Nuclear power means using nuclear reactions for the production of electricity. Currently, a large majority of electricity from nuclear power comes from the nuclear fission of uranium and plutonium in the power plants. These nuclear power plants are thermal power stations that are used to generate electricity through the harnessing of the thermal energy released from nuclear fission. A few of these nuclear power plants have come to the notice of the world in the past due to massive accidents and radiation disasters. These incidents have affected hundreds of thousands of workers and civilians residing in the area. Some of the places of the accidents are still uninhabitable due to the radiation still present in the atmosphere. The following are some of the biggest nuclear and radiation incidents in the world.
The Biggest Nuclear Incidents in World History
The Chernobyl disaster was the worst nuclear accident in the world till date. It occurred in the city of Pripyat in Ukraine. The accident resulted in the brutal death of 31 people directly and also damaged close to seven billion dollars worth of property in the power plant as well as the surrounding. A study that was published in 2005 by the World Health Organization had estimated that there would eventually be close to four thousand additional cancer deaths due to the after effects of the accident among those who had been exposed to enough radiation levels. This radioactive fallout from the accident was strong in the areas of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. Studies have approximated almost over one million cancer deaths eventually from Chernobyl.
The Kyshtym or Ozyorsk disaster was the second most disastrous nuclear incident after Chernobyl. A minimum of twenty two villages had been exposed to the radiation from the Kyshtym disaster and a total population of about ten thousand people were evacuated. Some of the population was evacuated a week later. However, it took around two years for the evacuations to be done at other sites. The incident caused the hot particles to be spread to more than 52,000 square kilometers which had at least 270,000 people living there. This incident occurred in Chelyabinsk-40, but since it was not marked on the maps, the disaster was named Kyshtym which was the nearest known town.
Sellafield-Windscale Fire (1957):
The fire of 10 October 1957 in Sellafield was the worst nuclear accident in the history of United Kingdom. The fire was burning for three continuous days and had released disastrous amounts of radioactive substances that spread across the United Kingdom and even the rest of Europe. The radioactive isotope of iodine which caused cancer of the thyroid was found. This was extremely concerning at the time. It was estimated that the radiation leak might have caused 240 additional cases of cancer where around 100 to 240 of them were fatal. When the incident occurred, no one was evacuated from the immediate surrounding area. However, milk from around 500 square kilometers of the nearby countryside was diluted and destroyed for almost a month because of concerns regarding its exposure to the radiation.
Fukushima Daiichi (2011):
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Ōkuma, Fukushima Prefecture in Japan. The supposed cause of the disaster was said to be the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011. It was the most severe nuclear accident since Chernobyl. It was categorized as a Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES) after first being classified as a Level 5. Chernobyl is the only other disaster that was given such a classification. The explosion at the Ozyorsk facility in 1957 was the second worst accident by the amount of radioactivity released while the INES ranks the incidents by the overall impact on the population.
Thereby, Chernobyl with 335,000 people evacuated ranks first in the INES ranks. Thus, Fukushima with 154,000 evacuated ranks higher than the 10,000 evacuated from the classified restricted Ozyorsk.
The industry of nuclear power has greatly improved the safety of the reactors and has also proposed new and safer reactor designs to be implemented. However, there can be no guarantee about the complete safety of the design, build and operation of the reactor. Mistakes can occur, and sometimes factors that cannot be controlled, like tsunamis, can have disastrous impact on the industry, the population and the surrounding environment. People who get affected by such catastrophes often face a lifetime of suffering from radioactive diseases and their after effects.