Nuclear power accidents by country

Nuclear power accidents by country
The abandoned city of Pripyat, Ukraine with the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the distance.

57 accidents have occurred since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Two thirds of these mishaps occurred in the US.[1] The French Atomic Energy Agency (CEA) has concluded that technical innovation cannot eliminate the risk of human errors in nuclear plant operation.

An interdisciplinary team from MIT have estimated that given the expected growth of nuclear power from 2005 – 2055, at least four serious nuclear power accidents would be expected in that period.[1]



Globally, there have been at least 99 (civilian and military) recorded nuclear power plant accidents from 1952 to 2009 (defined as incidents that either resulted in the loss of human life or more than US$50,000 of property damage, the amount the US federal government uses to define nuclear energy accidents that must be reported), totaling US$20.5 billion in property damages. Property damage costs include destruction of property, emergency response, environmental remediation, evacuation, lost product, fines, and court claims.[2] Because nuclear power plants are large and complex accidents onsite tend to be relatively expensive.[3]

The 1979 Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania was caused by a series of failures in secondary systems at the reactor, which allowed radioactive steam to escape and resulted in the partial core meltdown of one of two reactors at the site, making it the most significant accident in U.S. history.[4]

The world's worst nuclear accident has been the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the Ukraine, the only accident that has been rated as a level 7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale.[5] The accident occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant after an unsafe systems test led to a rupture of the reactor vessel and a series of explosions that destroyed reactor number four. The radiation plume spread to the surrounding city of Pripyat and covered extensive portions of Europe with traces of radioactivity, leaving reindeer in Northern Europe and sheep in portions of England unfit for human consumption. A 30 kilometres (19 mi) "Zone of alienation" has been formed around the reactor.[6]

At least 57 accidents have occurred since the Chernobyl disaster, and over 56 nuclear accidents have occurred in the USA. Relatively few accidents have involved fatalities.[2]


Chalk River Laboratories



Nuclear power accidents in China
Date Location Description Fatalities Cost
(in millions
2006 US$)


Nuclear power accidents in France[3][7]
Date Location Description Fatalities Cost
(in millions
2006 US$)
25 Jul 1979 Saclay, France Radioactive fluids escape into drains designed for ordinary wastes, seeping into the local watershed at the Saclay BL3 Reactor 0 5
13 Mar 1980 Loir-et-Cher, France A malfunctioning cooling system fuses fuel elements together at the Saint Laurent A2 reactor, ruining the fuel assembly and forcing an extended shutdown 0 22
14 Apr 1984 Bugey, France Electrical cables fail at the command centre of the Bugey Nuclear Power Plant and force a complete shutdown of one reactor 0 2
22 May 1986 Normandy, France A reprocessing plant at Le Hague malfunctions and exposes workers to unsafe levels of radiation and forces five to be hospitalised 0 5
12 Apr 1987 Tricastin, France Tricastin fast breeder reactor leaks coolant, sodium and uranium hexachloride, injuring seven workers and contaminating water supplies 0 50
27 Dec 1999 Blayais, France An unexpectedly strong storm floods the Blayais Nuclear Power Plant, forcing an emergency shutdown after injection pumps and containment safety systems fail from water damage 0 55
21 Jan 2002 Manche, France Control systems and safety valves fail after improper installation of condensers, forcing a two-month shutdown 0 102
16 May 2005 Lorraine, France Sub-standard electrical cables at the Cattenon-2 nuclear reactor cause a fire in an electricity funnel, damaging safety systems 0 12
13 Jul 2008 Tricastin, France Dozens of litres of wastewater contaminated with uranium are accidentally poured on the ground and runoff into a nearby river 0 7
12 Aug 2009 Gravelines, France Assembly system fails to properly eject spent fuel rods from the Gravelines Nuclear Power Plant, causing the fuel rods to jam and the reactor to shut down 0 2


