March 11, 2011. A magnitude 9 earthquake rocks Japan and triggers a mega-tsunami that kills thousands of people. It also knocks out the power at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and triggers one of the worst nuclear accidents in history.
If it wasn’t for one man, it could have been much worse.
“Rob Gilhooly has written what is probably the most comprehensive English-language account yet of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. Gilhooly is among the best-informed foreign reporters on this issue in Japan, having travelled to Fukushima several dozen times since being one of the first journalists to arrive in the prefecture on a freezing night in March 2011. He gives the story of Masao Yoshida, perhaps the key figure in the disaster, all the detail, sympathy and pathos it demands. His remarkable pictures throughout the book are a bonus. Highly recommended. “
— David McNeil, The Economist.
“A powerful synthesis of the technical and the personal, Gilhooly succeeds in conveying the events of March 2011, its aftermath and the dramatic impact on the people of Fukushima and wider Japan. Six years after the start of the accident, Yoshida’s Dilemma is a necessary reminder of how through the actions of heroic individuals and luck Japan avoided an even greater catastrophe.”
— S. David Freeman, former Tennessee Valley Authority chairman, engineer, energy expert and author of Energy: The New Era and Winning Our Energy Independence
“As one of the few journalists to have covered the Fukushima story from the very start, Rob Gilhooly is perfectly placed to discuss the disaster’s causes and aftermath, and its wider ramifications for the future of nuclear power. From the chaotic scenes as the plant went into triple meltdown, to the plight of evacuated residents and Japan’s long and troubled relationship with atomic energy, Gilhooly combines fine story-telling with journalistic integrity to produce a book that is admirably free of hyperbole.”
— Justin McCurry, The Guardian.
In Yoshida’s Dilemma, Rob Gilhooly, a long-term resident of Japan who has worked extensively as a journalist and photojournalist, has assembled a wealth of material, ranging from the reminiscences of the then Prime Minister of Japan, Naoto Kan, to the stories of those who worked to save the nation from disaster when the massive earthquake and tsunami hit the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
This real-life thriller concentrates on Masao Yoshida, the director of the plant, who inspired his “troops” to risk their lives as they battled the invisible enemy of radiation, but also tells of those living nearby, who were forced to give up their homes and lifestyles which had been enjoyed by their families for generations, as power companies and bureaucrats dithered and obscured the facts surrounding the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.
While Gilhooly is careful not to take sides in the pro- and anti-nuclear power debate, the almost inescapable conclusion is that nuclear power is a highly dangerous technology – maybe even too dangerous to be employed using the current Japanese business model, where the “nuclear village” shuts out criticism, and even knowledge, of its often dangerous operational practices and decisions. Yoshida’s Dilemma provides a wake-up call to other nations with nuclear power, whether or not they are subject to the kind of natural disaster that destroyed Fukushima, and a must-read introduction to the way in which such technology is managed and promoted, not only in Japan, but in other countries.
Main areas covered:
– The story of the nuclear crisis, as experienced by the workers at the nuclear plant, the firefighters and other emergency units who battled to bring the melting reactors under control and officials in Tokyo, such as then Prime Minister Naoto Kan, charged with responding to the disasters
– The impact of the crisis on residents and their evacuation from their homes near the plant
– US response, including efforts by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to cooperate with TEPCO and Japan’s nuclear watchdog, the NISA
– Historical and cultural perspectives on nuclear power in Japan, including the launch of the Atoms For Peace expo and other efforts by the nuclear energy lobby, sometimes referred to as the “nuclear power village,” to win over the Japanese public
– Insights from experts about technical aspects of the nuclear accident
– A look at what might have happened had the worse-case scenario played out
– Anti-nuclear protests, including efforts by communities housing nuclear facilities to prevent those facilities from being re-started
– The real cost of the disasters, including the financial burden and the health impacts uncovered
– An examination of the true cost of nuclear power, which was widely promoted in the US and Japan as being “too cheap to meter”
– The future of nuclear power in Japan and nuclear power’s position in a country often perceived as being resource-poor
– The future of new energies in Japan and the nation’s increasing reliance on coal-fired power stations