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The No. 1 reactor, water levels began dropping in the early morning of March 12. At 8:36 a.m., the reading showed zero centimeters as the fuel rods began to emerge and come into contact with the air. Within four hours, 1.7 meters of fuel rods were exposed.
Originally posted by Creamy Goodness
I believe it only takes 90 minutes for the cores to start melting down after being exposed to air. They basically just sat there and watched them melt.