A one-year anniversary special examining the future of nuclear power after the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan. Some scientists believe the accident was a significant setback for nuclear in the U.S. But climate concerns are a factor — 70% of carbon-free energy comes from nuclear power, with more than 60 nuclear reactors under construction worldwide.

What have we learned from Japan … and now what?

Among many stories, Alex Chadwick conducts an exclusive interview with an American nuclear technician who was working inside the Daiichi plant when the earthquake and tsunami struck. You will also hear tape recordings from inside the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Emergency Operations Center, as it struggled to shape America’s response to the Fukushima disaster. Chadwick speaks with PBS Newshour’s Miles O’Brien, just back from Japan, about recovery efforts. Chadwick also profiles Greg Hardy, a Los Angeles-based engineer who has spent much of his career examining the vulnerability of nuclear plants to earthquakes. And you’ll hear a story about the next generation of nuclear reactors, so small they can fit on flatbed trucks.

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Listen to the BURN Radio Special

Full Broadcast (54 minutes in three segments)



Segment A

Part 1: Fukushima Witness

Alex speaks with Carl Pillitteri, an American nuclear technician who was working inside Fukushima Daiichi when the earthquake and tsunami hit. A Burn exclusive interview.

Alex Chadwick Carl Pillitteri Alex interviews Carl
Alex interviews Carl Carl outside the Ikoi eatery he frequented Earthquake aftermath inside Ikoi


For more on Carl Pillitteri’s experience

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Part 2: Nuclear Regulatory Commission reaction

Hear tape recordings from inside the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Emergency Operations Center, as it struggled to shape America’s response to the Fukushima disaster.

Aerial view of the meltdown
Aftermath at Fukushima Daiichi
The NRC office


For more on the NRC’s reaction

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PBS Newshour’s Miles O’Brien, recently back from Japan, says Japanese government under political pressure to clean up 20K exclusion zone around the Fukusima Daiichi plant.

PBS NEWSHOUR’s Miles O’Brien suits up to go inside the hot zone at Fukushima
The evacuated Manami Elementary School in Narahan, inside the 20km hot zone
Hitomi Uchimi, principal at Manami Elementary
The footprint of cesium-137 fallout …
… does not match the neat circles of the evacuation zones
Miles takes a reading 1Km from the Fukushima site
Biological samples stored in liquid nitrogen and 65 deep freezers
Researchers analyze stem cells and abnormal chromosomes
Looking for signs of damage


For more

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Segment B

Part 1: Greg and Luann Hardy

Hardy and his wife live between nuclear plants along California’s coast. He’s a structural engineer specializing in nuclear plant design and seismic risk who feels safe even as she doesn’t.

Greg and Luann Hardy
Greg Hardy
Greg Hardy


For more

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Part 2: Gorleben Salt Dome

Germany has been considering the Gorleban salt dome as a permanent resting place for nuclear waste. Residents have resisted for more than thirty years.

Gartow, Germany
Cori Princell
Klaus Pohlandt
Peter Ward
Gorleben Salt Dome
Gorleben Salt Dome
Examining a new measuring system for hydrocarbons
Peter and Klaus


For more on storing nuclear waste
  • READ (below): Akiro Tokuhiro Nuclear Storage Explainer

QUESTION:  How long does radioactive waste have to be managed and stored for it not to be dangerous?

ANSWER:  This depends on the chemical element of isotope (also called radioisotope, radionuclide).

There is a prescriptive level under which the waste can be declassified from being radioactive waste to perhaps just (non-radioactive) waste.

For long-lived plutonium isotope, this is a VERY long time.

For strontium and cesium isotopes of concern, the half-life is approximately 30 years.

After 90 years, the radioactivity is down to about 5% (95% decayed away) of the original activity.  But activity is only part of the story. One has to also consider that mass (amount) of waste that needs to be managed.

Example: The smell of cow dung dissipates over time but the amount of cow dung is also a waste management issue; that is, both the smell and amount of dung have to be considered in waste management planning.

~ Akira Tokuhiro, PhD.


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Segment C

Part 1: Eunice, New Mexico

Eunice is an oil town whose residents are also proud to host a nuclear enrichment plant.

Eunice City sign
(photo: Robin Wise)
New Mexico discovery well
(photo: Robin Wise)


Part 2: Small Scale Reactor

Alex speaks with Jose Reyes, an Oregon State University nuclear engineer who is developing small scale nuclear reactors.

Alex and Jose Reyes
(photo: Robin Wise)
NuScale Test Reactor
(photo: Robin Wise) 


Part 3: Alex’s Essay

With the writing style and vocal delivery that has won him fans across the country, BURN’s host describes the blue glow of nuclear reactors.

The Cerenkov Effect


For more information


  • LISTEN:  Hiroshima Peace Institute’s Robert Jacobs says Japanese survivors of WWII nuclear blasts suffer discrimination


  • LISTEN: Richard Lester, chair of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at M.I.T., says nuclear reactors will look very different in a few decades, just as today’s cars have developed since the 1950’s



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Next Story >> BURN Radio Special #2: The Hunt for Oil: Risks and Rewards