When it comes to energy gaps and response to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, we might hear the benefits of a nuclear power plant because of its low carbon-emitting footprints. But when accidents happen, whether due to natural or man-made sub-standard procedures, these known benefits are incomparable to their destructive and long-term effects. In this article, we list down the top ten deadliest civilian nuclear accidents all over the world.
Here are the Top 10 Deadliest Civilian Nuclear Accidents.
- Chernobyl, Ukraine (1986)
The greatest nuclear disaster in history occurred on April 25 and 26, 1986, when a reactor at a nuclear power station exploded and burned in what is now northern Ukraine. Scientists believe that after more than 30 years, the area around the defunct factory will be uninhabitable for up to 20,000 years. The disaster occurred near Chernobyl, in the former Soviet Union, which invested heavily in nuclear power after WWII and began constructing four RBMK nuclear reactors at the power plant in 1977, just south of Ukraine’s border with Belarus. V.I. On April 25, 1986, routine maintenance was scheduled. The Lenin Nuclear Power Station’s fourth reactor was shut down, and employees planned to use the time to see if the reactor could still be cooled if the plant lost power. Personnel disobeyed safety regulations during the test, causing the plant’s electricity to surge. Despite efforts to shut down the reactor completely, a power surge within triggered a chain reaction of explosions. Finally, the nuclear core was revealed, causing radioactive material to be released into the atmosphere. The publicizing of a nuclear disaster was thought to pose a significant political risk, but it was too late: the meltdown had already dispersed radiation as far as Sweden. Up to 30% of the 190 metric tons of uranium released at Chernobyl were now in the environment. As of 2008, there were 28 direct deaths, 19 deaths that were not fully related, and 15 children who died of thyroid cancer. Up to 4,000 cancer deaths have been estimated.
- Kyshtym, Russia (1957)
In the years following World War II, the United States was the world’s leading nuclear power, and in order to keep up, the Soviet Union developed nuclear power reactors quickly and cut corners. As a result, the Mayak facility in Kyshtym had a tank with a faulty cooling system, which when it failed caused an explosion that contaminated approximately 500 miles of the surrounding area. The Soviet leadership initially refused to disclose what had happened, but after a week, they were forced to. When some residents began to exhibit symptoms of radiation poisoning, 10,000 people were evacuated from the area. According to a study published in the journal Radiation and Environmental Biophysics, at least 200 people died as a result of radiation exposure.
- K-19, North Atlantic Ocean (1961)
On July 4, 1961, the Soviet submarine K-19 developed a radioactive leak while in the North Atlantic Ocean. The crew had no choice but to enter the nuclear compartment and seal the leak because there was no coolant system in place to keep the reactor from overheating and exploding, exposing themselves to levels of radiation that would undoubtedly kill them. All eight crew members who had patched the breach died of radiation illness within three weeks of the accident. The rest of the crew was contaminated, as were the submarine and the ballistic missiles it was carrying. It was then fixed over a two-year period, polluting both the surrounding environment and the repair crew. Twenty of the submarine’s original crew members perished of radiation poisoning during the next few years.
- Goiania, Brazil (1987)
One of the world’s worst nuclear contamination catastrophes occurred in Goiania, Brazil. A cesium chloride-filled teletherapy machine had been left behind when a city-based radiation institute relocated. On September 13, 1987, two scavengers uncovered the unit, wheeled it away in a wheelbarrow, and sold it to a junkyard. By inviting friends and relatives to see the brilliant blue material within, the owner unwittingly exposed them to radiation. After that, they all went their separate ways, irradiating friends and relatives all over town. Two hundred and forty-five persons were exposed to radiation in total, with four of them dying as a result.
