Want to learn more about the Fukushima nuclear disaster? Read this book, come to Atlanta!

This blog was written by Sara Barczak, former Regional Advocacy Director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | February 6, 2014 | Energy Policy, Nuclear
Just a month before the third anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan and led to the still-ongoing nuclear disaster at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear complex, a new book is being released documenting the harrowing events. Join Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and our partner, Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions (Georgia WAND), as we host Dr. Ed Lyman with the Union of Concerned Scientists, co-author of “Fukushima: A Nuclear Disaster,” for a book release and presentation at the Jimmy Carter Center Library in Atlanta, Georgia on Monday, February 10, 2014 beginning at 7 pm EST. Directions can be found here. The book will be released nationally the very next day, though advance copies will be available for purchase and signing at the event.

The book has already received excellent reviews and we wanted to offer you a glimpse of what to expect; we encourage you to not only come to the Carter Center if you’re able to be in Atlanta next week, but to read the book and be aware of how the nuclear disaster in Japan impacts us all, not only here in the Southeastern U.S. but across the world.

However, our region in particular should pay attention. Not only do we have a large reliance on nuclear power in the Southeast, including from similar reactor designs as the Fukushima-Daiichi plant, but all new nuclear reactors under construction in the United States are being built right here: TVA’s Watts Bar 2 in Tennessee, Southern Company’s two additional reactors at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro along the Savannah River in Georgia, and SCE&G and Santee Cooper’s pursuit of two more reactors at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant in South Carolina.

As Kirkus Reviews stated in their review of the new book, “The events at Fukushima provided a graphic warning of the dangers posed by nuclear power; the most important question asked by this book is, what will be done about them?”

Below are two reviews in full; we hope to see you at the Carter Center next Monday. First, from Kirkus Reviews:

Technical reports written by committee are almost always dull affairs; this is an exception.

The book is a gripping, suspenseful page-turner finely crafted to appeal both to people familiar with the science and those with only the barest inkling of how nuclear power works. Even with the broad outlines of the story in the public record, the authors have uncovered many important details that never came to light during the saturation-level media coverage. The Union of Concerned Scientists has long cast a critical eye on the nuclear industry, and the tone should surprise no one, but its criticisms are balanced, insightful and impossible to dismiss. Reactors are protected by multiple fail-safes, but “[a]ll of Fukushima’s defensive barriers failed for the same reason. Each had a limit that provided too little safety margin to prevent error.” Essentially, a single unforeseen event, if it exceeds the components’ design specifications, will simultaneously disable multiple layers of protection. Furthermore, the safety guidelines proved biased toward “internal events,” utterly failing to account for “a sustained total loss of electrical power and the inability to obtain needed supplies because of damaged roads” that resulted from a broader natural disaster. Incredibly, the threat posed by tsunamis on the northeast coast of Japan was never taken seriously; in 2009, Tokyo Electric Power Company management nixed a seawall at Fukushima, concluding, “a tall barricade in front of a nuclear plant would send the wrong message to the public.” Ultimately, the authors warn that failure on a similar scale is eminently possible at many American facilities. The fact that worst-case scenarios were finally averted in this instance may be a mixed blessing, as already, new protective measures are being abandoned or watered down, and even in Japan, new nuclear plants are under construction.

The events at Fukushima provided a graphic warning of the dangers posed by nuclear power; the most important question asked by this book is, what will be done about them?

 And this review from Donna Seaman for Booklist:

Japan assured the public that its 54 nuclear power stations, even those built in seismically active regions,were perfectly safe. Then on March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9 earthquake hit, shifted the earth’s axis, caused a tsunami that killed nearly 19,000 people, and brought the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to the brink of utter disaster. Lochbaum, head of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Nuclear Safety Project; Lyman, a senior scientist for the same organization; and Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Stranahan, who covered the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, pilot the first in-depth account of all that went nightmarishly wrong. Their thriller-like, minute-by-minute chronicle covers every harrowing technical breakdown, backed by briskly informative illuminations of the science underlying the boiling-water reactors and the systems designed to prevent their meltdown. They are equally precise in their coverage of the human side of the story, from the grave dangers confronting the plant’s valiant staff to the scrambling of public officials to the trauma of evacuees as explosions wracked Fukushima and radiation leaks increased. As the crisis at Fukushima continues, this exacting and chilling record of epic failures in risk assessment, regulation, preparedness, and transparency will stand as a cautionary analysis of the perils of nuclear power the world over.

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