The first reporter on the scene of the Chernobyl accident in late April 1986 was Vladimir Gubaryev, science editor of Pravda, the Communist Party newspaper in the Soviet Union. An engineer by training, Gubaryev had covered science for the paper for 10 years while also writing plays and a score of books. His experience at Chernobyl prompted him to write the play Sarcophagus, first published in the September 1986 issue of the Soviet literary journal Znamya (“The Banner”). The play is set in the medical experimental section of the Institute of Radiation Safety in Moscow. Bessmertny, who was accidentally exposed to 600 Roentgens of radiation when, drunk, he passed out in a nudear physics laboratory, has been in the facility for 487 days when the story opens. The lab receives word of the accident at Reactor No. 4 at Chernobyl and begins to receive the victims, including a physieist from...

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