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

By John Matson

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station BEFORE THE QUAKE: The Fukushima Daiichi plant as it looked before the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Image: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

How does a nuclear reactor work?

How much electricity does nuclear power provide in Japan and elsewhere?

What fuels a nuclear reactor?

How do you turn off a nuclear reaction?

Can a reactor melt down once the nuclear reaction is stopped?

How can a meltdown be averted?

How does this incident compare with Chernobyl or Three Mile Island?

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