If im not mistaken the plants lost power and there was no other way to pump water to the cooling towers setting up a chain of events that either may or will lead to a full out meltdown.
That's not entirely correct. This was a triple failure. The earthquake severed the power lines operating the pumps, as a result of which the backup generators kicked on. Minutes later, the tsunami washed through and destroyed the backup generators. In the following days, with grid power still not available, hydrogen explosions and fires pretty much destroyed the rest of the plants' systems, and ensured that any containment measures taken would be irreversible. That's worth repeating: as soon as they had the opportunity to do so, the operator junked all four reactors, including the two that were apparently under control. None of them will ever operate again, and the capital cost alone of that will certainly exceed a billion US dollars.
All that aside, these reactors were designed to survive a 7-8 Richter earthquake (depending on whose scale, and whose reports you choose to believe). To anticipate the reactor cores surviving a magnitude 8.9 quake is like expecting a car that's certified safe in a head-on collision at 60 mph to also survive a collision at 118 mph. The fact that (apparently) only one of the four pressure vessels has suffered a breach is a testament to how over-engineered they are.
This is an accident of almost incomprehensible scope, for the nuclear industry, and a radiation release of unforgivable scale. That still doesn't make it dangerous. Why we play by different rules than other power plants, I don't know, but there you have it. Every story about this will use the word "Chernobyl", but the phrase "Deepwater Horizon" will fade from memory within a few years. I don't think there's anything funny about the situation. But I also won't stand silent in the face of that kind of hypocrisy.
If anyone has factual questions about nuclear power, or the dangers of radiation exposure, I'll answer them to the best of my abilities.
The worst outcome of all of this, IMO, is the anti-nuclear backlash that's going on now. Of course like you said, Deepwater Horizon is almost forgotten, but Chernobyl (or Three Mile Island) has been in the vernacular for years. Here's another example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centralia,_Pennsylvania
Coal and oil are just bad, bad, bad. They're also unfortunately very excellent energy producers. Wind, Solar, etc pale in comparison to them (for the time being), but nuclear fission can take their place easily. The problem now is the backlash we're seeing. China has halted production on 57
reactors, Germany is making this a big election year issue with promises to shift from nuclear, and Australia and other countries are following suit. The problem is, there's nothing to replace it, so that means either more coal (and China and the world DO NOT NEED more coal plants) or find something else.
I've believed for a very long time that that something else is fusion, and not the useless tokamok style that ITER has been trying to cobble together for two decades. The solution is IEC, and the Navy has been funding a project formerly lead by Dr. Bussard, and there's a lot of promise there. I hope to see them succeed soon. But until that happens, fission is the cleanest, safest bet.