Hiroshima... Nagasaki.... Fukushima...

| 3rd December 2012
Lynn Batten reviews Strong in the Rain, a haunting book which gives an account of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Japan in 2011 though the narratives of six survivors.
Humbling stories of individual courage, stoicism and kindness are juxtaposed with reports of corporate and political denial

'If the normal mean radiation in Japan is set at the width of a credit card, post accident radiation at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant would be the same height as the Empire State Building'.

The story of the Earthquake-generated Tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011 is one that we think we know; the terrifying images of the incredible destruction wrought by the colossal waves on the coastline of the Tohoku region were broadcast worldwide.

The subsequent catastrophe of the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant was the worst nuclear incident since the Chernobyl disaster 25 years earlier and every day the news from the front line was a little worse, the fear a little stronger, how bad would it get? 

Then, thank God, total disaster was averted by pumping in thousands of tons of seawater. Saved by the bell? Perhaps, except that it is somewhat chilling to know that 200,000 tons of contaminated seawater are now sitting in 100,000 ton containers and no one knows how to dispose of it, whilst in reactor 4 thousands of poisonous spent fuel rods now languish without a containment vessel.

This is the story we don’t know, the horrendous aftermath of events so unmanageable that even now nobody knows for certain the actual status of the melted fuel in the exploded reactors.

So how bad is it? And what is being done to safeguard the radioactive material in rest of the plant? If you really want to know this book will tell you.

Humbling stories of the courage, stoicism, kindness and steadfastness of ordinary individuals who were caught up in the horrifying events of that day are juxtaposed with the corporate and political denials of an energy company that refuses to own up or clean up, citing that they do not own the radioactive material that has contaminated the land. Unbelievably there have been court rulings that actually back up the handwashing.

Behind the facade of control the Japanese government is in turmoil. Economies and ecosystems are destroyed, villages and towns evacuated, food safety compromised, environments devastated.

No one knows the long term consequences of happened at Fukushima. Meanwhile, 22 million tons of radioactive rubble is piled up on the outskirts of the region's coastal towns and cities.

Incredibly the Japanese government has decided in favour of bringing its nuclear plants back on line in one of the most earthquake prone regions of our planet, and in the face of some of the biggest anti nuclear protests the world has ever seen.  

How many times does this have to happen before we understand that this planet is the only home we have?

Is nuclear power safe? Ask the people of Tohoku.

STRONG IN THE RAIN by Lucy Birmingham & David McNeill is published by Palgrave macmillan 2012, £17.99 


Lynn Batten is office manager for the Resurgence Trust and author of 'The 07.45 - tales from the back of a bus'. For more information visit;



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