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At 2:46 p.m. on March 11, 2011, a 9-magnitude megathrust earthquake triggered a tsunami that slammed into the aging Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant along the country’s northeastern coastline, less than 250 km north of the capital. In the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl, the plant’s power systems failed, causing cooling units to shut down and sending reactor cores into meltdown.

As radiation began spreading over a landscape of rice paddies, dairy farms and fishing villages, Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s efforts at containment involved not only the plant under their management, but limiting access to procedural records, downplaying vulnerabilities and disseminating misinformation. If the Fukushima disaster is a tale of transparency and deceit — of heroism matched by fatal ineptitude — it is also, as the writers of “Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster” characterize it, a “saga of a technology promoted through the careful nurturing of a myth: the myth of safety.”

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