Initial Publication Date: March 14, 2011

Japan's Nuclear Emergency, March, 2011

Image courtesy of Click image to enlarge.

Compiled by Karin Kirk and Monica Bruckner, SERC.

The magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck Japan on March 11, 2011 resulted in emergency shutdowns at many of Japan's nuclear power plants. At the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, a loss of electricity allowed three reactors to overheat. Despite ongoing attempts to cool the reactors, partial meltdowns of the reactor cores likely occured.

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Google Earth Blog: Great collection of resources for the Fukushima power plant (more info) This Google Earth blog entry features a single network link from Valery Hronusov devoted to the Fukushima power plant. The file is packed with information about the plant -- photo overlays, 3D buildings, photos, videos and more.

Forecast for Plume's Path Is a Function of Wind and Weather (more info) This animated map is based on a forecast by the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization. The map shows how weather patterns might disperse radiation from a continuous source in Fukushima, Japan. The forecast does not show actual levels of radiation.

How a Reactor Shuts Down and What Happens in a Meltdown (more info) This page from the New York Times contains two sets of interactive visuals. The first illustrates the loss of cooling at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant. The second visual portrays a possible series of events that caused explosions at the power plant.

Video: How Japan's Nuclear Crisis Unfolded (more info) CNN's Anderson Cooper takes a look back at how troubles at a Japanese nuclear plant have unfolded. This synopsis begins with the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011 and runs through March 16.

Video: Nuclear Reactor Problem Explained (more info) This video from Japan's NHK network explains nuclear reactors and how three safety systems failed during the earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

Interactive: A Visual Guide Inside Japan's Reactors (more info) This page from NPR contains interactive diagrams and an animation showing problems leading to partial meltdowns at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant following the March 2011 earthquake.

Raw Video: Smoke Pours From Japan Nuclear Plant (more info) News footage of the explosion on Saturday March 12, 2011 at the Unit 1 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Japan Races to Avert Multiple Nuclear Meltdowns (more info) Japan's nuclear crisis intensified Sunday as authorities raced to combat the threat of multiple reactor meltdowns and more than 170,000 people evacuated the northeastern coast where fears spread over possible radioactive contamination. (March 13, 2011)

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Information and Reports

Timeline: A Nuclear Crisis Unfolds In Japan (more info) This interactive timeline shows the sequence of events as operators at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant have struggled to contain the reactor problems that followed the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. Each day in the timeline contains links to related news stories and blog posts.
Primer: Japan's Nuclear Crisis (more info) This article, by NPR, details the nuclear crisis in Japan following damage to Japanese nuclear power plants following the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Timeline: How Japan's nuclear crisis unfolded (more info) A timeline of events, from CNN, at efforts to contain the damage and avert a potential nuclear meltdown. (all times and dates are local).

Japan's Quake and Nuclear Emergency Coverage (more info) From IEEE, this site hosts continuing news and analysis of the events following the 2011 earthquake.

Japan Races to Avert Multiple Nuclear Meltdowns (more info) Japan's nuclear crisis intensified Sunday as authorities raced to combat the threat of multiple reactor meltdowns and more than 170,000 people evacuated the northeastern coast where fears spread over possible radioactive contamination. (March 13, 2011)

IAEA Update on Japan Earthquake (more info) News from the International Atomic Energy Agency on the 2011 Japan nuclear emergency stemming from damage caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Nuclear Power's Global Fallout Science magazine has created a map that provides a snapshot of the number of nuclear reactors in operation and under construction worldwide, locations of power plants in relation to seismic hazard zones, and reactions to events in Japan in some countries.

False map about nuclear fallout - This website from describes a false map showing nuclear fallout affecting the Western US.

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Other Nuclear Power Accidents

Meltdown at Three Mile Island (more info) Part 1 of a 6 part series provides a perspective of the Three Mile Island accident, with a minute-by-minute summary of the events that occurred during the partial meltdown. (9 minutes)

Background on the Three Mile Island Accident (more info) This summary by the Nuclear Regulatory Agency describes how the sequence of certain events – equipment malfunctions, design-related problems and worker errors – led to a partial meltdown of the TMI‑2 reactor core but only very small off‑site releases of radioactivity.

Revisiting Chernobyl 20 Years Later (more info) This page by the International Atomic Energy Agency contains videos, a photo gallery, questions and answers, reports and a timeline of the Chernobyl accident.

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Visualizations about Nuclear Power

Nuclear Fission Simulation (more info) A PhET simulation showing nuclear fission. Companion activities are linked from the simulation page.

Ping Pong Ball Fission (more info) This video presents a dynamic demonstration of a nuclear fission chain reaction using ping pong balls and rat traps. The work is presented by the AP Chemistry Class at the Horizon Science Academy Cleveland High School. Approximately 300 mousetraps and 600 ping pong balls were used in the culminating experiment to show the reaction.

Animation of nuclear fission (more info) This is a simple animation of nuclear fission, showing atomic nuclei splitting apart, neutrons being emitted, and other atoms splitting as a result of being hit by a neutron.

Reactor Types (more info) This site from the NRC provides animated diagrams of the two types of nuclear reactors used in the US, the pressurized water reactor and the boiling water reactor.

Pressurized Water Reactor (more info) Narrated animation of a pressurized water reactor in a nuclear power plant

Safety Features of a Boiling Water Reactor (more info) This animation describes a series of safety systems in GE's Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR)

Radiation Dose Chart (more info) This is an illustration of the ionizing radiation dose a person can absorb from various sources. It provides a visual comparison of doses ranging from 0.1 microsieverts (from eating a banana) to a fatal dose of 8 sieverts.
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Teaching Materials related to Nuclear Power


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