Inside the Fukushima Nuclear Crisis

Yoichi Funabashi
Release Date: March 2, 2021

The human drama, and long-term lessons, of the Fukushima nuclear disaster

The Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011 presented an enormous challenge even to Japan, one of the world’s most advanced and organized countries. Failures at all levels—of both the government and the private sector—worsened the human and economic impact of the disaster and ensured that the consequences would continue for many years to come.

Based on interviews with more than 300 government officials, power plant operators, and military personnel during the years since the disaster, Meltdown is a meticulous recounting and analysis of the human stories behind the response to the Fukushima disaster.

While the people battling to deal with the crisis at the site of the power plant were risking their lives, the government at the highest levels in Tokyo was in disarray and the utility company that operated the plants seemed focused more on power struggles with the government than on dealing with the crisis. The author, one of Japan’s most eminent journalists, provides an unrivaled chronological account of the immediate two weeks of human struggle to contain man-made technology that was overwhelmed by nature.

Yoichi Funabashi gives insights into why Japan’s decisionmaking process failed almost as dramatically as had the Fukushima nuclear reactors, which went into meltdown following a major tsunami. Funabashi uses the Fukushima experience to draw lessons on leadership, governance, disaster resilience, and crisis management—lessons that have universal application and pertinence for an increasingly technology-driven and interconnected global society.

You can also listen to Funabashi discuss his new book below.

Praise for Meltdown

“A meticulous account of Japan’s nuclear disaster that stands against any smooth official narrative”
—David Pilling, Financial Times

“This meticulously researched book captures the quiet heroism of TEPCO engineers working to vent the Fukushima reactors mid-meltdown, the elite panic clearly visible among Japanese government representatives, and hard-to-believe moments of pathos and bureaucratic red tape. Readers will be floored to see the confusion about evacuation orders, contradictory mandates from the Japanese prime minister’s office to on-site personnel at the plant, and the blinding ‘fog of war’ that came with the parallel disasters and a bureaucratic silo mentality that permeated all aspects of this crisis.”
—Daniel P. Aldrich, author of Black Wave and Building Resilience, and professor, Northeastern University

“This is an absolutely gripping account of the greatest disaster in Japan’s post-war history. It explains the collective failure of multiple engineering, political, and bureaucratic systems and the selfless heroism of scores of officials, technicians, and men and women in uniform who saved Japan.”
—Michael J. Green, Senior Vice President for Asia and Japan Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies

“Dr. Funabashi is the eminent authority on what really happened at Fukushima, as evidenced in his historic and objective report. There is no more accurate reprisal of what has happened over the last decade than this stunning book. It is a must-read to ensure it never happens again. There simply is no one better to bring these issues to account.”
—Adm. (Ret.) Mike Mullen, U.S. Navy, 17th Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff

“A masterful reconstruction of one of the most dangerous episodes of the nuclear age. Drawing on his unparalleled access to the key actors in both Tokyo and Washington, Funabashi offers a meticulous case study of the do’s and don’ts of crisis management, providing invaluable insights for future decisionmakers.”
—James B. Steinberg, University Professor, Social Science, International Affairs and Law, Syracuse University


Yoichi Funabashi is chairman of Asia Pacific Initiative (AP Initiative), a Tokyo-based think tank that includes the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation (RJIF) as one of its research programs. He was former editor-in-chief of Asahi Shimbun, Japan's foremost newspaper, and his previous books include The Peninsula Question and Managing the Dollar.

Media Coverage

The World 08/03/2021

Author Yoichi Funabashi on Fukushima crisis 10 years later: Nuclear energy was and still is ‘unforgiving’

Financial Times 26/03/2021

Meltdown, by Yoichi Funabashi—a tense thriller revisits Fukushima