10 Worst Nuclear Accidents/Disasters in History

According to The International Atomic Energy Agency (INAEA), nuclear and radiation accident/ disaster is defined as “An event that has led to significant consequences to people, the environment or the facility. Examples include lethal effects to individuals, large radioactivity release to the environment, or reactor core melt.” Whether accidental or planned, whatever the form and cause might be, nuclear disaster is a disaster which effects people physically, mentally, emotionally, economically and genetically, altering and damaging genes to cause serious effect to generations to come.


10. Three Mile Island – March 28, 1979

Three Mile Island - March 28, 1979
Three Mile Island – March 28, 1979
Three Mile Island accident (US – 1979) falls under scale 5 nuclear power plant accidents. On March 28, 1979, in the wee hours of morning, the Three Mile Island nuclear generating station witnessed a nuclear meltdown of one secondary loop. This nuclear accident released 13 million curies of radioactive gases into the atmosphere and caused a loss of USD 2,400. 10 court cases were also filed on various authorities, concerning this accident, and they took 15 long years to get settled. Fortunately it led to no deaths or injuries.


9. Goiania Accident – September 13, 1987

Goiania Accident - September 13, 1987 Goiania Accident – September 13, 1987
More than 240 people were exposed to radiation when a junkyard dealer in Goiania, Brazil, broke open an abandoned radiation therapy machine and removed a small highly radioactive cake of cesium chloride. The accident occurred on September 13, 1987. The environment and surroundings were seriously contaminated. Many buildings had to be demolished. 4 died in this accident. Many children got attracted to the bright blue of the radioactive material, touched it and rubbed it on their skin, resulting in the contamination of several city block.


8. Windscale Pile – October 10, 1957

Windscale Pile - 1957
Windscale Pile – October 10, 1957
The accident took place on October 10, 1957 when a windscale fire ignited plutonium piles and contaminated surrounding dairy farms. The radioactive contamination caused 33 cancer deaths. This was the worst nuclear accident in Britain’s history, ranked in severity at level 5 on the 7-point International Nuclear Event Scale. The fire released an estimated 20,000 curies of iodine-131, as well as 594 curies of caesium-137 and 24,000 curies of xenon-133, among other radionuclides. The incident produced around cancer cases. In addition to this, milk farms were seriously contaminated, dropping milk sales by 15%.


7. Chalk River Nuclear Accident – 1952

Chalk River Nuclear Lab Disaster - 1952
Chalk River Nuclear Lab Disaster – December 12, 1952
Chalk River Laboratory (CRL) is a site of major research and development to support and advance nuclear technology, in particular CANDU reactor technology. On December 12th, 1952, a reactor shutoff rod failure, combined with several operator errors, led to a major power excursion of more than double the reactor’s rated output at AECL’s NRX reactor. INES rated the incident as level 5. A series of hydrogen gas explosions hurled the four-ton gasholder dome four feet through the air where it jammed in the superstructure. Thousands of curies of fission products were released into the atmosphere, and a million gallons of radioactively contaminated water had to be pumped out of the basement and “disposed of” in shallow trenches not far from the Ottawa River. The core of the NRX reactor could not be decontaminated; it had to be buried as radioactive waste. Young Jimmy Carter, later U.S. President, then a nuclear engineer in the U.S. Navy, was among the hundreds of Canadian and American servicemen who were ordered to participate in the NRX cleanup following the accident.


6. Castle Bravo – March 1, 1954

Castle Bravo - March 1, 1954
Castle Bravo – March 1, 1954
Bikini Atoll, Micronesian Islands in the Pacific Ocean was the site of more than 20 nuclear weapons tests between 1946 and 1958.  Castle Bravo was the code name given to the first U.S. test of a dry fuel thermonuclear hydrogen bomb. The test was performed on March 1, 1954, at Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands. When the weapon was detonated, an explosion took place, leaving a crater of 6,500 feet (2,000 m) in diameter and 250 feet (75 m) in depth. Castle Bravo was the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated by the United States, with a yield of 15 Megatons which was far exceeding the expected yield of 4-6 Megatons. This miscalculation led to a severe accidental radiological contamination ever caused by the United States. In terms of TNT tonnage equivalence, Castle Bravo was about 1,200 times more powerful than the atomic bombs which were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. Moreover, the radiation cloud contaminated more than seven thousand square miles of the surrounding Pacific Ocean, including small islands like Rongerik, Rongelap and Utirik. These islands were evacuated, but generations to come where affected. Natives have since suffered from birth defects.  A Japanese fishing boat, Daigo Fukuryu Maru, also came into contact with the nuclear fallout, causing illness to all crew members with one fatality. Fish, water and land were seriously contaminated, making Castle Bravo one of the worst nuclear accidents.

2 thoughts on “10 Worst Nuclear Accidents/Disasters in History

  1. Your readers may also be interested to hear the six month assessment of President Konoe of the Japanese Red Cross Society in his “Six Months on from the Great East Japan Earthquake” as he reports on the triple disasters of the earthquake, .tsunami and the meltdown and radiation released from 3 of the 6 nuclear plants at the Fukushima Daiichi facility built on the coast:

    International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Youtube Channel:

    As he says, “we are only just at the beginning of it” here in Japan. Keep the support coming please.

    Your readers may also like to see some other positive and realistic reports on the need for psychosocial support for the millions of survivors of these triple disasters, many of whom may well in time, require the legal assessment, diagnosis and treatment of PTSD, depression and other mental disorders Japan’s 100,000 + licensed mental health care professionals in Japan:

    Mental Psychological Care Japan Tsunami Earthquakehttp://bit.ly/n2DqfN via @addthis Nick Jones’ article in International Red Cross Magazine

    Mending Minds by Nick Jones (in English)

    International Red Cross magazine reports on mental health professionals counseling therapy post Japan earthquakehttp://www.redcross.int/EN/mag/magazine2011_2/24-25.html


    With kindest regards from Tokyo


  2. Some of these death estimates are ridiculous. Chernobyl is particularly at error. In fact, two studies done on wildlife living in the area have shown almost no radiation-based genetic anomalies. Meanwhile, 60 million died in WW2, only a small fraction from the atom bombs and people live happily today in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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