Segments in this Video

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster (01:48)


In 2011, an earthquake off the coast of Japan triggers a giant tsunami that strikes the nuclear power plant. Three hydrogen gas explosions occur, releasing radioactivity into the ocean and air, causing permanent contamination.

Life After Nuclear Fallout (03:49)

Reporter Miles O'Brien travels Japan for six years after the nuclear disaster. Several victims discuss how the Fukushima disaster has affected their lives. Citizens regularly protest, demanding the government shut down all nuclear power plants; plant owners fight to reopen with new fail-safes.

Nuclear or Renewable Energy? (03:16)

Before the Fukushima disaster, Japan derived 30% of its electric power from 54 nuclear reactors with plans to build 24 more; the nation now uses imported fossil fuels to make up the difference. Renewable forms of energy are unreliable; nuclear energy is a baseload carbon-free power source.

Cleaning Up Fukushima (06:30)

Fukushima has become a dangerous decommissioning zone following the disaster. Lake Barrett, who participated in the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant cleanup, assists Japan. A team of scientists and engineers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory is helping TEPCO located where the fuel landed.

Controlling Contaminated Groundwater (05:05)

Contaminated water at Fukushima is the most pressing issue; a plateau above the destroyed reactors houses more than 1,000 tanks. TEPCO builds a barrier to keep the contaminated groundwater from spreading, but water continues to seep.

Responding to Fukushima (04:54)

Biophysicist David Brenner believes everyone living within the Fukushima Prefecture and the surrounding areas are subject to increased cancer risk. Nathan Myhrvold of TerraPower believes the correct response to the Fukushima disaster is to invest heavily in nuclear innovation.

NuScale Power (04:47)

The AP1000 water pumped nuclear reactor, created by Jose Reyes and his team, would have prevented the meltdown at Fukushima. Reyes has also created a small nuclear reactor that generates the same amount of power as a traditional reactor; this model will be tested at the Argonne National Laboratory nuclear testing site.

Understanding Unpopular Nuclear Power (04:42)

The Experimental Breeder Reactor II will shut down in case of failure. Sodium reactors are the safest form of energy generation, but the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster halts their use; the Navy used the reactors to power the first nuclear submarines.

Atoms for Peace (03:41)

President Dwight D. Eisenhower's UN speech on splitting atoms was his push to change people's ideas about nuclear power. He hoped to export American nuclear power technology before the Soviet Union. Nuclear power was increasing until the incident at Three Mile Island.

Searching for Carbon Free Power (04:57)

In response to the need for environmentally friendly energy sources, the federal government funnels money toward nuclear innovation. The director of the Argonne National Laboratory oversees several private projects to improve technology and commercialize generation four reactors. Bill Gates co-founds TerraPower with Nathan Myhrvold.

Nuclear Energy in America (07:26)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is unable to create regulations for new technology created by TerraPower; the company will build its first nuclear reactor in China. A DC-based think tank locates 40 startups developing advanced nuclear power designs.

Credits: The Nuclear Option (00:45)

Credits: The Nuclear Option

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The Nuclear Option

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Five years after the earthquake and tsunami that triggered the unprecedented trio of meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, scientists and engineers are struggling to control an ongoing crisis. What’s next for Fukushima? What’s next for Japan? And what’s next for a world that seems determined to jettison one of our most important carbon-free sources of energy? Despite the catastrophe—and the ongoing risks associated with nuclear—a new generation of nuclear power seems poised to emerge the ashes of Fukushima. NOVA investigates how the realities of climate change, the inherent limitations of renewable energy sources, and the optimism and enthusiasm of a new generation of nuclear engineers is looking for ways to reinvent nuclear technology, all while the most recent disaster is still being managed.

Length: 54 minutes

Item#: BVL166803

Copyright date: ©2017

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