i have no idea how this ends
the historically catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in japan has left in its wake an eerily similar problem of staggering proportions. fully 1/3 of japan's electricity is generated via nuclear power, (their strategic answer to the '73 oil crisis, as opposed to our "let's wreck the nation via endless dependence on crude oil" policies), and now almost fully 10% of their nuclear capacity is crashed and burned (that we know of) in quake-damaged shutdowns, complete with explosions, radiation leaks and still-possible core meltdowns.
what i don't know about power grids is almost all of it, but i do know that the generation of electricity is made particularly devilish by the need to exactly balance demand with supply on a nanosecond to nanosecond basis. draw too much current, and the whole thing topples over like an overtaxed and overplayed jenga tower. generate too much, and ibid. take even 10% of 1/3 of the total offline, and watch the tower sway in the balance as if in an earthquake that just won't end.
japan's one advantage will be its educated and informed populace, who will be relied upon to fundamentally alter their entire way of living in order to accommodate nature's harsh reality. industry and daily living will require hard choices and harder sacrifice, and it's not easy to figure out how it all ends. generally, it's those forced to go on living who learn the full depth of catastrophe. there but for the grace of god, mother nature, and the fickle finger of fate go us all.
here's a link to one enterprising response to the challenge, which marries the power of social media with the basic human need to help. a wise person once explained to me how to calculate "how much?" by simply giving until it feels good. hard to know when we can ever, but, until then, here's a fine place to start: