On a planet undergoing severe climate change because of the burning of fossil fuels, some argue that nuclear energy is a smart energy alternative. But in the insightful Fallout: Disasters, Lies, and the Legacy of the Nuclear Age, London environmental journalist Fred Pearce (The Land Grabbers) questions that logic after visiting nuclear disaster zones in Russia, Japan and the United States.
In Russia, a scientist who has helped monitor the aftermath of the 1957 Mayak reactor disaster describes for Pearce the lax safety regulations that have been a long-time staple of the power plant: "Until 1955, even pregnant women worked on plutonium products," he says. In Japan, Pearce visits the evacuated villages near Fukushima, where nuclear reactors melted down and exploded after being flooded by a tsunami in 2011. The villages have become home to several plant and animal species that are thriving in the absence of humanity. This is, Pearce argues, the happiest legacy of nuclear energy on planet Earth.
Most terrifying are Pearce's discoveries of government cover-up. He presents evidence of government officials in Japan, Russia, Britain and the United States failing to warn the public about the dangers of nuclear energy. In Russia, the government went so far as to refuse to send help to fallout victims in the name of national security. Part history lesson and part call to action, Fallout is an eye-opening and much-needed addition to the literature on nuclear power. --Amy Brady, freelance writer and editor