My Nuclear Nightmare: Leading Japan through the Fukushima disaster to a nuclear-free future

By Naoto Kan, translated by Jeffrey S. Irish, Cornell University Press, 2017, hardcover $24.95, 200 pp., ISBN 978-1-5017-0581-6

This is a worthwhile story of politics based upon science and technology, written by Naoto Kan who served as Prime Minister of Japan during the Fukushima disaster, dealing with the initial earthquake, its initial effects and the recovery efforts.

In the prologue we learn how, as a university science student, he turned to politics. Kan learned to be against nuclear power via considering his government’s reaction to the “Fukushima Disaster”, and its interaction with the private corporation (TEPCO) owning the Fukushima reactors. Kan describes how the disorganized private corporation tried to walk away from the disaster. His government had to force all parties — the corporate executives, the technical and non-technical government officials, the politicians, the police and fire departments (local and national), and the military — to cooperate to minimize the damage and initiate the recovery process.

The long second chapter is a daily account of the bureaucratic processes and snafus from the viewpoint of Prime Minister Kan: “There was no bottom, so there was no choice but to work from the top down. Actually there was no ‘Down’ to go to, so the top (the prime minister’s office) had no choice but to do the work… The reason there is no organization for the containment of a nuclear accident is because an accident was not supposed to occur.”

The remaining two chapters describe Kan's resignation from office and give insights into the Japanese Parliamentary system. He ends up being strongly opposed to nuclear power and suggesting possible alternatives for the Japanese energy economy. Many other books have dealt with the scientific aspects of the Fukushima event, few have dealt with the political and social aspects as this book successfully does.

Alvin M. Saperstein
Professor Emeritus of Physics & Fellow of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies
Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48202

These contributions have not been peer-refereed. They represent solely the view(s) of the author(s) and not necessarily the view of APS.