Learn how a nuclear reactor is designed to shut down safely in an emergency, and examine what happened at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck, in this video from NOVA: Nuclear Meltdown Disaster. An emergency response called a SCRAM is designed to stop nuclear fission, or the continuous splitting of uranium atoms that release heat and generate power inside a reactor. While the Fukushima plant reactors initially shut down safely following the earthquake, three reactors did not sufficiently cool and experienced meltdown. Radioactive fuel melted through the different layers of protection in the reactor building, releasing radiation into the environment.
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