The debate about nuclear power plants has been going on for a long time now. On one hand they provide a cheap and low pollution source of energy but on the other hand they are prone to accidents with disastrous results. There have been many radioactive accidents, meltdowns and leaks over the years in nuclear plants all around the world. Here are top 10 frightening cases.
10. Rajasthan Atomic Power Station, India:
The Rajasthan Atomic Power Station is located in the state of Rajasthan in India. It was started in 1963 as a duplicate to the Douglas Point reactor in Canada. Although the power station has received very high safety ratings by the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2012, there was an incident in June of 2012 where 38 workers were exposed to a radioactive substance, tritium, due to a badly executed welding operation inside the protected environment of the reactor.
9. NRX, Canada:
NRX was a nuclear research reactor at the Canadian Chalk River Laboratories. It came into operation in 1947 and for some time was the most powerful nuclear reactor in the world. The NRX reactor suffered a partial meltdown on 12 December 1952. The accident occurred due to communication problems and operator mistakes along with mechanical problems in the shut off systems. Water contaminated with radioactive material was dumped in the basement. The accident helped form better safety protocols for nuclear reactors.
8. Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant, Japan:
Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant is located on the coast of the Sea of Japan. It was hit by an earthquake in 2007 which resulted in shutdown for inspection and increase in earthquake proofing before operation could be resumed. As a result of the quake some radioactive water leaked into the Sea of Japan. Furthermore, radioactive waste that was stored in barrels also leaked as a result of the earthquakes.
7. SL-1, USA:
The Stationary Low Power Reactor Number One was an experimental nuclear power reactor operated by the United States Army. In 1961 three people were killed in an explosion and meltdown. It was a result of improper withdrawal of the control rods from the core. It is the only known nuclear accident that caused fatalities in USA. The incident released radioactive products into the atmosphere and the surrounding areas.
6. Lucens Reactor, Switzerland:
Lucens Reactor was a small pilot nuclear reactor in Switzerland. It was built inside a cavern and became critical in 1966. In 1969 an accident occurred that led to serious contamination of the cavern. The cavern was sealed to prevent contamination outside and later cleaned successfully and the reactor was rebuilt. No irradiation of workers or population occurred due to the sealing of the cavern.
5. Three Mile Island Accident, USA:
The Three Mile Island reactors were situated in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania and were operated by General Public Utilities and Metropolitan Edison. It was the largest and worst accident in commercial nuclear power plant history in USA. The accident occurred due to lack of proper training of operators, complexity of control room user interface and oversights in the design of the human computer interface. The partial meltdown resulted in the release of radioactive gases and radioactive iodine into the environment.
4. Windscale Fire, Britain:
The Windscale file of 1957 is considered as one of the worst radioactive accidents in world’s history. The nuclear reactors in Windscale had been hurriedly built as part of the British atomic bomb project. On October 10, 1957 an accident occurred in the core of reactor number 1 and a fire started that lasted for 3 days. Massive amounts of radioactive material were released into the atmosphere over the UK and Europe. People from surrounding areas were not evacuated and may have suffered cancer of the thyroid due to the radioactive isotope iodine-131.
3. Kyshtym Disaster, Russia:
The Kyshtym disaster of Russia is the third worst disaster in the history of nuclear power plant accidents. It occurred in 1957 and was kept a secret till 1976. It occurred at the Mayak nuclear fuel processing plant near the town of Kyshtym. The disaster occurred when nuclear waste stored inside metal tanks, exploded due to decay heat. A radioactive plume of material was spread over a large area and many people were affected by it. The area known as East Urals Radioactive Tract is still not safe for humans.
2. Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster, Japan:
The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear disaster was a part of the overall disaster faced by Japan in 2011. Japan was hit by earthquakes that caused Tsunamis in March 2011. This resulted in a series of equipment failure, meltdowns, and releases of radioactive material at the Fukushima I nuclear power plant. It is the worst disaster to have occurred since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and shows that natural disasters in the area of a nuclear plant can be very dangerous.
1. Chernobyl Disaster, Ukraine:
One of the most dreadful industrial disasters of all time, the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 happened at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the then Ukrainian SSR. It was under the direct jurisdiction of the central authorities of the Soviet Union. An explosion and fire released large amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere. The official death count is 31 but it is highly disputed and other medical problems and deformities resulted from the disaster are still being accounted for.