Editor selections by Topic and Unit

The Physics Front is a free service provided by the AAPT in partnership with the NSF/NSDL.

Detail Page

Item Picture
published by the New York Times Company
This Flash interactive gives an animated view of a boiling-water reactor, such as the design of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan (severely damaged in the 2011 tsunami). It explains the process of a water-cooled system and depicts what happens if the cooling system fails when water levels drop unexpectedly. If enough water boils off (which occurred at Fukushima) the fuel rods can become exposed, allowing radiation to escape into the atmosphere. The only "solution" may be to pour cold water into the storage pools, which in turn, causes additional hazards.

Editor's Note: This article could be used effectively in an instructional unit on nuclear reactions, radioactivity, and societal implications of technology. Since the Fukushima disaster, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has made formal recommendations for changes to power plants in America, many of which have the same boiling-water design as the Japanese plant. See related materials for a link to additional resources on this topic.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Modern Physics
- Nuclear Physics
= Nuclear Reactions
= Radioactivity
Thermo & Stat Mech
- Thermal Properties of Matter
- High School
- Middle School
- Elementary School
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Interactive Simulation
- Audio/Visual
= Movie/Animation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
  • Currently 0.0/5

Want to rate this material?
Login here!

Intended Users:
Access Rights:
Free access
© 2011 New York Times Company
nuclear energy, nuclear fuel rods, nuclear meltdown, nuclear plant, nuclear power, nuclear power plant, nuclear reactor, nuclear reactor animation, power plant
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created July 24, 2011 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
July 24, 2011 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
March 18, 2011

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

3. The Nature of Technology

3B. Design and Systems
  • 6-8: 3B/M4a. Systems fail because they have faulty or poorly matched parts, are used in ways that exceed what was intended by the design, or were poorly designed to begin with.
  • 6-8: 3B/M4b. The most common ways to prevent failure are pretesting of parts and procedures, overdesign, and redundancy.
  • 9-12: 3B/H4. Risk analysis is used to minimize the likelihood of unwanted side effects of a new technology. The public perception of risk may depend, however, on psychological factors as well as scientific ones.
  • 9-12: 3B/H5. The more parts and connections a system has, the more ways it can go wrong. Complex systems usually have components to detect, back up, bypass, or compensate for minor failures.
3C. Issues in Technology
  • 6-8: 3C/M2. Technology cannot always provide successful solutions to problems or fulfill all human needs.
  • 6-8: 3C/M5. New technologies increase some risks and decrease others. Some of the same technologies that have improved the length and quality of life for many people have also brought new risks.
  • 6-8: 3C/M6. Rarely are technology issues simple and one-sided. Relevant facts alone, even when known and available, usually do not settle matters. That is because contending groups may have different values and priorities. They may stand to gain or lose in different degrees, or may make very different predictions about what the future consequences of the proposed action will be.
  • 6-8: 3C/M7. Societies influence what aspects of technology are developed and how these are used. People control technology (as well as science) and are responsible for its effects.
  • 6-8: 3C/M9. In all technologies, there are always trade-offs to be made.
  • 9-12: 3C/H3. In deciding on proposals to introduce new technologies or curtail existing ones, some key questions arise concerning possible alternatives, who benefits and who suffers, financial and social costs, possible risks, resources used (human, material, or energy), and waste disposal.

4. The Physical Setting

4D. The Structure of Matter
  • 9-12: 4D/H4. The nucleus of radioactive isotopes is unstable and spontaneously decays, emitting particles and/or wavelike radiation. It cannot be predicted exactly when, if ever, an unstable nucleus will decay, but a large group of identical nuclei decay at a predictable rate. This predictability of decay rate allows radioactivity to be used for estimating the age of materials that contain radioactive substances.
4E. Energy Transformations
  • 9-12: 4E/H6. Energy is released whenever the nuclei of very heavy atoms, such as uranium or plutonium, split into middleweight ones, or when very light nuclei, such as those of hydrogen and helium, combine into heavier ones. For a given quantity of a substance, the energy released in a nuclear reaction is very much greater than the energy given off in a chemical reaction.
4G. Forces of Nature
  • 9-12: 4G/H6. The nuclear forces that hold the protons and neutrons in the nucleus of an atom together are much stronger than the electric forces between the protons and electrons of the atom. That is why much greater amounts of energy are released from nuclear reactions than from chemical reactions.
ComPADRE is beta testing Citation Styles!

Record Link
AIP Format
(New York Times Company, New York, 2011), WWW Document, (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/03/12/world/asia/the-explosion-at-the-japanese-reactor.html?ref=asia).
New York Times: Hazards of Storing Spent Fuel (New York Times Company, New York, 2011), <http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/03/12/world/asia/the-explosion-at-the-japanese-reactor.html?ref=asia>.
APA Format
New York Times: Hazards of Storing Spent Fuel. (2011, March 18). Retrieved June 20, 2024, from New York Times Company: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/03/12/world/asia/the-explosion-at-the-japanese-reactor.html?ref=asia
Chicago Format
New York Times Company. New York Times: Hazards of Storing Spent Fuel. New York: New York Times Company, March 18, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/03/12/world/asia/the-explosion-at-the-japanese-reactor.html?ref=asia (accessed 20 June 2024).
MLA Format
New York Times: Hazards of Storing Spent Fuel. New York: New York Times Company, 2011. 18 Mar. 2011. 20 June 2024 <http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/03/12/world/asia/the-explosion-at-the-japanese-reactor.html?ref=asia>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {New York Times: Hazards of Storing Spent Fuel}, Publisher = {New York Times Company}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {20 June 2024}, Month = {March 18, 2011}, Year = {2011} }
Refer Export Format

%T New York Times: Hazards of Storing Spent Fuel %D March 18, 2011 %I New York Times Company %C New York %U http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/03/12/world/asia/the-explosion-at-the-japanese-reactor.html?ref=asia %O application/flash

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %D March 18, 2011 %T New York Times: Hazards of Storing Spent Fuel %I New York Times Company %V 2024 %N 20 June 2024 %8 March 18, 2011 %9 application/flash %U http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/03/12/world/asia/the-explosion-at-the-japanese-reactor.html?ref=asia

Disclaimer: ComPADRE offers citation styles as a guide only. We cannot offer interpretations about citations as this is an automated procedure. Please refer to the style manuals in the Citation Source Information area for clarifications.

Citation Source Information

The AIP Style presented is based on information from the AIP Style Manual.

The APA Style presented is based on information from APA Style.org: Electronic References.

The Chicago Style presented is based on information from Examples of Chicago-Style Documentation.

The MLA Style presented is based on information from the MLA FAQ.

New York Times: Hazards of Storing Spent Fuel:

Same topic as NPR: U.S. Must Make Nuclear Plants Safer

This article from National Public Radio summarizes a 2011 study by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the aftermath of the Japanese nuclear reactor disaster. Conclusions: "U.S. plants need to be better prepared for what doomed the Japanese plants...."

relation by Caroline Hall
Supplements NOVA: Inside a Nuclear Control Room

This NOVA-created Flash interactive features an exact replica of a working nuclear power plant in New England -- the same cooling design as the failed Japanese Fukushima plant.

relation by Caroline Hall

Know of another related resource? Login to relate this resource to it.
Save to my folders



Related Materials

Similar Materials