Have there been any nuclear accidents in the US at nuclear facilities which were not “commercial”?

Have there been any nuclear accidents in the US at nuclear facilities which were not “commercial”?

In a feature called "On This Day," the March 28th, 2015 issue of the New York Times recounted how "On March 28, 1979, America's worst commercial nuclear accident occurred inside the Unit Two reactor at the Three Mile Island plant near Middletown, Pa." But why does the paper specify that this was the worst "commercial" nuclear accident in US history? Was there a worse non-commercial nuclear accident?


It depends on what you consider worse.

Time magazine lists an incident that occurred on December 18 1970 at Yucca Flat Nuclear Test site where radioactive debris from the underground test of a 10 Kiloton Nuclear detonation was vented into the surrounding atmosphere. However the Department of Energy stated afterwards that the 86 workers who were exposed did not receive a dose that exceeded site guidelines (whatever they were… ) (Source)

The USAF has had many nuclear related incidents, including recently (some are listed in the Time article above) which occurred outside of a Nuclear Facility (unless you count the aircraft carrying them as a Nuclear Facility).

For example, in 2007 a USAF B52 sat on the ground at Barksdale AFB for ~36 hours with six AGM-129 ACM Cruise Missiles, each containing a Nuclear warhead, without guard or any of the mandatory security measures in place because the warheads were supposed to be removed before flight. This is an example of a failure of procedure in a USAF base that could be argued as being a Nuclear facility, as the warheads should have been removed and logged into storage in an appropriate facility.

Furthermore, a recent Guardian (UK) article relates that in 1961 a 4 Megaton H-Bomb came perilously close to detonating after it was released when the bomber carrying it entered a tailspin. For one of the bombs 3 out of 4 safety mechanisms to prevent accidental detonation had failed to operate and that the forth (which saved the day) was highly vulnerable to failure.

The information in the article was uncovered by Eric Schlosser who, as covered in the article:

discovered that at least 700 "significant" accidents and incidents involving 1,250 nuclear weapons were recorded between 1950 and 1968 alone.

All of this comes with the caveat that I'm not at all qualified to describe any of these as being worse than Three Mile Island. Some are certainly much more terrifying to me personally.


I suppose you could consider Castle Bravo to be a 'nuclear accident.' While we did intend to nuke the atoll, we didn't intend the blast to be anywhere nearly as large as it was, contaminate islands more than 100 miles away, or irradiate a Japanese fishing boat.

If you count Castle Bravo, it's almost certainly the largest in U.S. history, much worse than Three Mile. It's also the largest nuclear blast of any sort (intentional or otherwise) in U.S. history, even though it was the very first deliverable fusion device we tested. At that point we basically decided, "This is too big, let's build smaller ones from now on." The Russians made a similar decision after Tsar Bomba.

As far as the title question of whether there have been any accidents in U.S. non-commercial nuclear facilities, the answer is quite certainly, "Yes, lots." There was a single Plutonium core (nicknamed the "Demon Core") that was, by itself, involved in two accidents, both fatal. Later, it was successfully used in Crossroads Able at Bikini Atoll.

Wikipedia also has a List of military nuclear accidents. It's long. Perhaps one of the most amusing (which fortunately wasn't fatal,) was when the Air Force accidentally dropped a nuclear bomb on South Carolina. Thankfully, the nuclear core was not installed in the bomb (otherwise the results would not have been funny at all,) but the conventional high explosives that are used to start the first fission stage were in the bomb and detonated, leaving a 75-foot-wide crater in a farm.


Yes. SL-1 is estimated to have resulted in a release of about four to five times as much I-131.
SL-1 may have been made public because the scale and location of the event made it difficult to hide. It may also not have been considered sufficiently sensitive to warrant extreme secrecy, unlike projects such as aircraft nuclear propulsion.


It's going to depend on how you define "nuclear accident" and how you define "worst."

USS Thresher (SSN-593) went down with all hands in 1963. The cause (we think) was a significant sea-water leak (flooding casualty). The reactor was scrammed (emergency shut down), and without its main source of propulsion the submarine sank. Everyone on-board was killed. Certainly bad - over 100 people killed and a multimillion dollar warship lost, but is it a "nuclear accident?"

Or:

In 1961 a US Army reactor (SL-1) exploded, killing three people. This occurred in a remote area in Idaho, so exposure to the public was negligible, and it was (relative to other nuclear incidents) in-expensive to clean up. This is certainly a nuclear accident, but is it "worse" than TMI, which received national attention, caused fear of widespread contamination, and was very expensive to stabilize? People die in industrial accidents all the time.

At the end of the day, TMI released very little contamination to the environment, and what it did release was short lived (generally hours to days range), and there were no fatalities. From a public health stand-point it was a non-event. From a public perception stand-point it was a disaster. From a financial standpoint, it was a disaster.

Whether events like the Thresher or SL-1 are "worse nuclear disasters" is something that could be debated, and I'm sure family members of Thresher sailors or SL-1 soldiers would be angry if they felt their loved ones were being minimized in some way. By restricting it's assessment to civilian accidents the NYT avoids potential controversy. To my knowledge, no other US civilian reactor has experienced core damage anywhere near as severe as TMI, and certainly none have received anything approaching the public attention.


Hard to say, military-related nuclear incidents tend to be classified.

But I'll wager a guess as to why New York Times felt the need to specify TMI was the worst commercial nuclear incident:

Commercial nuclear facility operators generaly operate under the supervision of International Atomic Energy Agency. Among other things, this agency defines an International Nuclear Event Scale, which is an easy way for the newsies to rank nuclear events from least serious to most serious.

Militaries sometimes have their own scales and terminologies, but these tend not to be clearly ranked and generally are more concerned with things such as misplaced, malfunctioning or accidentally detonated nuclear warheads.


Hanford, right on the Columbia River which flows through my city of Portland, OR, is probably the largest non-commercial nuclear disaster in terms of cost and scale of environmental damage. Its a former top-secret nuclear processing facility for the US military.

Hanford was used for decades for nuclear processing with nine reactors and five plutonium processing plants to make the plutonium for most of the US nuclear arsenal. Their waste disposal procedures were dreadful, and because it was all top-secret they didn't have to deal with pesky regulators and inspections. Hanford left behind 53 million gallons of high level liquid nuclear waste, 25 million cubic feet of solid radioactive waste, and has contaminated the ground water for 200 square miles around. That's fully 2/3 of all the high level nuclear waste in the US. The storage tanks were leaking hundreds of gallons of waste for years. Hanford would use water from the Columbia to cool its reactors and pump it back into the river releasing long lived isotopes detectable 200 miles down river.

The cleanup has been going on for 25 years. They keep finding more undocumented contaminated hazardous material. It's been a trail of mismanagement. It's estimated cleanup will cost an additional $100 billion over 30 years involving 10,000 workers on site.

Beyond that, depends on what you call an accident. How about losing a nuclear bomb? How about losing several of them? These are known as Broken Arrow incidents and for the number there have been its surprising that none of them resulted in a nuclear explosion. Bomb designers know their job.

Here's a few sources to read with growing horror.


The New York Times article is undoubtedly referring to the deaths of Harry Daghlian and Louis Slotin. Since noone died in the Three Mile Island accident, the Daghlian and Slotin deaths could be considered worse accidents. There were also 2 deaths and a critical injury due to a non-nuclear chemical exposure at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1944 as part of the Manhatten Project.

Since the war, there has been various deaths at government labs and military facilities. Cecil Kelley was killed in 1958 at Los Alamos after a massive radiation exposure. In 1961, an experimental reactor in Idaho called SL-1 had a meltdown and killed the three men present at the time.


The Demon Core was a 6kg sphere of Plutonium that was involved in two criticality incidents in the forties at Los Alamos, each time resulting in the death of the scientist involved in the experiment.


Just about all the serious accidents and deaths have occurred in US military facilities (land or sea based). Ditto in the old Soviet Union.

This is because of the military cultural tendency to play fast and loose with safety protocols (and the same reason is why ex-military pilots don't make good airline pilots - they'll push on when other pilots will turn around and go someplace safer)

Three Mile Island was a case of "Oops, shut it down and we'll clean it up when the radiation levels are low enough to go in" (this is happening now). The safety systems all worked as they were supposed to, despite some major furrfus in the design - there was so much redundancy in the systems that once it was realised what was going on, things were brought under control fairly quickly.

Chernobyl was amazingly bad (the operators deliberately switched off all the safety systems to run a test of how far they could push it before it broke and lost that bet) but overall it didn't release all that much radiation into the atmosphere (the world's coal fleets release about as much as radium each year) compared to the 1950s atmospheric nuke tests and all the deaths were caused by acute exposure to the fiercely gamma-emitting burning reactor core in the first week There will be more deaths, but a couple of hundred at most. Acute radiation exposure tends to either kill people relatively quickly or not kill them at all and airline crew get hundreds of times more exposure than any nuclear workers each year, which is a good indication that chronic exposure needs to be fairly high to matter (The cancer rate in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was down to 0.25% above background levels by the 1980s and 2nd generational effects turned out to be virtually non-existant despite fears at the time)

The UK's Sellafield/Windscale accident was at a mixed-use site but the reactor in question was strictly for bomb-making, not civil use (it's still too hot to approach)

Chernobyl is (so far) the only civilian plant with large numbers of deaths from an accident. There have been a few freak incidents where careless workers managed to kill themselves via gamma ray exposure (The most peculiar was a reprocessing plant in Japan where the workers managed to do it whilst mixing chemicals in a plastic drum of mostly water) but statistically nuclear power is the safest form of energy per TW generated - and by several orders of magnitude. Skip to 2:38 on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4E2GTg7W7Rc to see the comparison.

More people were injured in the panic trying to get away from TMI than by the actual steam leak (which was fairly benign) and over at Fukushima, whilst 20,000+ people died in the Tsunami, the death toll at the nuclear plant was 1 Crane operator whose machine toppled in the quake, and a few techs with very light (easily treatable) radiation burns on their calves as a result of standing in radioactive water for several hours.

The big environmental messes which are (still) being cleaned up are almost entirely military in origin - see comment above about playing fast and loose with safety.

That said, boiling/pressurised water reactor systems are intrinsically unsafe just like any other high pressure boiler system (high pressure, high temperature water is extremely corrosive and eventually will wreck the boiler) and when circulated in a nuclear core, water ends up picking up radioactive contaminants, which is a bad thing if it ends up leaking (water's sometimes jokingly known as "the Universal Solvent").

Just about all the incidents in working civil plants have been down to issues revolving around corrosion and management cutting corners on maintenance or safety circuits. That happens in coal plants too, but coal plant boiler blowouts aren't headline news outside the local area.

There are arguably better designs for civil use but the Cold War resulted in a 40-year fixation on designs which could produce plutonium with civil use as a sideline, vs designs which are really good at producing heat for civiluse but pretty much useless for producing bomb-making materials. Expect to see those "better" designs start to hit the marketplace in the next decade or less - around 50 years since the first (and last) of their type was switched off for the last time in 1969.

Hopefully "atoms for peace" will finally happen, because there simply isn't enough space to put all the windmills and solar panels needed to satisfy current electricity demands, let alone the ramping up that will occur as gas and oil home heating systems die off and we move inexorably towards more-electric vehicles.


The 20 Worst Nuclear Disasters in World History

The principles of nuclear power were initially discovered by scientists back in the early 1900s. In 1939, those same principles achieved their first practical expression when physicists discovered that splitting nuclear bonds could generate energy. You don’t need to be a historian to know what came next…. After witnessing the devastating conclusion of their experiments at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, scientists continued to tap into the latent power of nuclear energy over the coming decades. The result was a crop of nuclear power plants springing up around the globe. Initially hailed as a cheap, clean alternative to traditional power sources, the preceding decades would witness a series of catastrophic, man-made disasters that begged the question of whether nuclear power can ever truly be harnessed.


U.S. Nuclear Accidents

The following is a compilation of some known events involving nuclear devices and facilities under U.S. jurisdiction, many involving fatalities. Note that this work is NOT an anti-nuclear diatribe, but rather an encyclopedic listing of facts pertaining to a particular topic I am well aware of the dangers and negative ecological consequences of alternate energy forms (especially coal and petroleum-based fuels), but a discussion of those is beyond the subject matter of this page.

Please DO NOT mail me with requests for additional information all that i know about this subject is presented on this page, and i regret that i am unable to assist the internet community with additional information on this topic. More information along these lines is available at the following:

  • Criticality Accidents (Trinity Atomic Web Site): www.abomb1.org/accident
  • Government Accountability Project: www.whistleblower.org
  • Nuclear Information and Resource Service : www.nirs.org
  • Wikipedia articles:
    • List of civilian nuclear accidents : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_civilian_nuclear_accidents
    • List of civilian radiation accidents : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_civilian_radiation_accidents
    • List of military nuclear accidents : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_military_nuclear_accidents
    • List of nuclear and radiation fatalities by country: United States : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nuclear_and_radiation_fatalities_by_country#United_States
    • List of nuclear power accidents by country: USA : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_accidents_by_country
    • Lists of nuclear disasters and radioactive incidents : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_nuclear_disasters_and_radioactive_incidents
    • Nuclear and radiation accidents : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_accidents
    • Nuclear reactor accidents in the United States : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_reactor_accidents_in_the_United_States

    Please feel free to submit additions or corrections to me at .

