The Tohoku earthquake struck just before three on a Friday afternoon. Massive earthquake damage was followed by tsunami rising to heights of 40 meters that swept 10km inland, scouring the land of homes, schools, communities, and people. The earthquake and tsunami alone were disasters of incredible proportion, resulting in over 15,000 deaths, over 100,000 buildings destroyed, and economic losses estimated as high as $235 billion by the World Bank.
And that was only the natural disaster.
The manmade disaster began the same day, as the tsunami swept over the seawall of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, flooding the facility and destroying much of its equipment, including its onsite emergency power generators. Cut off from all external power sources, the reactors and spent fuel-rod assemblies began to overheat.
Three reactors suffered meltdowns. Hydrogen gas explosions blew apart the outer containment buildings on three reactors. And the world watched as Japan struggled to bring the situation under control before the worst scenario came to pass.
Despite further natural and manmade obstacles, the men and women at the plant succeeded in their efforts, gradually bringing the reactors under control, restoring power, and edging back, one inch at a time, from the very brink of disaster.
This is their story, based on extensive interviews with the people who fought and won that battle, and especially with Masao Yoshida, the man who drove them all to get the job done.
Here at last is the inside story of what they faced, what resources and information they had to work with, and why they made the decisions they did.