The nuclear industry is like any other: It has its own terminology, with degrees of usefulness. Some terms are more accurate and precise, while others just sound nicer.
But amid the unfortunate and continuing problems with Japan’s nuclear reactors, it might be good to double-check what you’re writing or editing. After all, the problems with Japan’s reactors are surely bad enough without accidentally being exaggerated (or wrongly minimized).
Two links I think can be helpful (and my copy-editing involves multiple energy industries, so I’ll be putting this to the test):
- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s index of nuclear terms.
- The New York Times article from Sunday explaining what a “partial meltdown” is and how it differs from a “meltdown.”