    Definition of Nuclear Accidents

    • Accidental or unauthorized launching, firing, or use, by U.S. Forces or supported allied forces, of a nuclear-capable weapon system which could create the risk of an outbreak of war.
    • Nuclear detonation
    • Non-nuclear detonation or burning of a nuclear weapon or radioactive weapon component, including a fully assembled nuclear weapon, an unassembled nuclear weapon, or a radioactive nuclear weapon component.
    • Radioactive contamination
    • Seizure, theft, or loss of a nuclear weapon or radioactive nuclear weapon component, including jettisning.
    • Public hazard, actual or impled.

    2 September 1944
    Peter Bragg and Douglas Paul Meigs, two Manhattan Project chemists, were killed when their attempt to unclog a tube in a uranium enrichment device led to an explosion of radioactive uranium hexafluoride gas exploded at the Naval Research Laboratory in Philadelphia, PA. The explosion ruptured nearby steam pipes, leading to a gas and steam combination that bathed the men in a scalding, radioactive, acidic cloud of gas which killed them a short while later.

    21 August 1945
    Harry K. Daghlian Jr. was killed during the final stages of the Manhattan Project (undertaken at Los Alamos, New Mexico to develop the first atomic bomb) from a radiation burst released when a critical assembly of fissile material was accidentally brought together by hand. This incident pre-dated remote-control assembly of such components, but the hazards of manual assembly were known at the time (the accident occurred during a procedure known as "tickling the dragon's tail"). A similar incident, involving another fatality, occurred the following year (see next entry), after which hand-maniuplations of critical assemblies was abandoned.

    21 May 1946 A nuclear criticality accident occured at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in New Mexico when worker Louis Slotin accidentally dropped a screwdriver while sealing a core for a Mark 3 nuclear bomb. Eight people were exposed to radiation, and Slotin died nine days later of acute radiation sickness.

    29 November 1955
    EBR (Experimental Breeder Reactor) I, located near Arco, Idaho, experienced a partial core meltdown. EBR I, which commenced operating in 1951 and was decommissioned in 1964, was the world's first nuclear power plant.

    2 July 1956
    Nine persons were injured when two explosions destroyed a portion of Sylvania Electric Products' Metallurgy Atomic Research Center in Bayside, Queens, New York.

    1957
    A radiation release at the the Keleket company resulted in a five-month decontamination at a cost of $250,000. A capsule of radium salt (used for calibrating the radiation-measuring devices produced there) burst, contaminating the building for a full five months.

    30 December 1958
    A chemical operator was exposed to a lethal dose of radiation following an incident involving the mixing of plutonium solutions, dying 35 hours later of severe radiation exposure.

    26 July 1959
    A clogged coolant channel resulted in damage to 30% of the fuel elements at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (now known as the Boeing-Rocketdyne Nuclear Facility) in the Simi Hills area of Ventura County, California. Later discovery of the incident prompted a class-action suit by local residents, who successfully sued for $30 million over cancer and thyroid abnormalities contracted due to their proximity to the facility.

    2 April 1962
    An "unplanned nuclear excursion" occurred in a plutonium processing facility in Richland, Washington. Several employees were hospitalized for observation following exposure to the resultant radiation, and radiation was detected in the surrounding atmosphere for sevearl days following the incident.

    26 March 1963
    A mechanical failure led to a nuclear leak and subsequent fire at an experimental facility in Livermore, California, resulting in serious damage to the shielded vault where the experiment was conducted.

    5 October 1966
    A sodium cooling system malfunction caused a partial core meltdown at Detroit Edison's Enrico Fermi I demonstration breeder reactor near Detroit, Michigan. Radioactive gases leaked into the containment structures, but radiation was reportedly contained. The incident is documented in John Fuller's We Almost Lost Detroit.

    1974
    Whistleblowers at the Isomedix company in New Jersey reported that radioactive water was flushed down toilets and had contaminated pipes leading to sewers. The same year a worker received a dose of radiation considered lethal, but was saved by prompt hospital treatment.

    1982
    International Nutronics in Dover, New Jersey, which used radiation baths to purify gems, chemicals, food, and medical supplies, experienced an accident that completely contaminated the plant, forcing its closure. A pump malfunctioned, siphoning water from the baths onto the floor the water eventually was drained into the sewer system of the heavily populated town of Dover. The NRC wasn't informed of the accident until ten months later &ndash and then by a whistleblower, not the company. In 1986, the company and one of its top executives were convicted by a federal jury of conspiracy and fraud. Radiation has been detected in the vicinity of the plant, but the NRC claims the levels "aren't hazardous."

    1986
    The NRC revoked the license of a Radiation Technology, Inc. (RTI) plant in New Jersey for repeated worker safety violations. RTI was cited 32 times for various violations, including throwing radioactive garbage out with the regular trash. The most serious violation was bypassing a safety device to prevent people from entering the irradiation chamber during operation, resulting in a worker receiving a near-lethal dose of radiation.

    ca. December 1991
    One of four cold fusion cells in a Menlo Park, CA, laboratory exploded while being moved electrochemist Andrew Riley was killed and three others were injured. The other three cells were buried on site, leading to rumors that a nuclear reaction had taken place. A report concluded that it was a chemical explosion a mixture of oxygen and deuterium produced by electrolysis ignited when a catalyst was exposed. The Electric Power Research Institute, which spent $2 million on the SRI cold fusion research, suspended support for the work pending the outcome of an investigation.

    1996
    Radioactive tritium and strontium (the latter at up to 70 times the drinking water standard) were found to have contaminated groundwater around Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, NY during a routing shutdown. The details are covered in a report by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The facility was cited by the U.S. Department of Energy for multiple failures to comply with nuclear safety requirements on numerous subsequent occasions, including 7 June 1996, 19 December 1997 and 19 April 1999

    June 2013
    A report was issued by the U.S. Department of Defense's Defense Threat Reduction Agency detailing numerous problems that occurred at a nuclear plant used to generate electricity at the McMurdo, Antarctica base. A total of 438 malfunctions were documented, including four reports of "Release of any radioactivity to the environment in excess of Title 10, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 20", 11 reports of "se of radiation or radioactivity levels within the plant by more than a factor of 3 from normal operating conditions" and 123 reports of "Exposure to personnel greater than 0.350 rem (3.5 mSv) in seven consecutive days".

    3 January 1961
    The world's first nuclear-related fatalities occurred following a reactor explosion at the National Reactor Testing Station in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Three technicians, were killed, with radioactivity "largely confined" (according to John A. McCone, Director of the Atomic Energy Commission) to the reactor building. The men were killed as they moved fuel rods in a "routine" preparation for the reactor start-up. One technician was blown to the ceiling of the containment dome and impaled on a control rod. His body remained there until it was taken down six days later. The men were so heavily exposed to radiation that their hands had to be buried separately with other radioactive waste, and their bodies were interred in lead coffins. Another incident at this station three weeks later (on 25 January) resulted in a release of radiation into the atmosphere. Photos documenting this accident are posted to www.radiationworks.com/photos/sl1reactor1.htm.

    24 July 1964
    Robert Peabody, 37, died at the United Nuclear Corp. fuel facility in Charlestown, Rhode Island, when liquid uranium he was pouring went critical, starting a reaction that exposed him to a lethal dose of radiation.

    19 November 1971
    The water storage space at the Northern States Power Company's reactor in Monticello, Minnesota filled to capacity and spilled over, dumping about 50,000 gallons of radioactive waste water into the Mississippi River. Some was taken into the St. Paul water system.

    March 1972
    Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska submitted to the Congressional Record facts surrounding a routine check in a nuclear power plant which indicated abnormal radioactivity in the building's water system. Radioactivity was confirmed in the plant drinking fountain. Apparently there was an inappropriate cross-connection between a 3,000 gallon radioactive tank and the water system.

    27 July 1972
    Two workers at the Surry Unit 2 facility in Virginia were fatally scalded after a routine valve adjustment led to a steam release in a gap in a vent line. [See also 9 December 1986]

    28 May 1974
    The Atomic Energy Commission reported that 861 "abnormal events" had occurred in 1973 in the nation's 42 operative nuclear power plants. Twelve involved the release of radioactivity "above permissible levels."

    22 March 1975
    A technician checking for air leaks with a lighted candle caused $100 million in damage when insulation caught fire at the Browns Ferry reactor near Decatur, Alabama. The fire burned out electrical controls, lowering the cooling water to dangerous levels, before the plant could be shut down.

    28 March 1979
    A major accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant near Middletown, Pennsylvania. At 4:00 a.m. a series of human and mechanical failures nearly triggered a nuclear disaster. By 8:00 a.m., after cooling water was lost and temperatures soared above 5,000 degrees, the top portion of the reactor's 150-ton core melted. Contaminated coolant water escaped into a nearby building, releasing radioactive gasses, leading as many as 200,000 people to flee the region. Despite claims by the nuclear industry that "no one died at Three Mile Island," a study by Dr. Ernest J. Sternglass, professor of radiation physics at the University of Pittsburgh, showed that the accident led to a minimum of 430 infant deaths.

    1981
    The Critical Mass Energy Project of Public Citizen, Inc. reported that there were 4,060 mishaps and 140 serious events at nuclear power plants in 1981, up from 3,804 mishaps and 104 serious events the previous year.

    11 February 1981
    An Auxiliary Unit Operator, working his first day on the new job without proper training, inadvertently opened a valve which led to the contamination of eight men by 110,000 gallons of radioactive coolant sprayed into the containment building of the Tennessee Valley Authority's Sequoyah I plant in Tennessee.

    July 1981
    A flood of low-level radioactive wastewater in the sub-basement at Nine Mile Point's Unit 1 (in New York state) caused approximately 150 55-gallon drums of high-level waste to overturn, some of which released their highly radioactive contents. Some 50,000 gallons of low-level radioactive water were subsequently dumped into Lake Ontario to make room for the cleanup. The discharge was reported to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but the sub-basement contamination was not. A report leaked to the press 8 years later resulted in a study which found that high levels of radiation persisted in the still flooded facility.

    1982
    The Critical Mass Energy Project of Public Citizen, Inc. reported that 84,322 power plant workers were exposed to radiation in 1982, up from 82,183 the previous year.

    25 January 1982
    A steam generator pipe broke at the Rochester Gas & Electric Company's Ginna plant near Rochester, New York. Fifteen thousand gallons of radioactive coolant spilled onto the plant floor, and small amounts of radioactive steam escaped into the air.

    15-16 January 1983
    Nearly 208,000 gallons of water with low-level radioactive contamination was accidentally dumped into the Tennesee River at the Browns Ferry power plant.

    25 February 1983
    A catastrophe at the Salem 1 reactor in New Jersey was averted by just 90 seconds when the plant was shut down manually, following the failure of automatic shutdown systems to act properly. The same automatic systems had failed to respond in an incident three days before, and other problems plagued this plant as well, such as a 3,000 gallon leak of radioactive water in June 1981 at the Salem 2 reactor, a 23,000 gallon leak of "mildly" radioactive water (which splashed onto 16 workers) in February 1982, and radioactive gas leaks in March 1981 and September 1982 from Salem 1.

    9 December 1986
    A feedwater pipe ruptured at the Surry Unit 2 facility in Virginia, causing 8 workers to be scalded by a release of hot water and steam. Four of the workers later died from their injuries. In addition, water from the sprinkler systems caused a malfunction of the security system, preventing personnel from entering the facility. This was the second time that an incident at the Surry 2 unit resulted in fatal injuries due to scalding [see also 27 July 1972].

    1988
    It was reported that there were 2,810 accidents in U.S. commercial nuclear power plants in 1987, down slightly from the 2,836 accidents reported in 1986, according to a report issued by the Critical Mass Energy Project of Public Citizen, Inc.

    28 May 1993
    The Nuclear Regulatory Commission released a warning to the operators of 34 nuclear reactors around the country that the instruments used to measure levels of water in the reactor could give false readings during routine shutdowns and fail to detect important leaks. The problem was first bought to light by an engineer at Northeast Utilities in Connecticut who had been harassed for raising safety questions. The flawed instruments at boiling-water reactors designed by General Electric utilize pipes which were prone to being blocked by gas bubbles a failure to detect falling water levels could have resulted, potentially leading to a meltdown.

    15 February 2000
    New York's Indian Point II power plant vented a small amount of radioactive steam when a an aging steam generator ruptured. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission initially reported that no radioactive material was released, but later changed their report to say that there was a leak, but not of a sufficient amount to threaten public safety.

    6 March 2002
    Workers discovered a foot-long cavity eaten into the reactor vessel head at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant in Ohio. Borated water had corroded the metal to a 3/16 inch stainless steel liner which held back over 80,000 gallons of highly pressurized radioactive water. In April 2005 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission proposed fining plant owner First Energy 5.4 million dollars for their failure to uncover the problem sooner (similar problems plaguing other plants were already known within the industry), and also proposed banning System Engineer Andrew Siemaszko from working in the industry for five years due to his falsifying reactor vessel logs. As of this writing the fine and suspension were under appeal.

