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Special Report

The Japan Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Crisis

On March 11, a powerful, magnitude 9.0 quake hit northeastern Japan, triggering a tsunami with 10-meter-high waves that reached the U.S. west coast. Here's the science behind the disaster

How Radiation Threatens Health

As worries grow over radiation leaks at Fukushima, is it possible to gauge the immediate and lasting health effects of radiation exposure? Here's the science behind radiation sickness and other threats facing Japan

March 15, 2011 — Nina Bai

What Happens During a Nuclear Meltdown?

Nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi station in Japan are critically endangered but have not reached full meltdown status. Our nuclear primer explains what that means and how the situation compares with past nuclear accidents

March 15, 2011 — John Matson

Japan earthquake: The explainer

Around 3 P.M. local time on Friday, there was a massive earthquake about 100 miles off the east coast of northern Honshu Island, Japan. Initially calculated to be a magnitude 8.9, it has since been upgraded to at least a magnitude 9.0, which means that this earthquake released around 8,000 times more energy than the magnitude 6.3 shock that rocked Christchurch last month.

March 14, 2011 — Chris Rowan

The essential lesson from the Japan earthquake for the U.S.

As we watch in the images rolling in from Japan we are yet again reminded of the sudden destructive potential of mother Earth. The number of fatalities is currently in the hundreds; the number displaced from their homes is in the tens of thousands. The tsunami generated by this magnitude 8.9 earthquake sent a wall of water sweeping across Japan, and across the Pacific. It was more than 30 feet high in places and reached six miles inland carrying cars, homes and everything else with it. Although the earthquake was 230 miles northeast of Tokyo, this was the worst shaking that people have felt in a city used to earthquakes. Explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station have leaked radioactive material into the surrounding area, and we will undoubtedly hear of other catastrophic impacts over the next few days.

March 12, 2011 — Richard Allen

How to Cool a Nuclear Reactor

Japan's devastating earthquake caused cooling problems at one of the nation's nuclear reactors, and authorities scrambled to prevent a meltdown

March 11, 2011 — David Biello

Beware the fear of nuclear....FEAR!

It is frightening to watch what’s going on with Japan’s nuclear plant at Fukushima. It is also worrying to watch the fear racing around the world as a result of those events, fear that in some cases is far in excess of what’s going on, or even the worst case scenarios of what might happen.

March 12, 2011 — David Ropeik