A nuclear power station is built around a tiny little reaction reaction that happens as atoms are split apart. This tiny process is contained in several protective layers that are built to protect the outside environment from radiation emitted from the process and the breakdown. When the earthquake hit Japan last week, these protective measures were compromised, prompting evacuations and helicopter water dumps. We’ve put together a list of links to help you understand what’s going at Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and what experts are saying about the threat.
First, an overview. See the Washington Post’s explainer, Japan’s nuclear emergency, for excellent graphics and explanation of what’s being compromised in the reactors and what could happen.
Tech magazine IEEE Spectrum has a detailed explanation of how Japan’s nuclear plant was built and what went wrong, including a detailed timeline of events. World Nuclear News covers the engineering challenges workers faced post-earthquake and through this crisis.
Learn about the containment mechanisms and the impacts of containment failure at Union of Concerned Scientists.
The health risks of radiation poisoning can be fatal at high levels. The Health Physics Society is tracking news and reports regarding health impacts on their Facebook page.
Computer models show that radiation can hit the US, and the EPA is closely monitoring radiation levels in the US. The New York Times has been tracking radiation levels in Japan.
We will update this post as more resources become available.