Nuclear power accidents in Germany[3][7]
Date Location Description Fatalities Cost
(in millions
2006 US$)
4 May 1986 Hamm-Uentrop, Germany Operator actions to dislodge damaged fuel elements at the thorium high-temperature reactor release excessive radiation to 4 km2 surrounding the facility 0 267
17 Dec 1987 Hesse, Germany Stop valve fails at Biblis Nuclear Power Plant and contaminates local area 0 13
07 Dec 1975 Greifswald, East Germany Electrical error at Greifswald Nuclear Power Plant causes a fire in the main trough and destroys control lines and the electric supply for 5 main coolant pumps (out of a total of 6) and induces a partial meltdown in bloc 1. Ultimately classified as INES 3. The incident was not reported to the public until 14 years after it occurred. 0 443
Nov 24, 1989 Greifswald, East Germany A near core meltdown occurs at Greifswald Nuclear Power Plant. It's the fifth dangerous incident at the plant. Three out of six cooling water pumps were switched off for a test. A fourth pump broke down and control of the reactor was lost; 10 fuel elements were damaged. The accident was reportedly attributed to sticky relay contacts [8]


Nuclear power accidents in India[3][7]
Date Location Description Fatalities Cost
(in millions
2006 US$)
4 May 1987 Kalpakkam, India Fast Breeder Test Reactor at Kalpakkam refuelling accident that ruptures the reactor core, resulting in a two-year shutdown 0 300
10 Sep 1989 Tarapur, Maharashtra, India Operators at the Tarapur Atomic Power Station find that the reactor had been leaking radioactive iodine at more than 700 times normal levels. Repairs to the reactor take more than a year 0 78

The on line hours of unit 1&2 in 1990 were 7772 and 7827 hrs (source IAEA PRIS. Repairs lasting more than one year from 10 Sep 1989 can not yield such on line hours.surely something is wrong.

13 May 1992 Tarapur, Maharashtra, India A malfunctioning tube causes the Tarapur Atomic Power Station to release 12 curies of radioactivity 0 2
31 Mar 1993 Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh, India The Narora Atomic Power Station suffers a fire at two of its steam turbine blades, damaging the heavy water reactor and almost leading to a meltdown 0 220 The cost data is not on comparable basis. 2400 or so US 2006 $s for TMI and 220 for NAPS unit 1 is wrong.
2 Feb 1995 Kota, Rajasthan, India The Rajasthan Atomic Power Station leaks radioactive helium and heavy water into the Rana Pratap Sagar River, necessitating a two-year shutdown for repairs 280
22 Oct 2002 Kalpakkam, India Almost 100 kg radioactive sodium at a fast breeder reactor leaks into a purification cabin, ruining a number of valves and operating systems 0 30


Nuclear power accidents in Japan
Date Location Description Fatalities Cost
(in millions
2006 US$)
2 Nov 1978 Fukushima No1, Japan Japan's first criticality accident at No 3 reactor, this accident was hidden for 29 years and reported on 22 Mar 2007
1981 Tsuruga, Japan Almost 300 workers were exposed to excessive levels of radiation after a fuel rod ruptured during repairs at the Tsuruga Nuclear Power Plant.[9]
December 1995 Tsuruga, Japan The fast breeder Monju Nuclear Power Plant sodium leak.[9] State-run operator Donen was found to have concealed videotape footage that showed extensive damage to the reactor.[10]
March 1997 Tokaimura, Japan The Tokaimura nuclear reprocessing plant fire and explosion. 37 workers were exposed to low doses of radiation. Donen later acknowledged it had initially suppressed information about the fire.[9][10]
18 Jun 1999 Shiga, Japan A fuel loading system malfunctioned and set off an uncontrolled nuclear reaction and explosion.[9]
September 1999 Tokaimura, Japan The criticality accident at the Tokai fuel fabrication facility.[9] Hundreds of people were exposed to radiation and two workers later died.[10] 2
2002 Onagawa, Japan Two workers were exposed to a small amount of radiation and suffered minor burns during a fire.[10]
9 Aug 2004 Mihama, Japan A steam explosion at the Mihama-3 station; the subsequent investigation revealed a serious lack in systematic inspection in Japanese nuclear plants, which led to a massive inspection program.[11] 5
2006 Fukushima No1, Japan A small amount of radioactive steam was released at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant and it escaped the compound.[10]
16 Jul 2007 Kashiwazaki, Japan a severe earthquake (measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale) hit the region where Tokyo Electric's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant is located and radioactive water spilled into the Sea of Japan; as of March 2009, all of the reactors remain shut down for damage verification and repairs; the plant with seven units was the largest single nuclear power station in the world.[11]
December 2009 Hamaoka, Japan Leakage accident of Radio active water. 34 workers were exposed to radiation
11 Mar 2011 Fukushima No1, Japan The world's second INES 7 accident. A magnitude 9.0 earthquake and associated tsunami triggered cooling problems at Fukushima 1 & 2 stations with several reactors. Hydrogen explosions cause structural damage, and loss of coolant results in meltdowns in three units and a fire in overheated spent fuel rods. Radioactive steam was released into the atmosphere, and highly radioactive water spilled into the ocean through utility trenches. Some immediate injuries resulted.
18 Mar 2011 Fukushima No2, Japan Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency reported that the condition of reactors #1, #2 and #4 of Fukushima Dai 2 Plant is equivalent to INES level 3.
Other Key Events
Date Location
or Co.
2000 TEPCO Three executives were forced to quit after the company in 1989 ordered an employee to edit out footage showing cracks in nuclear plant steam pipes in video being submitted to regulators.
29 Aug 2002 TEPCO A widespread falsification scandal starting in that led to the shut down of all TEPCO's 17 nuclear reactors; Tokyo Electric's officials had falsified inspection records and attempted to hide cracks in reactor vessel shrouds in 13 of its 17 units.[11]