    November 2005
    High tritium levels, the result of leaking pipes, were discovered to have contaminated groundwater immediately adjacent to the Braidwood Generating Station in Braceville, Illinois.

    7 January 2010
    Officials at the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power station in Vernon, Vermont notified the Vermont Department of Health that samples taken from a monitoring well in November 2009 contained radioactive tritium at levels 37 times the federal limit. The source of the leak was traced the following month to a pair of badly corroded and leaking steam pipes, and a clogged floor drain a second leak was discovered and repaired four months later.

    May 2011
    The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission commenced meetings to discuss problems at a nuclear reactor in Braidwood, Illinois. Findings included the release of six million gallons of water containing radioactive tritium into the local aquifer, improper wiring of an alarm system intended to warn plant workers of problems, and a flaw in the plant's backup water supply.

    June 2011
    An AP investigation revealed that three quarters of all nuclear plants in the U.S. were found to be leaking radioactive tritium. Over half the plants studied had concentrations exceeding the federal drinking water standard, and while none had reached public drinking supplies, leaks at three plants had contaminated the drinking wells of nearby homes.

    31 January 2012
    A crack in a tube at the San Onofre plant in California led to a minor leak of radioactive steam. Approximately 8.7% of the tubes in a replacement steam generator experienced damage due to a design flaw. The plant was permanently shuttered the following year.

    Missiles, Bombs and Bombers

    13 February 1950
    A B-36 en route from Alaska to Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas, developed serious mechanical difficulties, complicated by severe icing conditions. The crew headed out over the Pacific Ocean and dropped its nuclear weapon from 8,000 feet off the coast of British Columbia. The weapon's high-explosive material detonated on impact, and the crew parachuted to safety after bailing out over Princess Royal Island.

    11 April 1950
    A B-29 flying from Kirtland Air Force Base crashed into a mountain near Manzano Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, killing 12 crewmembers aboard and 7 on the ground. A nuclear weapon onboard the aircraft was destroyed in the crash. See www.check-six.com/Crash_Sites/Travis_B-29_crash_site.htm for additional details.

    5 August 1950
    A B-29 carrying Mark IV nuclear bombs crashed on takeoff from Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base in California, killing 12 crewmembers and passengers aboard. The resultant fire led to an explosion of the conventional explosives, killing another six rescue workers on the ground. The base was later re-named for General Robert Travis, the Commander (and a casualty) of the B-29.

    10 November 1950
    A B-50 en route to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, was forced to jettison a nuclear weapon over the St. Lawrence River near St. Alexandre-de-Kamouraska, Canada.

    10 March 1956
    A B-47 with two capsules of nuclear weapons fuel aboard disappeared over the Mediterranean Sea after flying out of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. An exhaustive search failed to locate the aircraft, its crew, or the nuclear fuel capsules.

    27 July 1956
    A U.S. B-47 practicing a touch-and-go landing at Lakenheath Royal Air Force Station near Cambridge, England went out of control and smashed into a storage igloo housing three Mark 6 nuclear bombs, each of which had about 8,000 pounds of TNT in its trigger mechanism. No crewmen were killed, and fire fighters were able to extinguish the blazing jet fuel before it ignited the TNT.

    22 May 1957
    A 10 megaton hydrogen bomb was accidentally dropped from a B-36 bomber in an uninhabited area near Albuquerque, New Mexico owned by the University of New Mexico. The conventional explosives detonated, creating a 12 foot deep crater 25 feet across (in which some radiation was detected) and ejecting fragments and debris up to a mile from site.

    28 July 1957
    A C-124 Globemaster transporting three nuclear weapons and a nuclear capsule from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to Europe experienced loss of power in two engines. The crew jettisoned two of the weapons somewhere east of Rehobeth, Del., and Cape May/Wildwood, New Jersey. A search for the weapons was unsuccessful and it is a fair assumption that they still lie at the bottom of the ocean.

    11 October 1957
    A B-47 carrying a single nuclear weapon crashed shortly after takeoff from Homestead Air Force Base in Florida. The weapon was partially destroyed in the ensuing fire, but the nuclear core was recovered intact.

    31 January 1958
    A B-47 loaded with a nuclear weapon collapsed and caught fire on the runway at a U.S. Strategic Air Command base 90 miles northeast of Rabat, Morocco. The U.S. State Department denied the accidental explosion, reporting instead that "a practice evacuation" had occurred.

    5 February 1958
    A B-47 carrying a Mark 15, Mod 0, nuclear bomb on a simulated combat mission from Homestead Air Force Base in Florida collided with an F-86 near Savannah, Georgia. After three unsuccessful attempts to land at Hunter Air Force Base in Georgia, the B-47 crew jettisoned the nuclear bomb in the Atlantic Ocean off Savannah. The Air Force conducted a nine-week search of a 3-square-mile area in Wassaw Sound where the bomb was dropped, but declared on April 16 that the bomb was irretrievably lost. More details can be read in this Wikipedia article.

    11 March 1958
    A B-47 on its way from Hunter Air Force Base in Georgia to an overseas base accidentally dropped an unarmed nuclear weapon into the garden of Walter Gregg and his family in Mars Bluff, South Carolina. The conventional explosives detonated, destroying Gregg's house and injuring six family members. The blast resulted in the formation of a crater 50-70 feet wide and 25-30 feet deep. Five other houses and a church were also damaged five months later the Air Force paid the Greggs $54,000 in compensation.

    4 November 1958
    A B-47 carrying a nuclear weapon caught fire and crashed during takeoff from Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas, killing one crew member. The conventional explosives detonated, leaving a crater 35 feet wide and six feet deep.

    26 November 1958
    A B-47 caught fire on the ground at Chennault Air Force Base in Lake Charles, Louisiana, destroying a nuclear weapon onboard, resulting in minor radioactive contamination of the immediate vicinity.

    6 July 1959
    A C-124 aircraft with a nuclear weapon aboard crashed on take-off at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, resulting in radioactive contamination of the immediate area.

    15 October 1959
    A B-52 bomber with two nuclear weapons aboard, and a KC-135 jet tanker, collided over Hardinsburg, Kentucky during a mid-air refueling shortly after departing Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi. All four members of the tanker crew were killed, as were four of the eight members of the B-52 crew. The bomber subsequently crashed, and the nuclear weapons were recovered intact with minor burn damage to one.

    7 June 1960
    A BOMARC-A nuclear missile burst into flames after its fuel tank was ruptured by the explosion of a high pressure helium tank at McGuire Air Force Base in New Egypt, New Jersey. The missile melted, causing plutonium contamination at the facility and (due to runoff from firefighting water) in the ground water below.

    3 December 1960
    A Titan I missile exploded in its silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California due to an elevator malfunction. There were no injuries, but the facility was permanently destroyed.

    21 January 1961
    A B-52 bomber carrying one or more nuclear weapons disintegrated in midair following an engine fire and explosion approximately 10 miles north of Monticello, Utah, killing all five crewmembers.

    24 January 1961
    A B-52 bomber suffered structural failure and disintegrated in mid-air 12 miles north of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, NC, releasing two hydrogen bombs. Five crewmen parachuted to safety, while three others died when the aircraft exploded in mid-air. The bombs jettisoned as the plane descended, one parachuting to earth intact, the other plunging deep into waterlogged farmland. To this day, parts of the nuclear bomb remain embedded deep in the muck. The area is off-limits, and is tested regularly for radiation releases. More information can be found at the Broken Arrow: Goldsboro, NC site at www.ibiblio.org/bomb/.

    14 March 1961
    A B-52 on a training mission with two nuclear weapons aboard crashed in Yuba City, California following depressurization of the crew cabin. The crew bailed out at 10,000 feet altitude, but the commander stayed aboard to steer the stricken bomber away from populated areas until the craft descended to 4,000 feet.

    November 1963
    A B52 carrying two hydrogen bombs crashed into a hillside approximately 20 miles from Cumberland, Maryland during a snowstorm. One of the crewmembers was killed on impact another died of injuries and exposure in the zero-degree weather. The bombs were recovered intact from the wreckage of the aircraft.

    13 January 1964
    A B-52D en route from Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts to Turner Air Force Base in Georgia crashed 17 miles southwest of Cumberland, Maryland. Three of the five crewmembers were killed, and the two nuclear weapons aboard were recovered intact.

    8 December 1964
    A B-58 slid off an icy runway at Bunker Hill (now Grissom) Air Force Base in Peru, Indiana. The resulting fire consumed portions of five onboard nuclear weapons, leading to radioactive contamination of the surrounding area. Systems operator Roger Hall was killed in an attempt to eject from the stricken aircraft, and two other crewmembers experienced non life-threatening burns.

    December 1964
    An electrical fault led to the firing of a retro-rocket aboard a Minuteman missile at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota. The onboard nuclear device was jettisoned from the missile, landing at the bottom of the missile silo.

    9 August 1965
    A welder at a Titan missile silo outside Searcy, Arkansas, accidentally hit a hydraulic line, leading to a fire and power outage that resulted in the deaths of 53 workers. w11 October 1965
    A fire at a refueling facility at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio spread to a C-124 cargo plane with nuclear weapons aboard, resulting in radioactive contamination to the aircraft, its cargo, and the clothing of explosive ordnance disposal and firefighting personnel.

    5 December 1965
    An A-4E aircraft accidentally rolled off the USS Toconderoga, with the loss of pilot Lt. Douglas M. Webster and one nuclear weapon. The incident, which occurred in the Pacific Ocean approximately 200 miles east of Okinawa, was not reported in detail by the Department of Defense until 1981.

    17 January 1966
    A B-52 collided with an Air Force KC-135 jet tanker while refueling over the coast of Spain, killing eight of the eleven crew members and igniting the KC-135's 40,000 gallons of jet fuel. Two hydrogen bombs ruptured, scattering radioactive particles over the fields of Palomares a third landed intact near the village of Palomares the fourth was lost at sea 12 miles off the coast of Palomares and required a search by thousands of men working for three months to recover it. Approximately 1,400 tons of radioactive soil and vegetation were removed to the U.S. for burial at a nuclear waste dump in Aiken, S.C. The U.S. eventually settled claims by 522 Palomares residents at a cost of $600,000, and gave the town the gift of a $200,000 desalinizing plant.

    22 January 1968
    A B-52 crashed 7 miles south of Thule Air Force Base in Greenland, scattering the radioactive fragments of three hydrogen bombs over the terrain and dropping one bomb into the sea after a fire broke out in the navigator's compartment. Contaminated ice and airplane debris were sent back to the U.S., with the bomb fragments going back to the manufacturer in Amarillo, Texas. The incident outraged the people of Denmark (which owned Greenland at the time, and which prohibits nuclear weapons over its territory) and led to massive anti-U.S. demonstrations.

    Spring 1968
    An unknown nuclear accident occurred involving a U.S. military craft at sea in or over the Atlantic Ocean. As of 1980 the incident remained classified.

    19 September 1980
    An Air Force repairman doing routine maintenance in a Titan II ICBM silo in Damascus, Arkansas dropped a wrench socket, which rolled off a work platform and fell to the bottom of the silo. The socket struck the missile, causing a leak from a pressurized fuel tank. The missile complex and surrounding areas were evacuated. Eight and a half hours later, the fuel vapors ignited, causing an explosion which killed an Air Force specialist and injured 21 others. The explosion also blew off the 740-ton reinforced concrete-and-steel silo door and catapulted the warhead 600 feet into the air. The silo has since been filled in with gravel, and operations were transferred to a similar installation at Rock, Kansas. The episode is described in detail in Eric Schlosser's Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, The Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety .

    2 November 1981
    A fully-armed Poseidon missile was accidentally dropped 17 feet from a crane in Scotland during a transfer operation between a U.S. submarine and its mother ship.

    Some of the following incidents involve the discharge of radioactive coolant water by ships and submarines. While water from the primary coolant system stays radioactive for only a few seconds, it picks up bits of cobalt, chromium and other elements (from rusting pipes and the reactor) which remain radioactive for years. In realization of this fact, the U.S. Navy has curtailed its previously frequent practice of dumping coolant at sea.

    18 April 1959
    An experimental sodium-cooled reactor utilized aboard the USS Seawolf, the U.S.'s second nuclear submarine, was scuttled in 9,000 feet of water off the Delaware/Maryland coast in a stainless steel containment vessel. The reactor was plagued by persistent leaks in its steam system (caused by the corrosive nature of the sodium) and was later replaced with a more conventional model. The reactor is estimated to have contained 33,000 curies of radioactivity and is likely the largest single radioactive object ever dumped deliberately into the ocean. Subsequent attempts to locate the reactor proved to be futile.

    October 1959
    One man was killed and another three were seriously burned in the explosion and fire of a prototype reactor for the USS Triton at the Navy's training center in West Milton, New York. The Navy stated, "The explosion. was completely unrelated to the reactor or any of its principal auxiliary systems," but sources familiar with the operation claim that the high-pressure air flask which exploded was utilized to operate a critical back-up system in the event of a reactor emergency.

