This blog was written by Sara Barczak, former Regional Advocacy Director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.Guest Blog | February 6, 2014
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.