Nuclear power accidents in Ukraine[3][7]
Date Location Description Fatalities Cost
(in millions
2006 US$)
26 Apr 1986 Pripyat, Ukraine Steam explosion and meltdown (see Chernobyl disaster) necessitating the evacuation of 300,000 people from Pripyat and dispersing radioactive material across Europe (see Chernobyl disaster effects) Fewer than 50 directly, Eventually as many as 4,000[12] 6700

United Kingdom

Nuclear power accidents in the UK[3][7]
Date Location Description Fatalities Cost
(in millions
2006 US$)
8 Oct 1957 Windscale, UK Fire ignites plutonium piles, contaminating surrounding dairy farms 33 estimated by UK government[13] 78
May 1967 Scotland, United Kingdom Partial meltdown at Dumfries and Galloway. Graphite debris partially blocked a fuel channel causing a fuel element to melt and catch fire at the Chapelcross nuclear power station. Contamination was confined to the reactor core. The core was repaired and restarted in 1969, operating until the plant's shutdown in 2004.[14][15]
19 Apr 2005 Sellafield, UK 20 tonnes uranium and 160 kg plutonium leak from a cracked pipe at the Thorp nuclear fuel reprocessing plant 0 65

United States

Nuclear reactor accidents in the U.S.[16][3]
Date Location Description Fatalities Cost
(in millions
2006 US$)
July 26, 1959 Simi Valley, California, USA Partial core meltdown at Santa Susana Field Laboratory’s Sodium Reactor Experiment 0 32
January 3, 1961 Idaho Falls, Idaho, US Explosion at National Reactor Testing Station 3 22
October 5, 1966 Monroe, Michigan, USA Sodium cooling system malfunctions at Enrico Fermi demonstration breeder reactor causing partial core meltdown 0 19
August 11, 1973 Palisades, Michigan, USA Steam generator leak causes manual shutdown of pressurized water reactor 0 10
March 22, 1975 Browns Ferry, Alabama, USA Fire burns for seven hours and damages more than 1600 control cables for three nuclear reactors at Browns Ferry, disabling core cooling systems 0 240
November 5, 1975 Brownsville, Nebraska, USA Hydrogen gas explosion damages the Cooper Nuclear Facility’s Boiling Water Reactor and an auxiliary building 0 13
June 10, 1977 Waterford, Connecticut, USA Hydrogen gas explosion damages three buildings and forces shutdown of Millstone-1 Pressurized Water Reactor 0 15
February 4, 1979 Surry, Virginia, USA Surry Unit 2 shut down in response to failing tube bundles in steam generators 0 12
March 28, 1979 Middletown, Pennsylvania, US Loss of coolant and partial core meltdown, see Three Mile Island accident and Three Mile Island accident health effects 0 2,400
October 17, 1981 Buchanan, New York, USA 100,000 gallons of Hudson River water leaked into the Indian Point Energy Center Unit 2 containment building from the fan cooling unit, undetected by a safety device designed to detect hot water. The flooding, covering the first 9 feet of the reactor vessel, was discovered when technicians entered the building. Two pumps which should have removed the water were found to be inoperative. NRC proposed a $210,000 fine for the incident. [17] 0 -
March 20, 1982 Lycoming, New York, USA Recirculation system piping fails at Nine Mile Point Unit 1, forcing two year shutdown 0 45
March 25 1982 Buchanan, New York, USA Damage to steam generator tubes and main generator resulting in a shut down Indian Point Energy Center Unit 3 for more than a year 0 56
June 18, 1982 Senaca, South Carolina, USA Feedwater heat extraction line fails at Oconee 2 Pressurised Water Reactor, damaging thermal cooling system 0 10
