Our Reading List for Following Nuclear News From Japan
If you’re trying to follow the news from Japan, you may be finding that the news is coming out faster than you can actually read it.
We’ve compiled a few resources that we’ve found helpful as we track this developing story. With the news itself overwhelming enough as it is, we’re trying to keep it short so as not to overwhelm with quantity, but feel free to put your suggestions in the comments below.
Resources for news in real time:
As for Twitter, The Globe and Mail's East Asia correspondent @markmackinnon has a good Japan twitter list to follow. The UK's Daily Telegraph (@TelegraphWorld) has another. Energy writer @JesseJenkins has a list specifically on the nuclear crisis. The Japanese government’s press secretary Noriyuki Shikata is also tweeting at @norishikata.
How nuclear plants work and what's at risk of happening:
The Wall Street Journal has good backgrounder on how nuclear reactors work and what went wrong in Japan. It covers the basics, including the difference between a partial meltdown (what’s happened so far) and a full meltdown (the situation that Japan is fighting to avert).
The New York Times also has a helpful interactive for understanding some of the technicalities about nuclear reactors. The Washington Post has a map of nuclear plants in Japan that shows the reach of the evacuation zones overlaid with population density (tab 7).
We've also reported on why the storage of “spent” nuclear fuel is a growing safety concern for Japan—a concern related to but separate from fears of a full meltdown.
The public health angle:
NPR has a short explainer on the iodine tablets being distributed at evacuation centers. We noted that those pills were deemed by U.S. officials in recent years to offer limited protection from the effects of radiation exposure.
About the wider crisis:
The New York Times has a quick look at the current state of things on the ground right now in Japan: More than 2,700 confirmed dead, thousands still missing, and about 400,000 living in makeshift shelters and evacuation centers.
The Times also has before-and-after interactive satellite images showing the devastation to key locales. And the Big Picture blog, as always, has compiled several sets of incredibly heartwrenching photos.
Nuclear safety concerns outside of Japan:
The Post interactive includes a map of nuclear plants in seismic zones around the world (tab 9). It shows that in the United States, two plants in California are located in areas of "very high" degree of seismic hazard.
We’ve also published a piece on the capacity of U.S. nuclear plants to handle a major natural disaster like Japan's. And given the New York Times piece today on the design weaknesses of the reactors used in Japan, McClatchy Newspapers has a piece on the 23 nuclear plants in the U.S. that use the same reactors. General Electric, which designed the reactors, has defended them as safe and reliable.
With the disaster in Japan, we're investigating questions about nuclear safety.
The Story So Far
Following a massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan, hydrogen explosions rocked three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Radioactive spent fuel stored in pools was also affected, especially at one reactor—the plant has a total of six—where multiple fires erupted. Evacuation orders were issued, potassium iodine tablets distributed, and plant employees used seawater and external electrical power to cool the stricken reactors, three of which had a partial core meltdown.