Join a live Q&A about the first few days of the Fukushima nuclear crisis

Last night, PBS FRONTLINE aired a new documentary about what happened at the Fukushima nuclear power plant during the crucial first days of that crisis. Using amateur video shot during the earthquake and tsunami, interviews with power plant workers who were on the scene, and some astounding footage taken inside the power plant itself, the documentary is extremely powerful. It feels weird to say this, given the effect the meltdowns have had on Japan's energy situation and the lives of the people who lived and worked near the plant ... but it seems as though Fukushima could have been a lot worse. The documentary shows us the valiant risks taken by firemen and plant workers. It also shows us the moments where, in the midst of the Japanese government and utility company TEPCO doing a lot of things very wrong, individuals stepped up to make decisions that saved lives. Without those things, this would have been a very different (and much darker) story.

In about ten minutes, I'm going to be moderating a live Q&A with Dan Edge, the producer of Inside Japan's Nuclear Meltdown. I'll be asking him some questions about the story, and the process of filming a documentary like this. There will also be opportunities for you to ask Edge some questions, as well. (And I already know y'all are good at coming up with interview questions.)

You can follow along, or join in on the discussion, using the chat box embedded in this post. Hope to see you there!


  1. Great discussion. One of the things that should be stressed is that this is an event that is still unfolding, and will continue to do so for decades. Fatalities, costs (social, ecological and economic) and other impacts will be an ongoing issue for the nation of Japan, so we must resist the urge to “close the book” on the crisis and talk about it in the past tense. 

    It will be interest to see if further study of Fukushima determines if realistic adequate steps are even possible to prevent/mitigate rare but catastrophic failures. The new information shows how much was left up to chance and personal on the spot decision-making. “It can’t happen” is no longer a persuasive argument, after Fukushima catastrophic failure contingencies need to be apart of both design and governmental planning. 

  2. We have had Chernobyl and Fukushima and still there are nuclear power stations precariously sitting on coasts and fault lines.  The Sun is hurtling through the middle of the plane of the galaxy at 200kbs in a Universe full of surprises. I think we need to grow up and use other sources of energy. It can happen again.

  3. The suggestion that  Dan makes at 4:27, and Maggie also follows along with:

    So while the design itself of Reactor 1 was outdated, it’s pretty clear the meltdowns occurred because of the locations of the backup diesel generators – not a flaw in the design of the reactor itself.

    Appears to belie certain facts the workers themselves state, and early reports of cooling pipes being broken in the reactors, and backup cooling systems kicking in (that were only designed to do so AFTER a reactor containment loss had occurred)  all happened before the tsunami actually hit, and were due to the earthquake.

    Not the shutdown of electrical system caused by the tsunami, which is the party line being pushed by TEPCO which directly concerns how the reactor design withstood, or didn’t the earthquake.

    This diversion of our attention then directly impacts our understanding of how ‘safe’ the industry is:

    Japan insists its nuclear crisis was caused by an unforeseeable combination of tsunami and earthquake. But new evidence suggests its reactors were doomed to fail

    Japan’s Fukushima Reactor May Have Leaked Radiation Before Tsunami Struck

    More details about this apparent miss-focused approach can be read here:

    Frontline’s Fukushima “Meltdown” Perpetuates Industry Lie That Tsunami, Not Quake, Started Nuclear Crisis By: Gregg Levine

    It’s too bad these ideas were not more clearly pursued in this online conversation.

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