    1961
    The USS Theodore Roosvelt was contaminated when radioactive waste from its demineralization system, blew back onton the ship after an attempt to dispose of the material at sea. This happened on other occasions as well with other ships (for example, the USS Guardfish in 1975).

    10 April 1963
    The nuclear submarine Thresher imploded during a test dive east of Boston, killing all 129 men aboard.

    An A-4E Skyhawk strike aircraft carrying a nuclear weapon rolled off an elevator on the U.S. aircraft carrier Ticonderoga and fell into the sea. Because the bomb was lost at a depth of approximately 16,000 feet, Pentagon officials feared that intense water pressure could have caused the B-43 hydrogen bomb to explode. It is still unknown whether an explosion did occur. The pilot, aircraft, and weapon were lost.

    The Pentagon claimed that the bomb was lost "500 miles away from land." However, it was later revealed that the aircraft and nuclear weapon sank only miles from the Japanese island chain of Ryukyu. Several factors contributed to the Pentagon's secretiveness. The USS Ticonderoga was returning from a mission off North Vietnam confirming that the carrier had nuclear weapons aboard would document their introduction into the Vietnam War. Furthermore, Japan's anti-nuclear law prohibited the introduction of atomic weapons into its territory, and U.S. military bases in Japan are not exempt from this law. Thus, confirming that the USS Ticonderoga carried nuclear weapons would signify U.S. violation of its military agreements with Japan. The carrier was headed to Yokosuka, Japan, and disclosure of the accident in the mid-1980s caused a strain in U.S.-Japanese relations.

    1968
    Radioactive coolant water may have been released by the USS Swordfish, which was moored at the time in Sasebo Harbor in Japan. According to one source, the incident was alleged by activists but a nearby Japanese government vessel failed to detect any such radiation leak. The purported incident was protested bitterly by the Japanese, with Premier Eisaku Sate warning that U.S. nuclear ships would no longer be allowed to call at Japanese ports unless their safety could be guaranteed.

    22 May 1968
    The U.S.S. Scorpion, a nuclear-powered attack submarine carrying two Mark 45 ASTOR torpedoes with nuclear warheads, sank mysteriously on this day. It was eventually photographed lying on the bottom of the ocean, where all ninety-nine of its crew were lost. Details of the accident remained classified until November 1993, when a Navy report detailing the incident was made public. The report suggested that a malfunction in one of Scorpion's torpedoes could have caused the sinking, but evidence from subsequent dives to the location suggest that this was not the culprit.

    14 January 1969
    A series of explosions aboard the nuclear aircraft carrier Enterprise left 17 dead and 85 injured.

    16 May 1969
    The U.S.S. Guitarro, a $50 million nuclear submarine undergoing final fitting in San Francisco Bay, sank to the bottom as water poured into a forward compartment. A House Armed Services subcommittee later found the Navy guilty of "inexcusable carelessness" in connection with the event.

    12 December 1971
    Five hundred gallons of radioactive coolant water spilled into the Thames River near New London, Connecticut as it was being transferred from the submarine Dace to the sub tender Fulton.

    October-November 1975
    The USS Proteus, a disabled submarine tender, discharged significant amounts of radioactive coolant water into Guam's Apra Harbor. A geiger counter check of the harbor water near two public beaches measured 100 millirems/hour, fifty times the allowable dose.

    22 May 1978
    Up to 500 gallons of radioactive water was released when a valve was mistakenly opened aboard the USS Puffer near Puget Sound in Washington.

    November 1992
    Due to a valve failure, the nuclear-powered USS Long Beach leaked 109 gallons of radioactive cooling water over a 44-day period while docked at San Diego Naval Station. An additional 50 gallons had leaked out there the previous April and May. The San Diego Union reported that coolant had also been released at Pearl Harbor (Hawaii) and Indian Island (Washington). U.S. Navy officials insist that the level of radiation posed no threat, and that a "very small amount of valve leakage that is unavoidable and occurs on all ships is well understood, controlled and accounted for."

    Nuclear Bomb Tests and Testing Facilities - Other

    26 April 1953
    Radioactive rain, the result of above-ground nuclear tests, fell on Troy, New York.

    5 September 1961
    President Kennedy ordered the resumption of nuclear testing, "underground, with no fallout."

    10 December 1961
    Clouds of radioactive steam escaped from an underground nuclear test, closing several New Mexico highways.

    4 June 1962 The Bluegill nuclear test, designed to detonate a nuclear device in the atmosphere, was aborted 10 minutes after launch when the missile tracking system failed prior to nuclear detonation. The nuclear device was lost at sea.

    20 June 1962
    A failure of the Starfish nuclear test, designed to detonate a nuclear device in space, caused radioactive debris to be scattered across Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean.

    July 1962
    Another missile test on Johnston Island (involving the same Thor rocket used on 20 June 1962) misfired on the launchpad. The subsequent destruction of the missile resulted in destruction of the launch pad and accompanying plutonium contamination.

    15 October 1962
    Another failed missile test (approximately 90 seconds after launch) resulted in further plutonium contamination of Johnston Island (see previous two entries).

    9 December 1968
    Clouds of radioactive steam from a nuclear test in Nevada broke through the ground, releasing fallout and violating the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty signed 5 years earlier.

    18 December 1970
    An underground nuclear test in Nevada (code-named "Baneberry") resulted in a release of radioactive steam 8,000 feet in the air over Wyoming.

    15 July 1999
    A spokesperson for President Clinton announced that thousands of contract workers at U.S. nuclear weapons facilities, exposed to toxic and radioactive substances during the previous 50 years, could seek federal compensation for related illnesses.

    Processing, Storage, Shipping and Disposal

    From 1946 to 1970 approximately 90,000 cannisters of radioactive waste were jettisoned in 50 ocean dumps up and down the East and West coasts of the U.S., including prime fishing areas, as part of the early nuclear waste disposal program from the military's atomic weapons program. The waste also included contaminated tools, chemicals, and laboratory glassware from weapons laboratories, and commercial/medical facilities

    11 September 1957
    A fire at the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant near Denver, Colorato led to a serious release of plutonium dust and smoke into the atmosphere. Another serious fire occured at the same plant in 1969 .

    December 1962
    A summary report was presented at an Atomic Energy Commission symposium in Germantown, Maryland, listing 47 accidents involving shipment of nuclear materials to that date, 17 of which were considered "serious."

    13 November 1963
    123,000 pounds of high explosives (components of obsolete nuclear weapons being disassembled) detonated at an Atomic Energy Commission storage facility at Medina Base, Texas. Three employees were injured, and minor radioactive contamination of the facility occurred.

    11 May 1969
    A plutonium fire broke out in Building 776 at the Atomic Energy Commission's Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant. Plutonium was released into the atmosphere and tracked out of the building on the boots of firefighters, and several buildings at the factory were so badly contaminated that they had to be dismantled.

    1971
    After experimenting with disposal of radioactive waste in salt, the Atomic Energy Commission announced that "Project Salt Vault" would solve the waste problem. But when 180,000 gallons of contaminated water was pumped into a borehole it promptly and unexpectedly disappeared. The project was abandoned two years later.

    1972
    The West Valley, NY fuel reprocessing plant was closed after 6 years in operation, leaving 600,000 gallons of high-level wastes buried in leaking tanks. The site caused measurable contamination of Lakes Ontario and Erie.

    December 1972
    A major fire and two explosions occurred at a Pauling, New York plutonium fabrication plant. An undetermined amount of radioactive plutonium was scattered inside and outside the plant, resulting in its permanent shutdown.

    1979
    The Critical Mass Energy Project (part of Ralph Nader's Public Citizen, Inc.) tabulated 122 accidents involving the transport of nuclear material in 1979, including 17 involving radioactive contamination.

    16 July 1979
    In the largest single release of radiation in U.S. history, a dam holding radioactive uranium mill tailings in Church Rock, New Mexico failed, sending an estimated 100 million gallons of radioactive liquids and 1,100 tons of solid waste as far as 50 miles downstream into neighboring Arizona.

    August 1979
    Highly enriched uranium was released from a top-secret nuclear fuel plant near Erwin, Tennessee. About 1,000 people were contaminated with up to 5 times as much radiation as would normally be received in a year. Between 1968 and 1983 the plant "lost" 234 pounds of highly enriched uranium, forcing the plant to be closed six times during that period.

    January 1980
    A 5.5 Richter earthquake at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where large amounts of nuclear material are kept, caused a tritium leak.

    21 September 1980
    Two canisters containing radioactive materials fell off a truck on New Jersey's Route 17. The driver, en route from Pennsylvania to Toronto, did not notice the missing cargo until he reached Albany, New York.

    1983
    The Department of Energy confirmed that 1,200 tons of mercury had been released over the years from the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Components Plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the U.S.'s earliest nuclear weapons production plant. In 1987, the DOE also reported that PCBs, heavy metals, and radioactive substances were all present in the groundwater beneath Y-12. Y-12 and the nearby K-25 and X-10 plants were found to have contaminated the atmosphere, soil and streams in the area.

    December 1984
    The Fernald Uranium Plant, a 1,050-acre uranium fuel production complex 20 miles northwest of Cincinnati, Ohio, was temporarily shut down after the Department of Energy disclosed that excessive amounts of radioactive materials had been released through ventilating systems. Subsequent reports revealed that 230 tons of radioactive material had leaked into the Greater Miami River valley during the previous thirty years, 39 tons of uranium dust had been released into the atmosphere, 83 tons had been discharged into surface water, and 5,500 tons of radioactive and other hazardous substances had been released into pits and swamps where they seeped into the groundwater. In addition, 337 tons of uranium hexafluoride was found to be missing, its whereabouts completely unknown. In 1988 nearby residents sued and were granted a $73 million settlement by the government. The plant was not permanently shut down until 1989. 1986
    A truck carrying low-level radioactive material swerved to avoid a farm vehicle, went off a bridge on Route 84 in Idaho, and dumped part of its cargo in the Snake River. Officials reported the release of radioactivity.

    6 January 1986
    A container of highly toxic gas exploded at The Sequoyah Fuels Corp. uranium processing factory in Gore, Oklahoma, causing one worker to die (when his lungs were destroyed) and 130 others to seek medical treatment. In response, the Government kept the plant closed for more than a year and fined owners Kerr-McGee $310,000, citing poorly trained workers, poorly maintained equipment and a disregard for safety and the environment. [See also 24 November 1992.]

    1988
    The National Research Council panel released a report listing 30 "significant unreported incidents" at the Savannah River production plants over the previous 30 years. As at Hanford, ground water contamination resulted from pushing production of radioactive materials past safe limits at this weapons complex. In January 1989, scientists discovered a fault running under the entire site through which contaminants reached the underground aquifer, a major source of drinking water for the southeast. Turtles in nearby ponds were found to contain radioactive strontium of up to 1,000 times the normal background level.

    6 June 1988
    Radiation Sterilizers, Incorporated reported that a leak of Cesium-137 had occurred at their Decatur, Georgia facility. Seventy thousand medical supply containers and milk cartons were recalled as they had been exposed to radiation. Ten employees were also exposed, three of whom "had enough on them that they contaminated other surfaces" including materials in their homes and cars, according to Jim Setser at the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

    October 1988
    The Rocky Flats, Colorado plutonium bomb manufacturing site was partially closed after two employees and a Department of Energy inspector inhaled radioactive particles. Subsequent investigations revealed safety violations (including uncalibrated monitors and insufficient fire-response equipment) and leaching of radioactive contaminants into the local groundwater.

    24 November 1992
    The Sequoyah Fuels Corp. uranium processing factory in Gore, Oklahoma closed after repeated citations by the Government for violations of nuclear safety and environmental rules. It's record during 22 years of operation included an accident in 1986 that killed one worker and injured dozens of others and the contamination of the Arkansas River and groundwater. The Sequoyah Fuels plant, one of two privately-owned American factories that fabricated fuel rods and armor-piercing bullet shells, had been shut down a week before by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission when an accident resulted in the release of toxic gas. Thirty-four people sought medical attention as a result of the accident. The plant had also been shut down the year before when unusually high concentrations of uranium were detected in water in a nearby construction pit. [Also see 6 January 1986 for details of an additional incident.] A Government investigation revealed that the company had known for years that uranium was leaking into the ground at levels 35,000 times higher than Federal law allows Carol Couch, the plant's environmental manager, was cited by the Government for obstructing the investigation and knowingly giving Federal agents false information.

    31 March 1994
    Fire at a nuclear research facility on Long Island, New York resulted in the nuclear contamination of three fire fighters, three reactor operators, and one technician. Measurable amounts of radioactive substances were released into the immediate environment.

    8 August 1999
    The Washington Post reported that thousands of workers were unwittingly exposed to plutonium and other highly radioactive metals over a 23-year period (beginning in the mid-1950's) at the Department of Energy's Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Kentucky. Workers, told they were handling Uranium (rather than the far more toxic plutonium), inhaled radioactive dust while processing the materials as part of a government experiment to recycle used nuclear reactor fuel.

