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Nuclear Meltdown Explained, and Everything Else You Need to Know About the Situation at Fukushima [Updated]

The basics behind a nuclear meltdown, and answers to other earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster FAQs.


Updated: The New York Times has an incredibly illustrative infographic about how a meltdown occurs, and how a reactor shuts down. It's a must see.

Original post: As the situation at the Fukushima district nuclear power plants in Japan has escalated from issue to emergency, a lot of people have been asking for a basic explanation of what exactly a meltdown is. This Reuters video—specific to the Fukushima plant—was the best, most clear and simple description that I could find.


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(A quick reminder that we're constantly updating our list of ways to help and support the rescue and relief efforts in Japan.)

No doubt, you have more questions about the tragic situation unfolding in Japan. I've personally found this Union of Concerned Scientists "Fact Sheet" (PDF) to be invaluable. It gives some background on nuclear accidents and crises, and breaks down the terminology used to describe them. In fact, the UCS's entire "All Things Nuclear" page is a resource worth bookmarking as you follow along and try to make sense of what's really happening in Japan.

Treehugger's Michael Graham Richard also tackles some "Frequently Asked Questions"—Can Japan's nuclear power plants explode like a nuclear bomb?; Is a repeat of what happened at Chernobyl likely? What kind of radiation exposure can be expected, and what are the potential health effects?—in his very helpful post.

Speaking more generally of earthquakes, Kiera Butler at Mother Jones talked to Morgan Moschetti, a research geophysicist at the United States Geological Survey, to get answers to a whole bunch of other basic earthquake questions that you might be afraid to ask.

Back to the nuclear emergency, to better understand how a dire situation can turn into a full-blown disaster, the obvious case study is Chernobyl. This interactive slideshow by RIA Novosti is probably the best and most comprehensive explanation I've ever come across. (Thanks, Ann!)

Image: Fukushima Dai-ichi after March 14 explosion in reactor No. 3., from Digital Globe (PDF).

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Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

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This election cycle, six women threw their hat in the ring for president, but is their gender holding them back? Would Americans feel comfortable with a woman leading the free world? Based on the last election, the answer is a swift no. And a new study backs this up. The study found that only 49% of American men would feel very comfortable with a woman serving as the head of the government. By comparison, 59% of women said they would feel comfortable with a woman in charge.

The Reykjavik Index for Leadership, which measures attitude towards women leaders, evaluated the attitudes of those living in the G7 countries as well as Brazil, China, India, and Russia. 22,000 adults in those 11 countries were surveyed on their attitudes about female leadership in 22 different sectors, including government, fashion, technology, media, banking and finance, education, and childcare.

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After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

RELATED: Joe Namath Says Colin Kaepernick And Eric Reid Should Be Playing In The NFL

"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

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Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.

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