There have been three major
nuclear accidents, one in the United States at the Three Mile Island Nuclear
Facility in Pennsylvania; one in Chernobyl, Russia; and one in Tokaimura,
Japan. The incidents, two of which occurred more than 15 years ago, continue
to contribute to public fear of nuclear power. A nuclear meltdown is the
greatest fear. When the core of a nuclear reactor gets hot enough, the
controlled reaction becomes uncontrolled. When this happens, the nuclear
core gets so hot it melts down, that is: radiation is released at extreme
levels that are immediately lethal. A core meltdown would be catastrophic.
According to the United States
Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Chernobyl accident in 1986 was the
result of a flawed reactor design that was operated with inadequately
trained personnel and without proper regard for safety. The resulting
steam explosion and fire released about five percent of the radioactive
reactor core into the atmosphere and downwind into the surrounding area.
Thirty people were killed, and there have since been up to ten deaths
from thyroid cancer due to the accident. Many more people have serious
health complications that they say were caused by Chernobyl.
areas of Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and beyond were contaminated by radioactivity
carried by winds. An authoritative United Nations report in 2000 confirmed
that there is no scientific evidence of any significant radiation-related
health effects to most people exposed. That finding is disputed by the
Ukraines Health Ministry which estimates one in 16 of their population
of 49 million suffers from grave health disorders linked to the disaster.
The greatest worry
remains the visibly rusting concrete and steel structure covering the
ruined reactor. A $758 million internationally-funded project is planned
to make the structure environmentally safe
Three Mile Island
"On the morning of March
28, 1979, a reactor at the Three Mile Island nuclear power facility near
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, suddenly overheated. During the tension-packed
week that followed, scientists scrambled to prevent the nightmare of a
nuclear meltdown, officials tried to calm public fears and more than one
hundred thousand residents fled the area. Equipment failure, human error,
and bad luck would conspire to create an event that stunned the nation."
More about this terrifying moment in American history at www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/three/.
Some say it was
not the incident at Three Mile Island but the medias reaction to
it that created the enormous public fear of nuclear power. Read an article
In September of 1999, a uranium
processing plant located 90 miles outside Tokyo a fission reaction went
out of control and spewed radiation into the air outside of the plant.
The accident occured when a worker mixed in the wrong amount of nitric
acid into a storage tank holding . Radiation levels were 10,000
times higher than allowed. In 1997 a fire and explosion also occured at
the plant causing radiation sickness in 37 workers.
Read more about the
Fears: Residents Near Nuclear Accident Fearful Despite Assurances
Workers Dies from Radiation Exposure