New Book “Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster” Released

February 12, 2014 | 10:19 am
David Wright
Former contributor

This week we officially released our book Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster, published by New Press and co-authored by UCS nuclear experts Dave Lochbaum and Ed Lyman, and journalist Susan Q. Stranahan. Susan for many years was a journalist with the Philadelphia Inquirer, and was the lead reporter of the Inquirer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident.

The book provides the most authoritative account to date of what happened during the March 2011 triple reactor-meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan—an event that has displaced more than 80,000 people in Japan and continues to leak radioactively contaminated water into the ocean. The book is based on technical analyses, interviews with the principal players, and information gleaned from thousands of pages of documents obtained from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and other federal agencies, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)—the plant’s owner—and independent Japanese commissions.

It’s an expert account that isn’t written just for experts. Kirkus Reviews called it “a gripping, suspenseful page turner,” and Publisher’s Weekly called it an “eye-opening exposé … [that] points to the scary fact that America can suffer a Fukushima-type event if critical steps are not taken.”

In addition to analyzing the disaster, the book ends by discussing the decisions by Japan’s nuclear industry and regulators that set the stage for it to happen, and how a similar disaster could happen here if the NRC doesn’t strengthen safety regulations. While the NRC set up a Task Force to study and draw lessons from Fukushima to improve U.S. safety regulations, it is moving very slowly on considering the Task Force recommendations, and is watering them down as it goes along. That’s not good.

Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer who worked in the industry for 17 years before joining UCS, put it this way:

Fukushima wasn’t a “Japanese” nuclear accident. It was an accident that happened to occur in Japan. Japanese and U.S. regulators share the same mindset that severe, supposedly “low probability” accidents are unlikely and therefore it is not worth the time and money to protect plants from them. How many Fukushimas will we have to go through before NRC commissioners get it through their heads that it could happen here?”

See for yourself—the book is available from New Press at 20% off (use code FukushimaBook).