10 years later Fukushima Daiichi still melts down my heart

Ten years ago this month, 22,000 Japanese citizens died in a huge tsunami that also caused the second-worst nuclear accident in history at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility. Because I know about nuclear safety, I wrote a total of four columns about the accident in the month that followed. You can read them in order here, here, here and here.

When I wrote within hours of the accident that none of the 11 reactors would ever operate again, I was the sole voice on the planet saying so out loud. Read the comments and you’ll see I took some flak for […]

COVID-19 Lessons from Three Mile Island #2 — the NRC

My last column was about crisis management lessons I learned back in 1979 while investigating the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the President’s Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island (TMI). Let’s just say that FEMA wasn’t ready for a nuclear meltdown. Today we turn to the other federal agency I investigated at that same time — the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). While FEMA was simply unprepared and incompetent, the NRC was unprepared and lied about it.

Like FEMA, the NRC had recently undergone a rebranding from its previous identity as the Atomic Energy Commission — a schizoid agency that had been charged […]

Three Mile Island Lessons for COVID-19: FEMA and Me

Forty-one years ago this summer I was a young investigator working in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC for the President’s Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island, a big federal investigation chaired by Dartmouth Professor John Kemeny, who is best known as the father of the BASIC programming language. I learned a lot that summer and fall not only about nuclear accidents but about how governments and industries respond to crises. Some of those lessons apply to the current COVID-19 pandemic, which is also being poorly managed. This may surprise you (that 41-year-old lessons can still apply) but governments, especially, change at a glacial pace.

The two […]

No fracking way! Fukushima is worse than ever

japanbabyRemember the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan? I wrote about it at the time, here, here, here, here, and here, explaining that the accident was far worse than the public was being told and that it would take many decades — if ever — for the site to recover. Well it’s six years later and, if anything, the Fukushima situation is even worse. Far from being over, the nuclear meltdown is continuing, the public health nightmare increasing. Why aren’t we reading about this everywhere? Trump is so much more interesting, I guess.

“The […]