    June 2000
    U.S. Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH) led a field senate hearing regarding workers exposed to hazardous materials while working in the nation's atomic plants. At the hearing, which revealed information about potential on and off-site contamination at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, Ohio, DeWine noted, "We know that as a result of Cold War efforts, the government, yes, our federal government, allowed thousands of workers at its facilities across the country to be exposed to poisonous materials, such as beryllium dust, plutonium, and silicon, without adequate protection." Testimony also indicated that the Piketon plant altered workers' radiation dose readings and worked closely with medical professionals to fight worker's compensation claims.

    5 February 2014
    A dump truck caught fire at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant outside Carlsbad, New Mexico (a more serious accident would occur 9 days later - see following entry). The event is details in the official report from the U.S. Department of Energy.

    14 February 2014
    A 55-gallon drum of radioactive waste burst open at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant outside Carlsbad, New Mexico, leading to internal radiological contamination of 22 employees and forcing a temporary shutdown of the facility. The incident occurred just 9 days after an accidental underground fire at the facility (see previous entry). The cause was determined to be a switch from from using clay kitty litter (a standard usage in the industry) to organic kitty litter, whose organic content interacted with the nuclear waste. More than 500 additional drums packed with the wrong type of litter were sealed in heavier containers to prevent their bursting. Numerous other safety issues were cited in the U.S. Department of Energy's official reports (Phase 1 and Phase 2) on the accident.

    The Hanford site (referred to at various times as Hanford Project, Hanford Works, Hanford Engineer Works and Hanford Nuclear Reservation) is a former nuclear production site in southwestern Washington state. The site, in the process of being decommissioned (it is the nation's most contaminated nuclear site), has been the scene of numerous serious incidents over the past few decades, many involving releases of radioactivity into the adjacent soil, air, and the nearby Columbia River. An excellent summary in the IEEE Spectrum Magazine notes that cleanup efforts at Hanford are expected to "cost as much as $550 billion and last 60 years."

    30 August 1976
    A chemical explosion at Hanford resulted in injury to one worker, including contamination with radioactive Americium 241 so severe that an onsite alpha survey meter registered off-scale measurements.

    1986
    After almost 40 years of cover-ups, the U.S. Government released 19,000 pages of previously classified documents which revealed that the Hanford site was responsible for the release of significant amounts of radioactive materials into the atmosphere and the adjacent Columbia River. Between 1944 and 1966, the eight reactors, a source of plutonium production for atomic weapons, discharged billions of gallons of liquids and billions of cubic meters of gases containing plutonium and other radioactive contaminants into the Columbia River, and the soil and air of the Columbia Basin. Although detrimental effects were noticed as early as 1948, all reports critical of the facilities remained classified. By the summer of 1987, the cost of cleaning up Hanford was estimated to be $48.5 billion.

    The Technical Steering Panel of the government-sponsored Hanford Environmental Dose Reconstruction Project released the following statistics in July 1990: Of the 270,000 people living in the affected area, most received low doses of radiation from Iodine, but about 13,500 received a total dose some 1,300 times the annual amount of airborne radiation considered safe for civilians by the Department of Energy. Approximately 1,200 children received doses far in excess of this number, and many more received additional doses from contaminants other than Iodine.

    Recurring problems at the site have continued for example, on 5 November 2010 The Tri-City Herald reported on radioactive rabbits at the site straying "close enough to the site's boundaries to potentially come in contact with the public", prompting Washington State Department of Health workers to conduct a survey of contaminated droppings. In addition, Washington Closure Hanford, a contractor cleaning up part of Hanford, has erected fences, removed vegetation, installed gravel and steel plates, and scented the perimeter with fox urine to deter contaminated animals from burrowing under border fences.

    May 1997
    A 40 gallon tank of toxic chemicals (stored illegally at Handord) exploded, causing the release of 20,000-30,000 gallons of plutonium-contaminated water. A cover-up ensued, involving the contractors doing clean-up and the Department of Energy, who denied the release of radioactive materials. They also told eight plant workers that tests indicated that they hadn't been exposed to plutonium even though no such tests actually were conducted (later testing revealed that in fact they had not been exposed). Fluor Daniel Hanford Inc., operator of the Hanford Site, was cited for violations of the Department of Energy's nuclear safety rules and fined $140,625. Violations associated with the explosion included the contractor's failure to assure that breathing devices operated effectively, failure to make timely notifications of the emergency, and failure to conduct proper radiological surveys of workers. Other violations cited by the DOE included a number of events between November 1996 and June 1997 involving Fluor Daniel Hanford's failure to assure adherence to PFP "criticality" safety procedures. ("Criticality" features are defined as those features used "to assure safe handling of fissile materials and prevention of. an unplanned and uncontrolled chain reaction that can release large amounts of radiation.")

    July 2000
    Wildfires in the vicinity of the Hanford site hit the highly radioactive "B/C" waste disposal trenches, raising airborne plutonium radiation levels in the nearby cities of Pasco and Richland to 1,000 above normal. Wildfires also threatened the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the DOE's Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory. In the latter case, the fires closely approached large amounts of stored radioactive waste and forced the evacuation of 1,800 workers.

    9 May 2013
    Scientific American reported that 60 of 177 onsite underground tanks were found to be leaking. Controversy surrounding the project, run by contractor Bechtel National, Inc. led to the resignment of Chief project engineer Gary Brunson, while whistleblower complaints (alleging that safety concerns were suppressed by Bechtel) were filed by Nuclear and Environmental Safety Manager Donna Busche and former Deputy Chief Process Engineer Walter Tamosaitis.

    9 May 2017
    A portion of a tunnel used to store highly radioactive chemical waste and irradiated equipment collapsed, resulting in temporary evacuation of the site.

    8 June 2017
    At least 11 workers tested positive for internal exposure to plutonium following demolition activities, and radioactive particles were found well beyond the demolition zones where they were supposed to be contained. Department of Energy officials initially claimed that "workers were not at risk", but investigative journalism revealed internal memos from the contractor detailing the exposure. An evaluation report released by contractor CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. in December 2017 identified failure of onsite air monitors and incorrect use of a "fixative" to contain radiation as contributors to the contamination.


    Exclusive: U.S. assessing reported leak at Chinese nuclear power facility

    The US government has spent the past week assessing a report of a leak at a Chinese nuclear power plant, after a French company that part owns and helps operate it warned of an “imminent radiological threat,” according to US officials and documents reviewed by CNN.

    The warning included an accusation that the Chinese safety authority was raising the acceptable limits for radiation detection outside the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong province in order to avoid having to shut it down, according to a letter from the French company to the US Department of Energy obtained by CNN.

    Despite the alarming notification from Framatome, the French company, the Biden administration believes the facility is not yet at a “crisis level,” one of the sources said.

    While US officials have deemed the situation does not currently pose a severe safety threat to workers at the plant or Chinese public, it is unusual that a foreign company would unilaterally reach out to the American government for help when its Chinese state-owned partner is yet to acknowledge a problem exists. The scenario could put the US in a complicated situation should the leak continue or become more severe without being fixed.

    However, concern was significant enough that the National Security Council held multiple meetings last week as they monitored the situation, including two at the deputy level and another gathering at the assistant secretary level on Friday, which was led by NSC Senior Director for China Laura Rosenberger and Senior Director for Arms Control Mallory Stewart, according to US officials.

    The Biden administration has discussed the situation with the French government and their own experts at the Department of Energy, sources said. The US has also been in contact with the Chinese government, US officials said, though the extent of that contact is unclear.

    The US government declined to explain the assessment but officials at the NSC, State Department and the Department of Energy insisted that if there were any risk to the Chinese public, the US would be required to make it known under current treaties related to nuclear accidents.

    Framatome had reached out to the US in order to obtain a waiver that would allow them to share American technical assistance in order to resolve the issue at the Chinese plant. There are only two reasons why this waiver would be granted, and one is an “imminent radiological threat,” the same verbiage used in the June 8 memo.

    The memo claims the Chinese limit was increased to exceed French standards, yet it remains unclear how that compares to US limits.

    “It is not surprising that the French would reach out,” according to Cheryl Rofer, a nuclear scientist who retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2001. “In general, this sort of thing is not extraordinary, particularly if they think the country they are contacting has some special ability to help.”

    “But China likes to project that everything is just fine, all the time,” she added.

    The US could give permission for Framatome to provide the technical assistance or support to help resolve the issue, but it is the Chinese government’s decision whether the incident requires shutting down the plant completely, the documents obtained by CNN indicate.

    Ultimately, the June 8 request for assistance from Framatome is the only reason why the US became involved in the situation at all, multiple sources told CNN.

    However, the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant published a statement on its website Sunday night local time, maintaining that environmental readings for both the plant and its surrounding area were “normal.”

    The two nuclear reactors in Taishan are both operational, the statement said, adding that Unit 2 had recently completed an “overhaul” and “successfully connected to the grid on June 10, 2021.” The statement did not define why or how the plant was overhauled.

    “Since it was put into commercial operation, the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant has strictly controlled the operation of the units in accordance with operating license documents and technical procedures. All operating indicators of the two units have met the requirements of nuclear safety regulations and power plant technical specifications,” the statement noted.

    In a separate statement Friday, hours after CNN first reached out for comment, Framatome acknowledged the company “is supporting resolution of a performance issue with the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong Province, China.”

    “According to the data available, the plant is operating within the safety parameters. Our team is working with relevant experts to assess the situation and propose solutions to address any potential issue,” the statement added.

    Framatome would not directly address the content of the letter to the Department of Energy when asked by CNN.

    The letter comes as tensions between Beijing and Washington remain high and as G7 leaders met this weekend in the United Kingdom with China an important topic of discussion. There are no indications the reports of a leak were discussed at a high level at the summit.

    French utility company Electrictie de France (EDF) said in a statement it has been informed of an increase concentration of “noble gases in the primary circuit” of reactor number one of the Taishan nuclear power plant.

    EDF holds a 30% stake in the company with Chinese state energy company China General Nuclear Power Group in TNPJVC, which owns and operates the power plant in southern China.

    EDF says “the presence of certain noble gases in the primary circuit is a known phenomenon, studied and provided for in the reactor operating procedures,” but did not elaborate on gas levels.

    Later on Monday, a spokesperson for EDF said the increased levels of radiation were caused by a “degradation of the housing of the fuel rods.”

    The spokesperson affirmed that the levels of radioactivity observed at the plant were below the threshold stipulated by the Chinese authorities, adding that the affected housings are the first of three containment barriers between the rods and the atmosphere.

    The spokesperson noted that the risk of a potential leakage in the rod housing was first discussed following a planned refueling outage in October 2020 after initial measurements led to suspicions of a “lack of tightness” in the housings.

    However, the spokesperson stressed that without a full analysis, it is too early to confirm whether a complete shutdown of the reactor is needed, adding that EDF currently has no information regarding the origin of the rod housing degradation.

    CNN has reached out to the Chinese authorities in Beijing and Guangdong province, where the plant is located, and the Chinese embassy in Washington, DC. None have responded directly, though China is amidst a three-day national holiday that runs through the end of Monday.

    A warning from a French nuclear company

    The issue first emerged when Framatome, a French designer and supplier of nuclear equipment and services that was contracted to help construct and operate the Chinese-French plant, reached out to the US Department of Energy late last month informing them of a potential issue at the Chinese nuclear plant.

    The company, mainly owned by EDF, the French utility company, then submitted an operational safety assistance request on June 3, formally asking for a waiver that would allow them to address an urgent safety matter, to the Department of Energy, warning American officials that the nuclear reactor is leaking fission gas.

    The company followed up with DOE on June 8 asking for an expedited review of their request, according to a memo obtained by CNN.

    “The situation is an imminent radiological threat to the site and to the public and Framatome urgently requests permission to transfer technical data and assistance as may be necessary to return the plant to normal operation,” read the June 8 memo from the company’s subject matter expert to the Energy Department.

    Framatome reached out to the US government for assistance, the document indicates, because a Chinese government agency was continuing to increase its limits on the amount of gas that could safely be released from the facility without shutting it down, according to the documents reviewed by CNN.

    When asked by CNN for comment, the Energy Department did not directly address the memo’s claim that China was raising the limits.

    In the June 8 memo, Framatome informed DOE the Chinese safety authority has continued to raise regulatory “off-site dose limits.” It also says the company suspects that limit might be increased again as to keep the leaking reactor running despite safety concerns for the surrounding population.

    “To ensure off-site dose limits are maintained within acceptable bounds to not cause undue harm to the surrounding population, TNPJVC (operator of Taishan-1) is required to comply with an regulatory limit and otherwise shut the reactor down if such a limit is exceeded,” the June 8 memo reads.

    It notes that this limit was established at a level consistent with what is dictated by the French safety authority, but “due to the increasing number of failures,” China’s safety authority, the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) has since revised the limit to more than double the initial release, “which in turn increases off-site risk to the public and on-site workers.”

    As of May 30, the Taishan reactor had reached 90% of the allegedly revised limit, the memo adds, noting concerns the plant operator may be “petitioning the NNSA to further increase the shutdown limit on an exigent basis in an effort to keep running which in turn would continue to increase the risk to the off-site population and the workers at the plant site.”