- Tokaimura, Japan (1999)
On September 30, 1999, at 10:35 a.m. Japan time, a criticality event occurred at JCO, Ltd.’s Conversion Test Building in Tokai-mura. The tank is used to separate uranium from a liquid solution of nitric acid. The tank has significantly more uranium in it than was necessary for safe functioning. The criticality event was difficult to stop since the uranium was in solution. The chain reaction proceeded after the disaster was started when surrounding workers saw a bright blue glow. Officials at the plant acted quickly to halt the reaction by removing water from the cooling pipes enclosing the tank. This water jacket kept the tank cold and may have protected personnel from the low quantities of radiation emitted by the tank on a regular basis. Following that, boron was put into the tank to absorb neutrons and limit the probability of a criticality event occurring again. As of early October 1, the total number of irradiated people under medical supervision was 49. Three employees were irradiated severely, 36 employees were irradiated less severely, and ten non-employees were irradiated less severely, including three firefighters who assisted in the rescue of the seriously exposed workers. 667 persons were estimated to have been irradiated as a result of the incident throughout the years, with two of them died from acute radiation sickness.
- Windscale, England (1957)
Before the Three Mile Island incident, Windscale became the site of the worst nuclear disaster in British history happened on October 10, 1957. A plant had been built there to produce plutonium, but when the US succeeded in developing a nuclear bomb that used tritium, the facility was used to produce it for the UK. However, this required operating the reactor at a higher temperature than its design could withstand, and as a result, it caught fire. The operators were initially concerned that dousing the flames with water would cause a hydrogen explosion, but as the crisis worsened, they relented and did so. It worked, but only after a significant amount of radiation was discharged into the atmosphere. According to a 2007 study, the incident resulted in more than 200 cancer cases in the surrounding community.
- Jaslovské Bohunice, Czechoslovakia (1977)
The nuclear power plant in Bohunice was Czechoslovakia’s first. The reactor was based on an experimental design and was planned to run on uranium mined in Czechoslovakia. The groundbreaking facility, on the other hand, was beset by errors and had to be shut down more than 30 times. Two workers were killed in 1976, but the deadliest catastrophe occurred on February 22, 1977, when a worker erroneously removed control rods during a routine fuel change. A severe radioactive leak resulted from this slight error, earning a level 4 rating on the International Nuclear Event Scale of 1 to 7. No solid estimates of victims have been released to the public as a result of the Soviet government’s cover-up.
- SL-1, Idaho (1961)
On January 3, 1961, the SL-1, or Stationary Low-Power Reactor Number One reactor exploded, killing three people and causing a meltdown in the Idaho desert. Despite a two-year inquiry, the cause of the tragedy was determined to be an incorrectly removed control rod. However, the activities of the people immediately preceding the disaster were never revealed. Despite the fact that a small amount of radioactive material was discharged into the atmosphere as a result of the accident, the reactor’s remote location managed to mitigate the impact on the safety of people.
- Yucca Flat, Nevada (1970)
Yucca Flat is a desert region one hour north of Las Vegas that has been used as a nuclear test site in Nevada. On December 18, 1970, while detonating a 10 kiloton nuclear bomb buried 900 feet below, the plug isolating the explosion from the surface fractured, sending a plume of radioactive fallout into the air and sickening 86 workers at the site. Radioactive particles were transported to northern Nevada, Idaho, northern California, and the eastern regions of Washington and Oregon, in addition to the localized radiation. It’s also possible that radioactive material entered the Atlantic Ocean, Canada, or the Gulf of Mexico. Two Nevada Test Site workers who were present at the time died of leukemia in 1974.
- Fukushima, Japan (2011)
A 15-meter tsunami cut out power and cooling to three Fukushima Daiichi reactors after a huge earthquake, resulting in a nuclear disaster that began on March 11, 2011. All three cores melted to a large amount in the first three days. The disaster was classified as level 7 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale due to significant radioactive releases on days 4 through 6. All four Fukushima Daiichi reactors were shut down as a result of the accident. The nuclear event did not result in any immediate deaths. At least 16 people were injured in the explosions, and many more were exposed to radiation while attempting to cool the reactors and stabilize the plant. After being exposed to the radiation, three people were reportedly sent to the hospital.
There are pros and cons to each innovation. Nuclear power facilities are extremely expensive to develop, despite the fact that they are quite economical to operate. There may be non-negotiable advantages to using nuclear power plants more than being expensive. However, its long-term effect when destructed is more than expensive than the money it takes to build one – people’s lost lives are the most expensive above all.