Discovery Guides Areas


The Continuing Effects of Japan's March 11, 2011 Earthquake

(Released February 2012)

  by Kathryn Mori & Carolyn Scearce  


Key Citations





boiling water reactors: A boiling water reactor is type of nuclear reactor that uses water as a coolant, and in turn uses the steam generated from the coolant water to run turbines.

cold shut down: According to the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, “The term used to define a reactor coolant system at atmospheric pressure and at a temperature below 200 degrees Fahrenheit following a reactor cooldown.” See

epicenter: An epicenter is a point on the earth's surface that is directly above the hypocenter, otherwise known as the focus, of an earthquake.

fuel rod pool: Fuel rods are metal tubes containing pellets of uranium-oxide that are bundled together and used in certain types of nuclear reactors. When fuel rods are spent they are still radioactive and initially quite hot so they are stored in deep pools of water to prevent the release of radioactivity.

moment magnitude scale: Moment magnitude scale is the method used for measuring the amount of energy released during earthquakes. It is a log based scale where every increase of 2 points represents a 1000 fold increase in the size of an event.

PTSD: Short for Post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD is a anxiety disorder that can be caused by experiencing a traumatic event.

sea walls: Sea walls are barriers built in coastal zones to protect these areas from flooding during events such as high tides or storm swells.

seismic activity: Seismic activity refers to size, frequency, or regularity of earthquakes that occur in a given area..

tatemae: This is a Japanese word which according to Alex Kerr, the author of Dogs and Demons, means “an official stated position.”  The word is used to signify the Japanese cultural emphasis on maintaining public harmony, sometimes at the cost of failing to disclose all of the facts regarding situations that impact the lives of Japanese citizens.

tsunami: Tsunamis are waves with very long wavelengths and comparatively narrow amplitudes that occur in the ocean or other large bodies of water during events such as earthquakes or landslides.  When tsunami waves come close to shore the wave speed slows down, increasing the amplitude and can cause substantial flooding..