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By David Nelson

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Although fosflawed design. sil fuel reserves remained vast, the extraction of coal, oil, and natural gas became increasingly concentrated in Siberia—a harsh, difficult, and therefore expensive environment in which to operate. The net costs of energy in the USSR began to rise in the late 1960s and 1970s and the establishment of a nuclear power grid promised to offset these rising costs to some extent. Soviet nuclear power reactors were developed along two main lines. The first of these, a direct outgrowth of the reactors used by the military for the production of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium, was a simple PERSPECTIVES ON MODERN WORLD HISTORY 29 Chernobyl Reactors like the one at Chernobyl— including this one in Lithuania—were built throughout the former Soviet Union in order to develop the Soviet nuclear energy program.

There is no doubt, however, that the cutting-edge technology represented by nuclear power was attractive to the Soviet leadership. During the Cold War, technological prowess was an important indicator of the strength of the communist system, and the broad application of nuclear power could, in the estimation of the Soviet leadership under Leonid Brezhnev (1906–1982) and his immediate sucDespite the fact that the RBMK cessors, demonstrate the superior[nuclear reactor] formed the ity of the USSR in the world arena.

P. Aleksandrov said in particular, “Our critics claim that nuclear power is dangerous and poses the threat of radioactive contamination of the environment. But what about a nuclear war, comrades? ” The logic behind this remark is truly astounding.

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