March 15th, 2011
06:30 PM ET

Timeline: How Japan's nuclear crisis unfolded

Bryony Jones

(CNN) - Authorities in Japan are battling to resolve a series of crises at the nuclear power plant at Fukushima Daiichi, which was badly hit by last Friday's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Here's a look at efforts to contain the damage and avert a potential nuclear meltdown. (all times and dates are local).

Friday, March 11

2.46 p.m. (0.46 a.m. ET/5.46 a.m. GMT): A magnitude 9.0 earthquake strikes an area 370 kilometers (230 miles) northeast of Tokyo, Japan, at a depth of 24.5 kilometers.

The offshore quake, the fifth largest worldwide since records began, sparks a major tsunami warning across the Pacific. Within an hour a wall of water up to 9 meters (30 feet) high hits the Japanese coast, sweeping away towns and villages in its path.

The quake causes serious damage at Tokyo Electric Power Company's (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, about 65 kilometers south of Sendai. Three of the plant's six reactors, which came into service between 1970 and 1979, were already shut down for inspection at the time the disaster struck. Those still in operation are designed to also shut down in the event of a quake, with diesel generators pumping water around the reactors to keep them cool.

But when the tsunami hits, flood water swamps the generators, causing them to fail. The reactors begin to heat up.

8.15 p.m.: The Japanese government declares an emergency at Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

10.30 p.m.: Authorities reveal the cooling system at the plant is not working, and admit they are "bracing for the worst."

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soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Emin Alihodic

    Fukushima Nuclear Plant

    Listening to the Anderson Cooper tonight, it’s obvious; this is BP all over again, just on a more deadly level.

    It seems we have learned nothing from last year’s disaster in the Gulf! What does it take for the Japanese Government to step in or is there something more alarming going on already?


    March 15, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
  2. Lloyd Scarberry

    It is so sad that this tradgedy is happening. May our prayers and goodwill go out to everyone affected by these horrific events. It takes a few minutes to destroy a civilization, But it will take years to rebuild one. However the Japanese people are a very resourceful and determined people. With that said I know they will preveil.

    March 15, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
  3. Annie Hammell

    loveCNN I am just one person in a small town in Alberta Canada but I and many of my freinds are very fearful and concerned about what is happening in Japan in all it is almost unbelievable to watch and the nuclear concerns are causing what if panic this panic and fear is under the radar at the moment but I and many others fear the events happening around the world at present are only the beginning please tell me we are not alone in our concerns for our health Thank You

    March 15, 2011 at 9:15 pm |