Many news reports about the emergency situation in Japan today mention two previous nuclear reactor accidents, those at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. National Geographic published an article online discussing How Is Japan’s Nuclear Disaster Different?
In the aftermath of the multiple failure accident in 1979 at Three Mile Island, John Kemeny, the 13th President of Dartmouth College, chaired Jimmy Carter’s presidential commission on the investigation of the Three Mile Island accident. As a mathematician, Kemeny was skilled in the analysis of complex systems. The report, The need for change, the legacy of TMI : report of the President’s Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island (1979), reviewed multiple areas of failure that led to the partial core meltdown of the Three Mile Island reactor near Harrisburg PA.
As the current situation in Japan evolves, there are many sources you can use to locate news reports, press releases or other explanations related to the nuclear reactor crisis in Japan. A few sources for news are:
To better understand radiation measurements mentioned in news reports, try this Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Radiation Measurement Fact Sheet. The Health Physics Society has reliable information on the health effects of ionizing radiation in addition to up-to-date information on the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.