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Meltdown!: The Nuclear Disaster in Japan and Our Energy Future


Japan. March 11, 2011. 2:46 P.M. The biggest earthquake in Japan's history—and one of the world's five most powerful since 1900—devastated the Tohoku region, 320 kilometers (200 miles) northeast of Tokyo. It triggered a huge tsunami that left crippling damage in its wake. More than 13,000 people drowned, and thousands of buildings and homes were reduced to rubble.

As people assessed the damage, they made the most frightening discovery of all: ...

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Hardcover (Library Binding - Library Edition)
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Japan. March 11, 2011. 2:46 P.M. The biggest earthquake in Japan's history—and one of the world's five most powerful since 1900—devastated the Tohoku region, 320 kilometers (200 miles) northeast of Tokyo. It triggered a huge tsunami that left crippling damage in its wake. More than 13,000 people drowned, and thousands of buildings and homes were reduced to rubble.

As people assessed the damage, they made the most frightening discovery of all: the Fukushima #1 nuclear power plant was seriously damaged and three of its six reactors were heading for meltdowns. Workers tried desperately—but unsuccessfully—to save them. Explosions and fires released radioactivity into the air. Within days the Japanese government declared a 20-kilometer (12-mile) evacuation zone. The future of the plant, the long-term health of those exposed to radiation, and the effects on the environment remained uncertain.

Learn more about this massive catastrophe as Dr. Fred Bortz examines both the human tragedy and the scientific implications of the nuclear meltdown. Compare this disaster to similar nuclear events in the United States and in Ukraine, and move ahead with Dr. Bortz as he explores the global debate about the future of nuclear power and alternative sources of energy.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
With a PhD in physics, a stint as a nuclear reactor designer, and many years' experience as a science writer, the author is well-qualified to understand and interpret the events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March of 2011. Drawing on first-hand accounts, he reconstructs events surrounding the eventual meltdown of three of the six nuclear reactors following the record-breaking earthquake and a devastating tsunami. He follows this with an explanation of how nuclear energy is created and how power plants work, the historical and future role of nuclear energy within the overall—national and worldwide—energy environment, and the future role that today's young people will play in determining which energy sources will be utilized and what the potential consequences are for those decisions. This book is unique in these latter two aspects—going beyond description, personalization and dramatization to encouraging engagement by young adult readers. The book is well produced with abundant maps, diagrams and photographs supplementing the text. A glossary of technical terms, research notes, suggestions for further reading, and an index add to the overall value of the book. This would be a timely and useful addition to any classroom or school library and would enhance discussion of topics related to energy, politics, or climate change. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.
VOYA - Debbie Kirchhoff
In this book, the orange-alert color scheme, frequent use of adaptations of the radiation symbol, and abundance of exclamation marks give a first impression of urgency. Soon, though, the reader is able to calm down and realize that this thin book is packed with facts necessary to make informed choices, and there is no need to panic. The subtitle serves as an overview of the book. The recounting of the disaster in Japan is a compelling opening for a discussion of available energy sources. The step-by-step sequence of events, from earthquake to tsunami to nuclear emergency, leads into the power choices to be made now and in the future, with benefits and drawbacks explored. Besides the table of contents and index, there is also a brief glossary and a list of source notes organized by page number, but not footnoted in the text. A selected bibliography is included, as well as a further reading booklist and a short list of websites. Free educational resources are available for download at a companion publisher website. Reviewer: Debbie Kirchhoff
Kirkus Reviews
A physicist examines the latest nuclear disaster and its ramifications for the world's energy future. On March 11, 2011, at 2:46 p.m., the biggest earthquake in Japan's history hit the Tohoku region, northeast of Tokyo. A wall of water as high as 128 feet and 110 miles wide surged onto the closest land, damaging or destroying more than 125,000 buildings. Thirty thousand people were killed, injured or missing, and more bad news was to come: Three nuclear reactors were about to undergo meltdowns. Using the disaster as a case study to examine how earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear reactors work, Bortz offers a clearly written volume, nicely embellished with photographs, maps and diagrams. All lead into the key question: "Why would any government take the risk of using nuclear power?" In a straightforward, dispassionate tone, he proceeds to answer his own question and lay out the potential of other energy options--hydroelectric, wind, geothermal and solar. Given the catastrophe that spawned this volume, the discussion is curiously non-alarmist, telling young readers that future energy decisions are theirs to make and that wise choices rooted in solid information will be crucial. Regardless of tone, this clear and wide-ranging introduction to essential energy issues has much to offer. (glossary, source notes, bibliography, further reading, websites, index, author's note) (Nonfiction. 11-18)
School Library Journal
Gr 5–9—This title covers the nuclear disaster at Fukushima from the first tremor of the Great Tohoku Earthquake to the aftermath of the meltdown. Bortz uses the present tense to engage readers though this sometimes makes the narrative difficult to follow. A short history and detailed description of nuclear power is full of scientific explanations that can be daunting to readers unfamiliar with the concepts, but the information is valuable. The author also examines the nuclear disasters at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Although some topics are discussed in great detail, others, such as the harm caused by radiation, are glossed over. The last chapter tackles the question of what this recent incident means for our energy future, providing a look at several options but leaning heavily toward properly planned and regulated nuclear plants as the answer. Full-color photographs and detailed diagrams appear on each spread. Purchase widely for the timeliness of the topic, but make sure you have a variety of alternative energy books on your shelves to go with it.—Heather Acerro, Rochester Public Library, MN
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780761386605
  • Publisher: Twenty-First Century Books (CT)
  • Publication date: 1/28/2012
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Edition description: Library Edition
  • Pages: 64
  • Sales rank: 832,827
  • Age range: 12 - 15 Years
  • Lexile: 1000L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.10 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Fred Bortz is a scientist and a writer of science and technology for young people. In his books, articles, blog, Facebook page, and personal appearances, he shares with his audience the joy of discovery that fueled his previous twenty-five-year career in physics, engineering, and science education. He earned his doctorate in physics in 1971 from Carnegie Mellon University, where he worked in research and outreach from 1979 through 1994. From 1974 to 1977, he applied his talent for complex computation in a core design group at Westinghouse Advanced Reactors Division. He is also a regular reviewer of science books for several major metropolitan newspapers.

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