The Nuclear Disaster in Japan and Our Energy Future

  • Interest Level: Grade 6 - Grade 12
  • Reading Level: Grade 6

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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Interest Level Grade 6 - Grade 12
Reading Level Grade 6
Genre Science, Young Adult
Copyright 2012
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Twenty-First Century Books ™
Language English
Number of Pages 64
Publication Date 2015-08-01
Reading Counts! Level 8.5
Text Type Informational/Explanatory
BISACS YAN050060, YAN050090, YAN055000
Dewey 363.17'990952117
Graphics Full-color illustrations
Dimensions 7 x 10
Lexile 1000
ATOS Reading Level 7.4
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 149337
Accelerated Reader® Points 2.0
Features Awards, Bibliography/further reading, Glossary, Index, Reviewed, Sidebars, Source notes, Table of contents, Teaching Guides, and eSource

Author: Fred Bortz

After a 25-year career as a physicist, Fred Bortz turned to full-time writing in 1996 after his third book for young readers, Catastrophe! Great Engineering Failure—and Success (Scientific American Books for Young Readers, 1995), was designated a Selector's Choice on the National Science Teacher's Association's list of Outstanding Trade Books for Children. His books for Lerner imprints include: Techno-Matter: The Materials Behind the Marvels (Twenty-First Century Books, 2001, winner of the 2002 American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award for works intended for young readers and selected for several best books lists); Collision Course! Cosmic Impacts and Life on Earth (Millbrook Press, 2001, a School Library Journal Top Ten Science and Technology book); Astrobiology (Cool Science series, 2008); Seven Wonders of Exploration Technology (Twenty-First Century Books, 2010); and Seven Wonders of Space Technology (Twenty-First Century Books, 2011).

Lerner eSource™ offers free digital teaching and learning resources, including Common Core State Standards (CCSS) teaching guides. These guides, created by classroom teachers, offer short lessons and writing exercises that give students specific instruction and practice using Common Core skills and strategies. Lerner eSource also provides additional resources including online activities, downloadable/printable graphic organizers, and additional educational materials that would also support Common Core instruction. Download, share, pin, print, and save as many of these free resources as you like!


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.… View available downloads →


  • SSLI Book Award Best Book, Winner, 2013
  • Science Books & Films Best Books, Winner, 2012


The Horn Book Guide

“Bortz clearly explains the science underlying the 2011 disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. After a discussion of earthquakes and tsunamis, the focus shifts to nuclear physics, notorious disasters (including Fukushima), and the debate about the safety of nuclear power and its alternatives. Color diagrams and photographs effectively illustrate the aftermath of the disasters.” —The Horn Book Guide

Library Media Connection

“Bortz is meticulous in his detailing of the events, using spectacular photography, charts, and diagrams to aid the reader in understanding the magnitude of this disaster.” —Library Media Connection

Science Books & Films

“Overall this is a well written presentation of a very difficult and complex topic….Meltdown would be a welcome addition to any school or public library.”—Science Books & Films


“The recounting of the disaster in Japan is a compelling opening for adiscussion 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.” —VOYA


“Broadly informative.” —Booklist

Kirkus Reviews

“This clear and wide-ranging introduction to essential energy issues has much to offer.” —Kirkus Reviews