Today marks the tenth anniversary of the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japan. Dr. Fred Bortz, author of Meltdown: The Nuclear Disaster in Japan and Our Energy Future, returns to share his thoughts regarding the event’s impact on sustainable energy resources. To learn more about the disaster and subsequent clean up, find resources and articles at the end of the post!
By Dr. Fred Bortz, author of Meltdown!: The Nuclear Disaster in Japan and Our Energy Future
You may have heard about the magnitude 7.1 earthquake off the coast of Japan on February 13. That magnitude ranks it as a major earthquake, but if you are like most North Americans, it barely caught your attention. After all, Japan is prone to strong quakes, and this one caused limited damage to property and led to no major casualties.
However, one aspect of the event was notable enough to get global media coverage. This was not a main quake but rather a decade-later aftershock of the magnitude 9.0-9.1 Great Tohoku Earthquake of March 11, 2011. This means the aftershock released a thousandth of the energy as the initial quake. That powerful tremor and the devastating tsunami it unleashed led to hundreds of thousands of damaged or destroyed homes and buildings, left more than 17,000 people dead or missing, and set off a sequence of events that led to the meltdowns of three reactors at the Fukushima Dai’ichi nuclear power plant.
My book Meltdown! The Nuclear Disaster in Japan and Our Energy Future explores not only the science of nuclear power, earthquakes, and tsunamis, but also–and more importantly–the impact of the events of March 2011 on the sources of electric power around the world.
When I first heard the news from Fukushima, I shuddered. And the more I heard, the more my concern grew. I feared for the immediate fate of the reactor and the people being evacuated from a potential nuclear hot zone. I also became concerned for the long-term future of the nuclear power industry itself.
My concern about the industry is not because I think it is the best approach to generating electricity. Rather, my concern is that the world is struggling to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (especially carbon dioxide) before global warming produces an inexorable and ongoing series of climate-related problems.
Renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, are becoming more economical to build. Nevertheless, for a variety of economic and technological reasons, nuclear power will remain an important source of carbon-free electricity for the next few decades.
We will also need decades for the cleanup at Fukushima to be completed and for all the evacuated areas to return to normal. By then, readers of Meltdown! will be among the voters and political leaders who will be guiding us as we address the demands and impact of a changing climate.
That is where I closed the book. I didn’t try to predict what their choices would be in a time of developing technologies and political realities. Instead, I could only stress the importance of making informed choices for our energy and climate future.
A decade after Fukushima, we still can’t tell what those choices should be, but we can agree those their decisions will be of earth-shaking importance.
Praise for Meltdown!
“Broadly informative.” —Booklist
“This clear and wide-ranging introduction to essential energy issues has much to offer.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Bortz is meticulous in his detailing of the events, using spectacular photography, charts, and diagrams to aid the reader in understanding the magnitude of this disaster.” —Library Media Connection
“Overall this is a well written presentation of a very difficult and complex topic….Meltdown would be a welcome addition to any school or public library.”–Science Books & Films
“Bortz clearly explains the science underlying the 2011 disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. After a discussion of earthquakes and tsunamis, the focus shifts to nuclear physics, notorious disasters (including Fukushima), and the debate about the safety of nuclear power and its alternatives. Color diagrams and photographs effectively illustrate the aftermath of the disasters.” —The Horn Book Guide
Teaching Guides and Classroom Activities
Read more about the Fukushima Disaster and clean-up:
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