Fukushima Fallout

i-65e754bdd7f5ba18868727b1ce47a745-meltdown.jpgby Fred Bortz, author of Meltdown! The Nuclear Disaster in Japan and Our Energy Future (Twenty-First Century Books, 2012)

A year ago this week, on March 11, 2011, the biggest earthquake in Japan's history devastated the Tohoku region, 320 kilometers northeast of Tokyo. In the huge tsunami that followed, more than 13,000 people drowned, and thousands of buildings and homes were reduced to rubble.

Within hours, horrifying photos and videos spread around the world. But the most frightening news was yet to come. The Fukushima Dai'ichi nuclear power plant was seriously damaged and three of its reactors were heading for meltdowns.

Over the next few days, explosions and fires released radioactivity into the air, and the Japanese government declared a 20-kilometer evacuation zone. It was the world's worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl explosion in 1986.

I knew something about meltdowns. I had previously written about Chernobyl and the accident at Three Mile Island in a chapter of my 1995 book Catastrophe! Great Engineering Failure--and Success. I knew the arguments for and against nuclear power.

After Fukushima, those arguments resounded with added urgency. If engineers know how to build safe reactors, why did the Fukushima reactors fail? But if we stop building nuclear reactors, how can we replace enough fossil fuel plants to limit global warming?

I knew I had to share those questions for middle grade readers. The result was Meltdown! The Nuclear Disaster in Japan and Our Energy Future, just published by Twenty-First Century Books. I'm delighted to have the opportunity to discuss that book as a Featured Author at the 2012 USASEF Book Fair.

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Did I really write 13,000? The final toll of dead or missing was around 23,000. Some of them died when buildings collapsed, but most drowned in the tsunami. I'd have to retrace my steps to verify that number. The rest of the article stands.

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