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Worst nuclear power disasters

Published 28 July 2017

Though nuclear power is one of the high potential energy sources, any accidents at the generation sites can cause severe damage to the nearby places. The vast amount of nuclear waste created by power plants can lead to high radiation and raise temperature levels. Any mishandling of radioactive material used in the nuclear power can pose potential risks to the environment and health of human beings.

Chernobyl nuclear disaster, Ukraine 1986: The Chernobyl Nuclear disaster is considered at the worst power plant disaster in recent years. The accident, which happened on 26 April 1986, resulted in deaths of more than 30 people. The event occurred due to uncontrolled reaction conditions that were triggered by a combination of defective reactor design and faulty procedure followed by the plant’s operators while conducting safety tests. The Chernobyl disaster is one of only two nuclear power accidents classified as a level 7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale. The accident intensified concerns over the fission reactors worldwide, with many of the nuclear projects getting cancelled.













Image: View of Chernobyl power plant taken from the roof of a residential building in Pripyat, Ukraine. Photo courtesy of Jason Minshull/Wikipedia.

Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan 2011: Considered as the second worst nuclear disaster in the world, the accident took place at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima, Japan. The event was a result of the tsunami that occurred following the Tohoku earthquake on 11 March 2011. The tsunami disabled the emergency generators at the plant, leading to failure of pumps that were needed to cool the nuclear reactors. However, no fatalities have been reported.

Kyshtym nuclear disaster, Russia 1957: The Kyshtym nuclear disaster occurred as a result of a radioactive contamination accident that took place on 29 September 1957 at Mayak, a plutonium manufacturing facility Russia for nuclear fuel reprocessing plant of the Soviet Union. A failure of the cooling system used for one of the tanks containing about 70–80 tons of liquid radioactive waste had led to the accident. It is classified as a Level 6 disaster on INES, making it the worst nuclear disaster after the Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi disasters. The event resulted in hundreds of deaths of the people staying in nearby villages to the production site.

Windscale Fire, UK 1957: The disaster occurred on 10 October 1957 in Great Britain and it is measured as a Level 5 disaster on INES. The accident happened as a result of the fire that took place in Unit 1 of the two-pile Windscale facility on the northwest coast of England in Cumberland, which is now Sellafield, Cumbria. The fire, which burnt for three days, had led to the release of huge amounts of radioactive contamination.Though there were no reported causalities from the incident, the radioactive contamination is estimated to have caused cancer in many cases.












Image: Storm Clouds over Sellafield. Photo courtesy of Chris Eaton/Wikipedia.

Three Mile Island accident, Pennsylvania US 1979: The disaster took place due to a nuclear meltdown that happened on 28 March 1979, in reactor number 2 of Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (TMI-2) in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, US. The meltdown resulted in the release of radioactive gases into the environment. The cleanup of the radioactive material at the facility took several years to complete, with a total cost of $1bn, according to a report by The New York Times. Nevertheless, epidemiological studies carried out to analyse the rate of cancer in and around the area after the accident found no significant on the rate.

















Image: TMI personnel cleaning up radioactive contamination in the auxiliary building — 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident. Photo courtesy of John G. Kemeny et al/Wikipedia.

Goiania accident, Brazil 1987: The disaster was a radioactive contamination accident that took place on 13 September 1987, at Goiânia, in the Brazilian state of Goiás.A stolen old radiotherapy source from an abandoned hospital site in the city had caused the accident. Four people were reported to have died as a result of the disaster, while more than 100,000 people undergone diagnosis for radioactive contamination, according to a study by International Atomic Energy Agency. Of the total people examined for contamination, 249 were identified to have been affected with significant levels of radioactive material in or on their bodies.

SL-1 Experimental Power Station, Idaho US 1961:A steam explosion and meltdown on 3 January 1961 at The Stationary Low-Power Reactor Number One, which was a US Army experimental nuclear power reactor resulted in the deaths of three operators at the facility. The facility was located at the National Reactor Testing Station (NRTS) approximately 65 km west of Idaho Falls, Idaho. An improper withdrawal of the central control rod that was used to absorb neutrons in the reactor core had led to the nuclear accident. The disaster is the only reactor accident in the US that caused immediate deaths.













Image: An outside view of the ALPR facility. Photo courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory/Wikipedia.

Saint-Laurent, France 1969: Considered as the worst civil nuclear power accident in France, the disaster took place as a result of meltdown of 50 kg of uranium in one of the gas cooled reactors began at the Saint-Laurent Nuclear Power Station on 17 October 1969. The power station is located in the commune of Saint-Laurent-Nouan in Loir-et-Cher on the Loire – 28km upstream from Blois and 30 km downstream from Orléans.The facility features two operating pressurized water reactors, with each having a capacity of 900MWe. The reactors are cooled by the water of the Loire River.