Brief overview of events:

Around 14:46 of March 11, massive earthquakes with the magnitude of 9.0 struck Sanriku Coast, Japan. Waves of tsunami of more than 7 meters swept cities and villages of Tohoku district off the Pacific Ocean, causing devastating human as well as physical damages. Tokyo also observed tremors with a seismic intensity of 5-strong, but damage there was relatively modest. Aftershocks still persist, particularly in Tohoku district. The earthquake and tsunami resulted in emergency situations including failure of the reactor-cooling systems in TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company)’s nuclear power stations in Fukushima Prefecture. Responses have been taken with regards to these situations. The extent of the damage:

  1. (1) The earthquake and tsunami devastated Tohoku district and other regions. Damages were inflicted in Kanto district, too. The number of deaths is 8,133, the number of the injured is 2,612, and the number of missing is 12,272 (as of March 20 at 12:00 accordning to the National Police Agency). The number of those evacuated is approximately 367,000 (as of March 19 at 20:00 according to the National Police Agency).
  2. (2) In Tohoku district and other regions, lifelines (including electricity, gas, and water), roads, railways, airports, and other infrastructures were severely damaged. In many areas, electricity, gas and water are disconnected, and transportation systems remain almost paralyzed

News updates:

The Prime Minister’s Office and His Cabinet (kantei) – press releases and important information

To read updated provisional English translations of Prime Minister Kan’s announcements on the current situation, please check:

TEPCO press releases

Japan Atomic Industrial Forum

Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA)

Japan Metereological Agency

Relief Web

MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology) information links

IAEA updates (latest 19th Mar)

NHK World Radio Japan in English

Reuters Reuters Top News FLASH: U.S. recommends U.S. citizens who live within 80km of Fukushima nuclear plant evacuate or take shelter indoors

Fukushima one week on: Situation ‘stable’, says IAEA • The

U.S. recommends U.S. citizens who live within 80km of Fukushima nuclear plant evacuate or take shelter indoors

Analysis Updates:

MIT NSE Nuclear Information Hub

Everything you never wanted to know about containments

Some perspective on the Japan Earthquake

Newspapers thrive on sensationalism. Headlines like second ‘explosion’ and “Radiation hazard detected: Massive leak feared…” sell papers, but what do those explosions mean?  Some of the explosions have been planned measures  part of the process of stabilizing the  reactor’s pressure and temperatures – and are therefore expected and mean that things are progressing as expected.

“For example, every hour the plant must submit paperwork to the safety agencies (I have come across some of these in my online searches). In doing so they assume that readers all have the same understanding of technical terms (since they are submitting them to other scientists & engineers not to the general public). Technical terms include words like “vent” that seem self-evident to us but they are not. In fact there is a very specific definition for that and unless you understand the real meaning of these terms you are not going to be able to interpret what is going on. So “vent” is only used to mean venting through certain filters and at certain levels for example or a different term must be used.” — Mindy Harris

In the case of other explosions, it is the outer building which exploded NOT the nuclear reactor which houses the nuclear rods and fuels.

In any event, follow the succinct and sequential explanations on MIT’s NSE Nuclear Information Hub on what happened at the Fukushima Nuclear Facility:
Unit 2 Explosion and Unit 4 Spent Fuel Pool Fire – this explosion is deemed more serious than those of Unit 1 and 3, and explains why.
MIT NSE explains what is decay heat?
Related links:
Rupture in containment vessel feared (Mar 16, 2011 Japan Times)
Status of Fukushima reactors (sidebar to Japan Times article)
ABCs of Japan’s Nuclear Reactor Disaster (By the Union of Concerned Scientists)

Japan – Next Steps March 16, 2011

UCEAP officials in California and in Tokyo continue working around-the-clock and consulting with experts to provide factual and scientifically accurate information. The University of California security provider has been working closely with University of California officials to assess the current situation with the reactors and to provide updated and factual information.  Their current advice is that evacuation of students from areas located more than 124 miles from reactors is not necessary nor recommended; Tokyo is 140 miles south of the reactors. While indicators suggest radiation has been detected in Tokyo, the amounts are currently trace and do not warrant significant concern.  In the event of a full meltdown, due to the reactor design a massive explosion and major dispersion of particulate into the upper atmosphere is extremely unlikely. As of March 16, 06:30 PST, there are no indicators suggesting that the inner core containment vessel has been breached.