Radioactive Japan (03:32)
On March 11, 2011, Fukushima became the site of three nuclear reactor meltdowns. An engineer in the central control room reflects on the event.
Japan's Earthquake (03:04)
A magnitude 9 earthquake shakes Japan for six minutes.
Nuclear Chain Reaction (03:44)
Learn how technology is used to put the brakes on a nuclear chain reaction. During a scram, the control rods are pushed all the way in, terminating the nuclear reaction.
Destructive Tsunami (03:55)
A diesel electric generator provides power in an emergency to cool the nuclear reactor. A tsunami, with the tallest surge of water 50 feet high, hits Japan's coast. Flood waters destroy generators.
Station Blackout (02:48)
The tsunami destroyed the nuclear plant's cooling system. Masudo sends a team of 40 to inspect the site. Operators experience a station blackout.
Failed Cooling Systems (03:40)
Learn about the outdated and passive system of cooling using isolated condensers. With failed condensers there was nothing left to stop the nuclear meltdown.
Emergency Evacuation (03:19)
Kan fears he will have to issue an evacuation of 50 million people. Operators attempt to vent radiation steam. Kan visits the nuclear reactor sites.
Steam Valve (03:22)
A team is sent to manually open the nuclear reactor's valve to let out steam. Masuda lays cables to restore cooling to the reactors.
Daiichi Explosion (04:12)
Inagaki discusses destruction of the top of the reactor building at Daiichi. Work to lay cable at Daini begins.
Nuclear Reactor Meltdown (03:32)
Car batteries are used to power steam valves. Fearing another hydrogen explosion, workers are retracted then set out again. On March 14, Unit 3 of Daiichi explodes.
Cooling Fuel Pools (03:52)
On March 15, Unit 4 explodes. Six hundred workers are ordered to evacuate, and the "Fukushima fifty" stay behind. Workers finish running cooling cables at Daini.
Tokyo Fire Department (03:55)
Casto explains his experience arriving at Fukushima Diichi. Self-defense forces helicopters dump sea water onto Unit 3's spent fuel pool. The Tokyo Fire Department joins the mission.
Nuclear Fallout (03:15)
In the days and weeks ahead, the condition of the nuclear reactors plateaus. On March 21, power is restored to the plants. The answers start trickling in.
A Cold Shutdown (04:18)
One month later, the hot melted cores drop below the boiling point of water. Superintendent Yoshida is reprimanded for dumping corrosive seawater onto the reactors. Learn about Fukushima four years later.
Credits: Nuclear Meltdown Disaster (01:23)
Credits: Nuclear Meltdown Disaster
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