    The NNSA is China’s nuclear safety regulatory authority. It oversees the implementation of safety standards at facilities like Taishan.

    The US State Department came into possession of the June 8 letter and immediately began engaging with interagency partners and with the French government, State Department officials said.

    Over the course of 48-72 hours, the US government has been in repeated contact with French officials and US technical experts at DOE, State Department officials said, noting that this flurry of activity was due to the June 8 letter.

    Subsequently, there were several urgent questions for the French government and Framatome, they added. CNN has reached out to the French embassy in Washington for comment.

    Still, Rofer, the retired nuclear scientist, warns that a gas leak could indicate bigger problems.

    “If they do have a gas leak, that indicates some of their containment is broken,” Rofer said. “It also argues that maybe some of the fuel elements could be broken, which would be a more serious problem.”

    “That would be a reason for shutting down the reactor and would then require the reactor to be refueled,” Rofer told CNN, adding that removing the fuel elements must be done carefully.

    For now, US officials do not think the leak is at “crisis level,” but acknowledge it is increasing and bears monitoring, the source familiar with the situation told CNN.

    While there is a chance the situation could become a disaster, US officials currently believe it is more likely that it will not become one, the source added.

    China has expanded its use of nuclear energy in recent years, and it represents about 5% of all power generated in the country. According to China Nuclear Energy Association, there were 16 operational nuclear plants with 49 nuclear reactors in China as of March 2021, with the total generation capacity of 51,000 megawatts.

    The Taishan plant is a prestige project built after China signed a nuclear electricity generation agreement with Électricité de France, which is mainly owned by the French government. The construction of the plant started in 2009, and the two units started generating electricity in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

    The city of Taishan has a population of 950,000 and is situated in the southeast of the country in Guangdong province, which is home to 126 million residents and has a GDP of $1.6 trillion, comparable to that of Russia and South Korea.

    CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly described the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA). It is China’s nuclear safety regulatory authority.


    Why Homer Simpson loves nuclear power plants

    In theory, it might seem easy to convert people who support climate policy to support nuclear power, but that has not proven to be the case. Many nuclear proponents were initially optimistic that growing concern for climate change would increase support for nuclear energy, as studies in the United States and the United Kingdom found that a climate framing increased support in public opinion surveys. Yet this motivation may ultimately be limited by underlying worldviews. Public attitude surveys across the UK and the European Union have found that the people most concerned about climate change are the least supportive of nuclear power.

    To get a deeper sense of why greens oppose nuclear power, one has to look closely at what has been called by risk researchers the “white male effect,” the significant gender and racial gap in support for nuclear, with white men being much more supportive of the technology and judging the risks to be lower than other, comparable groups.

    Early studies of this gap in risk perception focused on presumed differences in rationality or education, with white males being better educated in the relevant sciences. But large surveys in the 1990s and early 2000s found that the risk perception gap between white males and everyone else applies across many environmental, biological, and technological risks, while women and men of color generally hold attitudes toward risk that are more similar to each other. And while this white male gap is found across such risky and disparate subjects as drinking alcohol and severe storms, some of the statistically largest differences in risk perception are related to nuclear power and nuclear waste.

    The risk perception gap between white males and everyone else applies across many environmental, biological, and technological risks.

    More recent studies have offered two explanations for the white male effect that together speak to deeper attitudes and values. First, the vulnerability hypothesis suggests that attitudes about risk among women and people of color reflect their historical lack of power and control in society, a disempowerment that has indeed left them more vulnerable to a variety of risks. A second hypothesis positions risk perception in people’s underlying beliefs about how the world should be structured. This cultural worldview hypothesis posits that groups who are more risk tolerant also show strong commitments to institutional hierarchy and individual freedom. Groups that are more risk-averse, in contrast, are more committed to egalitarian and communitarian approaches to social organization.

    These contrasting worldviews are also correlated with gender, race, and political party, helping to explain other apparent gaps in support for different technologies. So when one looks closely at the phenomenon, it may be less about white men than about who sees the world as best ordered by hierarchies (e.g., companies and government bureaucracies) or individuals (acting in the economic marketplace) and who sees it as best ordered by egalitarian communities. Indeed, an analysis by leading researchers who study risk and culture found that the influence of worldviews on risk perception was much more important than either level of education or gender.

    When we understand the white male effect, we can see the nuclear power industry through the eyes of others: with its very large, utility-owned power plants, the industry is the epitome of hierarchical worldviews. Not only that, decisions about acceptable risk have been decided, in large part, by politically and economically powerful men, most of whom are white, and whose own perceptions of risk are quite different from those of other cross sections of the broader public.

    New nuclear technologies may address technological and economic risks, but technological innovations alone will do very little to address incompatible worldviews or the distribution of social and economic power. Indeed, in its evolution into a more climate-focused endeavor, the environmental movement has expanded its focus to fixing issues of equity and justice as a part of the climate response, seeing nuclear power as part of a hierarchical past rather than part of the egalitarian future that they envision.


    US assessing reported leak at Chinese nuclear power facility

    (CNN) — The US government has spent the past week assessing a report of a leak at a Chinese nuclear power plant, after a French company that part owns and helps operate it warned of an “imminent radiological threat,” according to US officials and documents reviewed by CNN.

    The warning included an accusation that the Chinese safety authority was raising the acceptable limits for radiation detection outside the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong province in order to avoid having to shut it down, according to a letter from the French company to the US Department of Energy obtained by CNN.

    Despite the alarming notification from Framatome, the French company, the Biden administration believes the facility is not yet at a “crisis level,” one of the sources said.

    While US officials have deemed the situation does not currently pose a severe safety threat to workers at the plant or Chinese public, it is unusual that a foreign company would unilaterally reach out to the American government for help when its Chinese state-owned partner is yet to acknowledge a problem exists. The scenario could put the US in a complicated situation should the leak continue or become more severe without being fixed.

    However, concern was significant enough that the National Security Council held multiple meetings last week as they monitored the situation, including two at the deputy level and another gathering at the assistant secretary level on Friday, which was led by NSC Senior Director for China Laura Rosenberger and Senior Director for Arms Control Mallory Stewart, according to US officials.

    The Biden administration has discussed the situation with the French government and their own experts at the Department of Energy, sources said. The US has also been in contact with the Chinese government, US officials said, though the extent of that contact is unclear.

    The US government declined to explain the assessment but officials at the NSC, State Department and the Department of Energy insisted that if there were any risk to the Chinese public, the US would be required to make it known under current treaties related to nuclear accidents.

    Framatome had reached out to the US in order to obtain a waiver that would allow them to share American technical assistance in order to resolve the issue at the Chinese plant. There are only two reasons why this waiver would be granted, and one is an “imminent radiological threat,” the same verbiage used in the June 8 memo.

    The memo claims the Chinese limit was increased to exceed French standards, yet it remains unclear how that compares to US limits.

    “It is not surprising that the French would reach out,” according to Cheryl Rofer, a nuclear scientist who retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2001. “In general, this sort of thing is not extraordinary, particularly if they think the country they are contacting has some special ability to help.”

    “But China likes to project that everything is just fine, all the time,” she added.

    The US could give permission for Framatome to provide the technical assistance or support to help resolve the issue, but it is the Chinese government’s decision whether the incident requires shutting down the plant completely, the documents obtained by CNN indicate.

    Ultimately, the June 8 request for assistance from Framatome is the only reason why the US became involved in the situation at all, multiple sources told CNN.

    However, the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant published a statement on its website Sunday night local time, maintaining that environmental readings for both the plant and its surrounding area were “normal.”

    The two nuclear reactors in Taishan are both operational, the statement said, adding that Unit 2 had recently completed an “overhaul” and “successfully connected to the grid on June 10, 2021.” The statement did not define why or how the plant was overhauled.

    “Since it was put into commercial operation, the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant has strictly controlled the operation of the units in accordance with operating license documents and technical procedures. All operating indicators of the two units have met the requirements of nuclear safety regulations and power plant technical specifications,” the statement noted.

    In a separate statement Friday, hours after CNN first reached out for comment, Framatome acknowledged the company “is supporting resolution of a performance issue with the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong Province, China.”

    “According to the data available, the plant is operating within the safety parameters. Our team is working with relevant experts to assess the situation and propose solutions to address any potential issue,” the statement added.

    Framatome would not directly address the content of the letter to the Department of Energy when asked by CNN.

    The letter comes as tensions between Beijing and Washington remain high and as G7 leaders met this weekend in the United Kingdom with China an important topic of discussion. There are no indications the reports of a leak were discussed at a high level at the summit.

    French utility company Electrictie de France (EDF) said in a statement it has been informed of an increase concentration of “noble gases in the primary circuit” of reactor number one of the Taishan nuclear power plant.

    EDF holds a 30% stake in the company with Chinese state energy company China General Nuclear Power Group in TNPJVC, which owns and operates the power plant in southern China.

    EDF says “the presence of certain noble gases in the primary circuit is a known phenomenon, studied and provided for in the reactor operating procedures,” but did not elaborate on gas levels.

    CNN has reached out to the Chinese authorities in Beijing and Guangdong province, where the plant is located, and the Chinese embassy in Washington, DC. None have responded directly, though China is amidst a three-day national holiday that runs through the end of Monday.

    A warning from a French nuclear company

    The issue first emerged when Framatome, a French designer and supplier of nuclear equipment and services that was contracted to help construct and operate the Chinese-French plant, reached out to the US Department of Energy late last month informing them of a potential issue at the Chinese nuclear plant.

    The company, mainly owned by EDF, the French utility company, then submitted an operational safety assistance request on June 3, formally asking for a waiver that would allow them to address an urgent safety matter, to the Department of Energy, warning American officials that the nuclear reactor is leaking fission gas.

    The company followed up with DOE on June 8 asking for an expedited review of their request, according to a memo obtained by CNN.

    “The situation is an imminent radiological threat to the site and to the public and Framatome urgently requests permission to transfer technical data and assistance as may be necessary to return the plant to normal operation,” read the June 8 memo from the company’s subject matter expert to the Energy Department.

    Framatome reached out to the US government for assistance, the document indicates, because a Chinese government agency was continuing to increase its limits on the amount of gas that could safely be released from the facility without shutting it down, according to the documents reviewed by CNN.

    When asked by CNN for comment, the Energy Department did not directly address the memo’s claim that China was raising the limits.

    In the June 8 memo, Framatome informed DOE the Chinese safety authority has continued to raise regulatory “off-site dose limits.” It also says the company suspects that limit might be increased again as to keep the leaking reactor running despite safety concerns for the surrounding population.

    “To ensure off-site dose limits are maintained within acceptable bounds to not cause undue harm to the surrounding population, TNPJVC (operator of Taishan-1) is required to comply with an regulatory limit and otherwise shut the reactor down if such a limit is exceeded,” the June 8 memo reads.

    It notes that this limit was established at a level consistent with what is dictated by the French safety authority, but “due to the increasing number of failures,” China’s safety authority, the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) has since revised the limit to more than double the initial release, “which in turn increases off-site risk to the public and on-site workers.”

    As of May 30, the Taishan reactor had reached 90% of the allegedly revised limit, the memo adds, noting concerns the plant operator may be “petitioning the NNSA to further increase the shutdown limit on an exigent basis in an effort to keep running which in turn would continue to increase the risk to the off-site population and the workers at the plant site.”

    The NNSA is China’s nuclear safety regulatory authority. It oversees the implementation of safety standards at facilities like Taishan.

    The US State Department came into possession of the June 8 letter and immediately began engaging with interagency partners and with the French government, State Department officials said.

    Over the course of 48-72 hours, the US government has been in repeated contact with French officials and US technical experts at DOE, State Department officials said, noting that this flurry of activity was due to the June 8 letter.

    Subsequently, there were several urgent questions for the French government and Framatome, they added. CNN has reached out to the French embassy in Washington for comment.

    Still, Rofer, the retired nuclear scientist, warns that a gas leak could indicate bigger problems.

    “If they do have a gas leak, that indicates some of their containment is broken,” Rofer said. “It also argues that maybe some of the fuel elements could be broken, which would be a more serious problem.”

    “That would be a reason for shutting down the reactor and would then require the reactor to be refueled,” Rofer told CNN, adding that removing the fuel elements must be done carefully.

    For now, US officials do not think the leak is at “crisis level,” but acknowledge it is increasing and bears monitoring, the source familiar with the situation told CNN.

    While there is a chance the situation could become a disaster, US officials currently believe it is more likely that it will not become one, the source added.

    China has expanded its use of nuclear energy in recent years, and it represents about 5% of all power generated in the country. According to China Nuclear Energy Association, there were 16 operational nuclear plants with 49 nuclear reactors in China as of March 2021, with the total generation capacity of 51,000 megawatts.

    The Taishan plant is a prestige project built after China signed a nuclear electricity generation agreement with Électricité de France, which is mainly owned by the French government. The construction of the plant started in 2009, and the two units started generating electricity in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

    The city of Taishan has a population of 950,000 and is situated in the southeast of the country in Guangdong province, which is home to 126 million residents and has a GDP of $1.6 trillion, comparable to that of Russia and South Korea.

    CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly described the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA). It is China’s nuclear safety regulatory authority.


    6. Tybee Island B-47 Crash

    In 1958, an American B-47 bomber was sent on a simulated combat mission over the United States. The plane left from Homestead Air Force Base in Florida and was carrying a single 7,600-pound (3,400 kg) Mark 15 hydrogen bomb. The Mark 15 nuclear bomb was the first relatively lightweight thermonuclear bomb created by the United States. At about 2:00 AM, the B-47 bomber collided with an F-86 plane over Tybee Island near Savannah, Georgia, USA. After impact, the F-86 crashed, however the B-47 was able to stay airborne, despite being severely damaged. The plane’s crew requested permission to drop the bomb in order to reduce weight and prevent the bomb’s exploding during an emergency landing. The request was granted and the Mark 15 nuclear bomb was released from the plane at 7,200 feet (2,200 m). The plane was traveling about 200 knots. The crew reported not seeing an explosion when the bomb struck the waters off Tybee Island. They managed to land the B-47 safely at Hunter Army Air Field.

    The Fallout

    Starting on February 6, 1958, the Air Force and 100 Navy personnel equipped with hand held sonar detectors conducted a search for the weapon, but it was never discovered. Based on a hydrologic survey, the bomb is thought to lie buried under 5 to 15 feet (2 to 5 m) of silt at the bottom of Wassaw Sound, near Georgia. The 12-foot (4 m) long Mark 15 bomb bears the serial number 47782. It contains 400 pounds (180 kg) of conventional high explosives and highly enriched uranium. The Air Force maintains that the bomb’s nuclear capsule, used to initiate the nuclear reaction, was removed prior to its flight aboard the B-47. However, according to the 1966 Congressional testimony of Assistant Secretary of Defense W.J. Howard, the Tybee Island bomb was a “complete weapon, a bomb with a nuclear capsule.” In 2001, the United States Air Force conducted a study to determine whether the bomb posed a threat to residents in the surrounding area.

    They determined that the weapon could pose an environmental or proliferation threat. The U.S. government will not disturb the bomb in fear of an explosion. In 2004, retired Air Force Colonel Derek Duke claimed to have found the possible resting spot of the Mark 15. He apparently located the spot by trawling the area in a boat with a Geiger counter in tow. The Air Force released a report in June 2005, which stated that high radiation measurements in the area are from naturally occurring radioactive materials. According to military officials, the location of the bomb is still unknown. Had the weapon detonated with its full design yield of 3.8 megatons, the city of Savanah, Georgia would have been incinerated.


    Radioactive leaks found at 75% of US nuke sites

    BRACEVILLE, Ill. - Radioactive tritium has leaked from three-quarters of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites, often into groundwater from corroded, buried piping, an Associated Press investigation shows.

    The number and severity of the leaks has been escalating, even as federal regulators extend the licenses of more and more reactors across the nation.

    Tritium, which is a radioactive form of hydrogen, has leaked from at least 48 of 65 sites, according to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission records reviewed as part of the AP's yearlong examination of safety issues at aging nuclear power plants. Leaks from at least 37 of those facilities contained concentrations exceeding the federal drinking water standard -- sometimes at hundreds of times the limit.

    While most leaks have been found within plant boundaries, some have migrated offsite. But none is known to have reached public water supplies.

    At three sites -- two in Illinois and one in Minnesota -- leaks have contaminated drinking wells of nearby homes, the records show, but not at levels violating the drinking water standard. At a fourth site, in New Jersey, tritium has leaked into an aquifer and a discharge canal feeding picturesque Barnegat Bay off the Atlantic Ocean.

    Previously, the AP reported that regulators and industry have weakened safety standards for decades to keep the nation's commercial nuclear reactors operating within the rules. While NRC officials and plant operators argue that safety margins can be eased without peril, critics say these accommodations are inching the reactors closer to an accident.

    Trending News

    Any exposure to radioactivity, no matter how slight, boosts cancer risk, according to the National Academy of Sciences. Federal regulators set a limit for how much tritium is allowed in drinking water. So far, federal and industry officials say, the tritium leaks pose no health threat.

    But it's hard to know how far some leaks have traveled into groundwater. Tritium moves through soil quickly, and when it is detected it often indicates the presence of more powerful radioactive isotopes that are often spilled at the same time.

    For example, cesium-137 turned up with tritium at the Fort Calhoun nuclear unit near Omaha, Neb., in 2007. Strontium-90 was discovered with tritium two years earlier at the Indian Point nuclear power complex, where two reactors operate 25 miles north of New York City.

    The tritium leaks also have spurred doubts among independent engineers about the reliability of emergency safety systems at the 104 nuclear reactors situated on the 65 sites. That's partly because some of the leaky underground pipes carry water meant to cool a reactor in an emergency shutdown and to prevent a meltdown. More than a mile of piping, much of it encased in concrete, can lie beneath a reactor.

    Tritium is relatively short-lived and penetrates the body weakly through the air compared to other radioactive contaminants. Each of the known releases has been less radioactive than a single X-ray.

    The main health risk from tritium, though, would be in drinking water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says tritium should measure no more than 20,000 picocuries per liter in drinking water. The agency estimates seven of 200,000 people who drink such water for decades would develop cancer.

    Still, the NRC and industry consider the leaks a public relations problem, not a public health or accident threat, records and interviews show.

    "The public health and safety impact of this is next to zero," said Tony Pietrangelo, chief nuclear officer of the industry's Nuclear Energy Institute. "This is a public confidence issue."

    Like rust under a car, corrosion has propagated for decades along the hard-to-reach, wet underbellies of the reactors -- generally built in a burst of construction during the 1960s and 1970s. As part of an investigation of aging problems at the country's nuclear reactors, the AP uncovered evidence that despite government and industry programs to bring the causes of such leaks under control, breaches have become more frequent and widespread.

    There were 38 leaks from underground piping between 2000 and 2009, according to an industry document presented at a tritium conference. Nearly two-thirds of the leaks were reported over the latest five years.

    • At the three-unit Browns Ferry complex in Alabama, a valve was mistakenly left open in a storage tank during modifications over the years. When the tank was filled in April 2010 about 1,000 gallons of tritium-laden water poured onto the ground at a concentration of 2 million picocuries per liter. In drinking water, that would be 100 times higher than the EPA health standard.
    • At the LaSalle site west of Chicago, tritium-laden water was accidentally released from a storage tank in July 2010 at a concentration of 715,000 picocuries per liter -- 36 times the EPA standard.
    • The year before, 123,000 picocuries per liter were detected in a well near the turbine building at Peach Bottom west of Philadelphia -- six times the drinking water standard.
    • And in 2008, 7.5 million picocuries per liter leaked from underground piping at Quad Cities in western Illinois -- 375 times the EPA limit.

    Subsurface water not only rusts underground pipes, it attacks other buried components, including electrical cables that carry signals to control operations. They too have been failing at high rates.

    A 2008 NRC staff memo reported industry data showing 83 failed cables between 21 and 30 years of service -- but only 40 within their first 10 years of service. Underground cabling set in concrete can be extraordinarily difficult to replace.

    Under NRC rules, tiny concentrations of tritium and other contaminants are routinely released in monitored increments from nuclear plants leaks from corroded pipes are not permitted.

    The leaks sometimes go undiscovered for years, the AP found. Many of the pipes or tanks have been patched, and contaminated soil and water have been removed in some places. But leaks are often discovered later from other nearby piping, tanks or vaults. Mistakes and defective material have contributed to some leaks. However, corrosion -- from decades of use and deterioration -- is the main cause. And, safety engineers say, the rash of leaks suggest nuclear operators are hard put to maintain the decades-old systems.

    Over the history of the U.S. industry, more than 400 known radioactive leaks of all kinds of substances have occurred, the activist Union of Concerned Scientists reported in September.

    Several notable leaks above the EPA drinking-water limit for tritium happened five or more years ago, and from underground piping: 397,000 picocuries per liter at Tennessee's Watts Bar unit in 2005 -- 20 times the EPA standard four million at the two-reactor Hatch plant in Georgia in 2003 -- 200 times the limit 750,000 at Seabrook in New Hampshire in 1999 -- nearly 38 times the standard and 4.2 million at the three-unit Palo Verde facility in Arizona, in 1993 -- 210 times the drinking-water limit.

    Many safety experts worry about what the leaks suggest about the condition of miles of piping beneath the reactors. "Any leak is a problem because you have the leak itself -- but it also says something about the piping," said Mario V. Bonaca, a former member of the NRC's Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards. "Evidently something has to be done."

    However, even with the best probes, it is hard to pinpoint partial cracks or damage in skinny pipes or bends. The industry tends to inspect piping when it must be dug up for some other reason. Even when leaks are detected, repairs may be postponed for up to two years with the NRC's blessing.

    "You got pipes that have been buried underground for 30 or 40 years, and they've never been inspected, and the NRC is looking the other way," said engineer Paul Blanch, who has worked for the industry and later became a whistleblower. "They could have corrosion all over the place."

    Nuclear engineer Bill Corcoran, an industry consultant who has taught NRC personnel how to analyze the cause of accidents, said that since much of the piping is inaccessible and carries cooling water, the worry is if the pipes leak, there could be a meltdown.

    One of the highest known tritium readings was discovered in 2002 at the Salem nuclear plant in Lower Alloways Creek Township, N.J. Tritium leaks from the spent fuel pool contaminated groundwater under the facility -- located on an island in Delaware Bay -- at a concentration of 15 million picocuries per liter. That's 750 times the EPA drinking water limit. According to NRC records, the tritium readings last year still exceeded EPA drinking water standards.

    And tritium found separately in an onsite storm drain system measured 1 million picocuries per liter in April 2010.

    Also last year, the operator, PSEG Nuclear, discovered 680 feet of corroded, buried pipe that is supposed to carry cooling water to Salem Unit 1 in an accident, according to an NRC report. Some had worn down to a quarter of its minimum required thickness, though no leaks were found. The piping was dug up and replaced.

    The operator had not visually inspected the piping -- the surest way to find corrosion- since the reactor went on line in 1977, according to the NRC. PSEG Nuclear was found to be in violation of NRC rules because it hadn't even tested the piping since 1988.

    Last year, the Vermont Senate was so troubled by tritium leaks as high as 2.5 million picocuries per liter at the Vermont Yankee reactor in southern Vermont (125 times the EPA drinking-water standard) that it voted to block relicensing -- a power that the Legislature holds in that state.

    Activists placed a bogus ad on the Web to sell Vermont Yankee, calling it a "quaint Vermont fixer-upper from the last millennium" with "tasty, pre-tritiated drinking water."

    The gloating didn't last. In March, the NRC granted the plant a 20-year license extension, despite the state opposition. Weeks ago, operator Entergy sued Vermont in federal court, challenging its authority to force the plant to close.

    At 41-year-old Oyster Creek in southern New Jersey, the country's oldest operating reactor, the latest tritium troubles started in April 2009, a week after it was relicensed for 20 more years. That's when plant workers discovered tritium by chance in about 3,000 gallons of water that had leaked into a concrete vault housing electrical lines.

    Since then, workers have found leaking tritium three more times at concentrations up to 10.8 million picocuries per liter -- 540 times the EPA's drinking water limit -- according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. None has been directly measured in drinking water, but it has been found in an aquifer and in a canal discharging into nearby Barnegat Bay, a popular spot for swimming, boating and fishing.

    An earlier leak came from a network of pipes where rust was first discovered in 1991. Multiple holes were found, "indicating the potential for extensive corrosion," according to an analysis released to an environmental group by the NRC. Yet only patchwork repairs were done.

    Tom Fote, who has fished in the bay near Oyster Creek, is unsettled by the leaks. "This was a plant that was up for renewal. It was up to them to make sure it was safe and it was not leaking anything," he said.

    Added Richard Webster, an environmental lawyer who challenged relicensing at Oyster Creek: "It's symptomatic of the plants not having a handle on aging."

    Exelon's Piping Problems

    To Exelon -- the country's biggest nuclear operator, with 17 units -- piping problems are just a fact of life. At a meeting with regulators in 2009, representatives of Exelon acknowledged that "100 percent verification of piping integrity is not practical," according to a copy of its presentation.

    Of course, the company could dig up the pipes and check them out. But that would be costly.

    "Excavations have significant impact on plant operations," the company said.

    Exelon has had some major leaks. At the company's two-reactor Dresden site west of Chicago, tritium has leaked into the ground at up to 9 million picocuries per liter -- 450 times the federal limit for drinking water.

    At least four separate problems have been discovered at the 40-year-old site since 2004, when its two reactors were awarded licenses for 20 more years of operation. A leaking section of piping was fixed that year, but another leak sprang nearby within two years, a government inspection report says. The Dresden leaks developed in systems that help cool the reactor core in an emergency. Leaks also have contaminated offsite drinking water wells, but below the EPA drinking water limit.

    There's also been contamination of offsite drinking water wells near the two-unit Prairie Island plant southeast of Minneapolis, then operated by Nuclear Management Co. and now by Xcel Energy, and at Exelon's two-unit Braidwood nuclear facility, 10 miles from Dresden. The offsite tritium concentrations from both facilities also were below the EPA level.

    The Prairie Island leak was found in the well of a nearby home in 1989. It was traced to a canal where radioactive waste was discharged.

    Braidwood has leaked more than six million gallons of tritium-laden water in repeated leaks dating back to the 1990s -- but not publicly reported until 2005. The leaks were traced to pipes that carried limited, monitored discharges of tritium into the river.

    "They weren't properly maintained, and some of them had corrosion," said Exelon spokeswoman Krista Lopykinski.

    Last year, Exelon, which has acknowledged violating Illinois state groundwater standards, agreed to pay $1.2 million to settle state and county complaints over the tritium leaks at Braidwood and nearby Dresden and Byron sites. The NRC also sanctioned Exelon.

    Tritium measuring 1,500 picocuries per liter turned up in an offsite drinking well at a home near Braidwood. Though company and industry officials did not view any of the Braidwood concentrations as dangerous, unnerved residents took to bottled water and sued over feared loss of property value. A consolidated lawsuit was dismissed, but Exelon ultimately bought some homes so residents could leave.

    Exelon refused to say how much it paid, but a search of county real estate records shows it bought at least nine properties in the contaminated area near Braidwood since 2006 for a total of $6.1 million.

    Exelon says it has almost finished cleaning up the contamination, but the cost persists for some neighbors.

    Retirees Bob and Nancy Scamen live in a two-story house within a mile of the reactors on 18 bucolic acres they bought in 1988, when Braidwood opened. He had worked there, and in other nuclear plants, as a pipefitter and welder -- even sometimes fixing corroded piping. For the longest time, he felt the plants were well-managed and safe.

    His feelings have changed.

    An outlet from Braidwood's leaky discharge pipe 300 feet from his property poured out three million gallons of water in 1998, according to an NRC inspection report. The couple didn't realize the discharge was radioactive.

    The Scamens no longer intend to pass the property on to their grandchildren for fear of hurting their health. The couple just wants out. But the only offer so far is from a buyer who left a note on the front door saying he'd pay the fire-sale price of $10,000.

    They say Exelon has refused to buy their home because it has found tritium directly behind, but not beneath, their property.

    "They say our property is not contaminated, and if they buy property that is not contaminated, it will set a precedent, and they'll have to buy everybody's property," said Scamen.

    Their neighbors, Tom and Judy Zimmer, are also hoping for an offer from Exelon for the land and home they built on it, spending $418,000 for both.

    They had just moved into the house in November 2005, and were laying the tile in their new foyer when two Exelon representatives appeared at the door.

    "They said, 'We're from Exelon, and we had a tritium spill. It's nothing to worry about,'" recalls Tom Zimmer. "I didn't know what tritium even meant."

    But his wife says she understood right away that it was bad news -- and they hadn't even emptied their moving boxes yet: "I thought, `Oh, my God. We're not even in this place. What are we going to do?"'

    They say they had an interested buyer who backed out when he learned of the tritium. No one has made an offer since.

    Public Relations Effort

    The NRC is certainly paying attention. How can it not when local residents fret over every new groundwater incident? But the agency's reports and actions suggest a preoccupation with image and perception.

    An NRC task force on tritium leaks last year dismissed the danger to public health. Instead, its report called the leaks "a challenging issue from the perspective of communications around environmental protection." The task force noted ruefully that the rampant leaking had "impacted public confidence."

    For sure, the industry also is trying to stop the leaks. For several years now, plant owners around the country have been drilling more monitoring wells and taking a more aggressive approach in replacing old piping when leaks are suspected or discovered.

    For example, Exelon has been performing $14 million worth of work at Oyster Creek to give easier access to 2,000 feet of tritium-carrying piping, said site spokesman David Benson.

    But such measures have yet to stop widespread leaking.

    Meantime, the reactors keep getting older -- 66 have been approved for 20-year extensions to their original 40-year licenses, with 16 more extensions pending. And, as the AP has been reporting in its ongoing series, Aging Nukes, regulators and industry have worked in concert to loosen safety standards to keep the plants operating.

    In an initiative started last year, NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko asked his staff to examine regulations on buried piping to evaluate if stricter standards or more inspections were needed.

    The staff report, issued in June, openly acknowledged that the NRC "has not placed an emphasis on preventing" the leaks.

    The authors concluded there are no significant health threats or heightened risk of accidents.

    And they predicted even more leaks in the future.

    First published on June 21, 2011 / 9:07 AM

    © 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


    Discussions

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    Can you do the same with cancer illness, respiratory illness ?

    We need to replace the fossil fuel power plants, the primary source of GHG. Now!

    At a scale required to accomplish this task :

    Ethanol starves people : not a viable option.

    Fracking releases methane : not a viable option.

    Cellulose Bio Fuel Uses Food Land : not a viable option

    Solar uses food land : Not a viable option

    Wind is Intermittent : Not a viable option

    All Human and Agricultural Organic Waste can be converted to hydrogen, through exposure intense radiation!

    The Radioactive Materials exist now, and the Organic waste is renewable daily.

    Ending the practice of dumping sewage into our water sources.

    Air, Water, Food and Energy issues, receive significant positive impacts .

    Reducing illness / health care costs as well !

    Dennis Baker
    Penticton BC V2A1P9
    cell phone 250-462-3796

    There haven't been and probably won't be any deaths due to radiation from the Fukishima accident. The radiation levels most people experienced were 20 millisieverts or less. There is no expected risk of cancer with exposures of 100 millisieverts or less. Read the Febuary 18, 2013 entry at http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-accident-updates.html

    Willem you deciding whom lives and whom doesn't ?

    Reality is if the job overwhelms your abilities do a job then relinquish the job to someone else.

    We need more humans to evolve

    Dennis, for over 3 billion years life evolved under the forces of starvation, disease, predation and exposure. For 1/2 of 1/1000th of 1/1000th of one billion years humans have used technology to supress those feedback control mechanisms.

    Human population has exploded during this brief period of "open loop" mode. If we do not introduce humane ethical and effictive feedback mechanisms, nature will reapply the natural ones resulting in unprecidented human suffering.

    Well like horse meat, it may be just as safe and cheaper than beef but most of us, if given a choice, still wouldn't eat it - a personal choice that has a lot of emotion/gut feel around it.

    Also Willem, if we do go the nuclear route instead of renewables because it's cheaper,safer, etc. does it make any sense to do any renewables. If so, do we try to make our load very level daily and yearly with demand/response so we don't have to design nuclear generation to load follow. Or would we need NG or some other backup for peak load? Or would you just build capacity to match the peak load and shut down generation as load declines?

    so you both would start executions based on whatever parameters you deem as unworthy, Rather than replace fossil fuel powered electrical generating facilities!

    I appreciate your candor and willingness to bring up the subject of population control or lack thereof. BUT, I don't think anyone is planning on starting "executions" anytime soon.

    There are however limits to the number of people our planet can support given a certain lifestyle. Certainly the lifestyle we enjoy in the U.S. is desired by almost everyone on the planet and to some extent cheap energy has allowed that to occur in many countries. It can also be said that in the absence of cheap energy people suffer and death rates soar. .

    I also don't think that we can continue the type of consumption we have been experiencing for the last 100 years without massive damage to our environment. While almost everyone I know celebrates a mom with 2 or 3 children - less complementary terms are used for women with more children. In most social circles today - octomoms are discussed using terms unfit for posting on this website.

    From the many articles I read about population grow in the U.S most of it seems to be coming from immigration. The U.S. and many other countries have realized that continued population growth is not only unwise but detrimental to the rest of society. Many women [but certainly not all] have realized this and understand that for their children to survive and become healthy members of society population needs to be maintained at a reasonable level.

    Thank you for having the courage to start a discussion about population growth. It is long overdue.

    Well 99.99% of women don't get pregnant on there own. The men in there lives need to take half of the responsibility.

    Also,in relation to the politics of nuclearl, like horse meat, it may be just as safe and cheaper than beef but most of us, if given a choice, still wouldn't eat it - a personal choice that has a lot of emotion/gut feel around it.

    Also Willem, if we do go the nuclear route instead of renewables because it's cheaper,safer, etc. does it make any sense to do any renewables. If so, do we try to make our load very level daily and yearly with demand/response so we don't have to design nuclear generation to load follow. Or would we need NG or some other backup for peak load? Or would you just build capacity to match the peak load and shut down generation as load declines?

    I did not initiate anything regarding population, although my idea does allow for growth!

    Nuclear power in its present formate is not deployable, nor safe.

    Atomic fuel is safe enough in the present world. However it is nevertheless stupid verging on insanity. Uranium once burned is gone forever. If an important use for it arises in the future and it is gone, we will be up the creek without a paddle. If that use were the only way to prevent a huge meteorite from wrecking the Earth, our progeny will be cursing us with their dieing breath.


    Nuclear industry shielded from big disaster costs

    The industry is only responsible for the first $12 billion in damages, and private insurance does not cover nuclear accidents. By Steve Hargreaves, senior writer March 25, 2011: 6:00 AM ET

    NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Aside from the human toll a worst-case scenario nuclear reactor meltdown would cause, American taxpayers could also be stuck paying hundreds of billions in damages. But the industry would only be on the hook for a tiny fraction of that -- even if it was to blame.

    Under current law, the utilities that operate nuclear power plants are responsible for a fund that pays the first $12.6 billion in damages and lawsuits resulting from any incident.

    "This thing is obviously not going to cover the costs of any major accident," said a spokesman for Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Ed Markey, who has long served on the House committee overseeing nuclear power, referring to the $12.6 billion fund. "That means the U.S. taxpayer will be left on the hook for the rest of it."

    A 1982 study from Sandia National Laboratories, commissioned for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said the consequences of a nuclear meltdown would be catastrophic. The disaster could cause 50,000 fatalities and $314 billion in property damage.

    In today's money, that's $720 billion.

    The government gave the nuclear industry the liability cap in 1957 to entice the private sector into building nuclear power plants. The original cap was even smaller than the $12.6 billion -- it has been adjusted upward to account for inflation.

    Building nuclear plants was effort to boost homegrown energy and showcase the peaceful uses of a technology that had previously only been used for war -- known as "Atoms for Peace." Without it, it's doubtful the private sector would have built nuclear power plants at all.

    A worst case scenario would have bankrupted a company, said Winfred Colbert, an energy and environmental attorney at the Houston office of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease. "They would not have gotten into it," Colbert said.

    The act that created the cap, known as Price-Anderson, said that federal and state governments will step in and cover "bodily injury, sickness, disease or resulting death, property damage and loss as well as reasonable living expenses for individuals evacuated" in the event of a disaster, according to the NRC's Web site.

    Because the losses are covered by the government, homeowner insurance policies won't cover any of the damages. "All property and liability insurance policies issued in the U.S. exclude nuclear accidents," says the NRC's site.

    If you live within the fallout area of a nuclear power plant and can no longer return home, you'll have to get in line with everyone else for a government payout, which may or may not cover your needs.

    Neither Colbert nor other experts could think of any other industry that enjoys such protection resulting from a failure of its product.

    Putting a number on a hypothetical scenario such as a full nuclear meltdown in the United States obviously leaves much room for guesswork.

    The NRC noted the age of the 1982 Sandia study, suggesting it's no longer accurate.

    The agency is working on a new study, said NRC spokesman Scott Burnell, but that study focuses on health impacts, not property damage.

    Still, while a property estimate could not be provided, Burnell said the new models show a release of radiation would be much smaller and happen more slowly, largely thanks to improved understanding of the containment structures and emergency responses at U.S. plants.

    Smaller radiation releases "would be expected to have smaller economic effects," said Burnell.

    The industry didn't address the $700 billion estimate directly, but said the $12.6 billion is adequate to cover any foreseen incident.

    Colbert, the energy attorney, noted that in the only major disaster at a U.S. nuclear plant, the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979, the containment structure generally worked. Not much radiation is thought to have leaked into the atmosphere. The $70 million or so in evacuation, cleanup and other associated costs were easily paid for by the industry's $12.6 billion fund.

    The industry noted the crucial role greenhouse gas-free nuclear power plays in the nation's energy mix.

    "They are generating 20% of the country's electricity," said Bryant Kinny, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute. "That's something we can't live without."

    But with so many major U.S. cities so close to nuclear power plants -- New York, Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia are all with a 50-mile fallout zone -- it's hard to imagine a major disaster wouldn't result in damage far exceeding $12 billion.

    A 60-mile radius around Chernobyl -- the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history -- is going to be off-limits for human occupation for hundreds of years. American cities may not need to be abandoned in the event of a metldown, said Frank von Hippel, a noted Princeton nuclear physicist and co-chair of the International Panel on Fissile Materials.

    "It might be that people would be willing to live with higher radiation levels in exchange for not moving out," said von Hippel. "Also, more drastic decontamination efforts than we have assumed might be applied."

    Still, he said the $720 billion Sandia estimate is "consistent with our calculations, especially if the wind blew toward New York."