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A History of Nuclear Power Plant Disasters - Part 1

written by: Rose Kivi•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 9/24/2010

If the history of nuclear power plant disasters can teach us anything, it can teach us that nuclear power plant accidents can never be one-hundred percent avoidable.This article is part one of a three part series that details some of the worst nuclear power plant accidents in history.

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    Nuclear Power Plant Disasters

    Accidents in nuclear power plants happen for a variety of reasons; they are most commonly a result of human errors and faulty equipment. Even power plants that provide the strictest of safety measures can not be considered one-hundred percent full proof. Safety measures do not account for the unforeseen or for human error.

    Nuclear power plant disasters have contaminated humans, animals and the environment. It is not possible to fully know all of the harmful effects that resulted from these disasters since radiation exposure to humans, animals and the environment can have many long term affects.

    Due the number of health and environmental dangers associated with contamination from nuclear plants, the possibility of future nuclear power plant accidents causing radiation contamination to humans, animals, and the environment has understandably made some people very concerned with the operation of current nuclear power plants and the possible construction of new ones in the future.

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    Chalk River - December 12, 1952

    The accident in the Chalk River Facility in Canada was caused by mistakes made by employees. An employee accidentally opened four valves that regulated pressure in the system. The opened valves changed pressure causing control rods to partially come out of the reactor. Safety measures were attempted that led to another mistake of a wrong button being pushed. Power output in the reactor rose and the lid blew off the reactor. Large amounts of cooling water contaminated with radioactive waste leaked into the facility. Crews were brought into contain and clean up the radioactive materials.

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    Mayak Plutonium Facility - September 29, 1957

    An accident at the Mayak Plutonium Facility in the South Ural Mountains of Russia is considered by some to have been worse than Chernobyl. Cooling equipment at the Mayak Facility broke down and failed to cool nuclear waste. The overheated nuclear waste exploded. Approximately 270,000 people and 14,000 square miles were exposed to radiation. Five hundred square miles were exposed to extremely high levels of radiation. Prior to the 1957 accident the Mayak Facility had a history of contaminating the environment with radioactive material through dumping in nearby water sources and several accidents. The accident in 1957 was the most severe of the incidents with the power plant. Today, radiation levels in the area are among the highest in the world, with natural water sources in the area are still contaminated with radioactive waste.

A History of Nuclear Power Plant Disasters

This three part series details the history of some of the worst nuclear power plant disasters in history.
  1. A History of Nuclear Power Plant Disasters - Part 1
  2. Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant: A History of Nuclear Disasters - Part 2
  3. Chernobyl & Tokaimura: A History of Nuclear Power Plant Disasters - Part 3