U.S. stocks advanced at the open on Thursday, a day after Wall Street wiped out most of its gains for the year, but Japan's nuclear crisis was set to drive trading in another volatile session for markets.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 140.55 points, or 1.21 percent, to 11,753.85. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> climbed 17.06 points, or 1.36 percent, to 1,273.94. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> rose 38.39 points, or 1.47 percent, to 2,655.21.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak)