to discover the medical effects of the Chernobyl accident became the bell-weather for Cold War trials a continent away.
*This talk is part of CREES’ “Legacies of the Cold War: Russia, the United States, and the World” lecture series.
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