February 12, 1983 Fork River, New Jersey, USA Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant fails safety inspection, forced to shut down for repairs 0 32
February 26, 1983 Fort Pierce, Florida, USA Damaged thermal shield and core barrel support at St Lucie Unit 1, necessitating 13-month shutdown 0 54
September 15, 1984 Athens, Alabama, US Safety violations, operator error, and design problems force six year outage at Browns Ferry Unit 2 0 110
March 9, 1985 Athens, Alabama, US Instrumentation systems malfunction during start-up, which led to suspension of operations at all three Browns Ferry Units 0 1,830
April 11, 1986 Plymouth, Massachusetts, US Recurring equipment problems force emergency shutdown of Boston Edison’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant 0 1,001
March 31, 1987 Delta, Pennsylvania, US Peach Bottom units 2 and 3 shutdown due to cooling malfunctions and unexplained equipment problems 0 400
December 19, 1987 Lycoming, New York, US Malfunctions force Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation to shut down Nine Mile Point Unit 1 0 150
September 10, 1988 Surry, Virginia, USA Refuelling cavity seal fails and destroys internal pipe system at Surry Unit 2, forcing 12-month outage 0 9
March 5, 1989 Tonopah, Arizona, USA Atmospheric dump valves fail at Palo Verde Unit 1, leading to main transformer fire and emergency shutdown 0 14
March 17, 1989 Lusby, Maryland, US Inspections at Calvert Cliff Units 1 and 2 reveal cracks at pressurized heater sleeves, forcing extended shutdowns 0 120
November 17, 1991 Scriba, New York, USA Safety and fire problems force shut down of the FitzPatrick nuclear reactor for 13 months 0 5
April 21, 1992 Southport, North Carolina, USA NRC forces shut down of Brunswick Units 1 and 2 after emergency diesel generators fail 0 2
February 3, 1993 Bay City, Texas, USA Auxiliary feed-water pumps fail at South Texas Project Units 1 and 2, prompting rapid shutdown of both reactors 0 3
February 27, 1993 Buchanan, New York, USA New York Power Authority shuts down Indian Point Energy Center Unit 3 after AMSAC system fails 0 2
March 2, 1993 Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, USA Equipment failures and broken pipes cause shut down of Sequoyah Unit 1 0 3
December 25, 1993 Newport, Michigan, USA Shut down of Fermi Unit 2 after main turbine experienced major failure due to improper maintenance 0 67
14 January 1995 Wiscasset, Maine, USA Steam generator tubes unexpectedly crack at Maine Yankee nuclear reactor; shut down of the facility for a year 0 62
May 16, 1995 Salem, New Jersey, USA Ventilation systems fail at Salem Units 1 and 2 0 34
February 20, 1996 Waterford, Connecticut, US Leaking valve forces shutdown Millstone Nuclear Power Plant Units 1 and 2, multiple equipment failures found 0 254
September 2, 1996 Crystal River, Florida, US Balance-of-plant equipment malfunction forces shutdown and extensive repairs at Crystal River Unit 3 0 384
September 5, 1996 Clinton, Illinois, USA Reactor recirculation pump fails, prompting shut down of Clinton boiling water reactor 0 38
September 20, 1996 Senaca, Illinois, USA Service water system fails and results in closure of LaSalle Units 1 and 2 for more than 2 years 0 71
September 9, 1997 Bridgman, Michigan, USA Ice condenser containment systems fail at Cook Units 1 and 2 0 11
May 25, 1999 Waterford, Connecticut, USA Steam leak in feed-water heater causes manual shutdown and damage to control board annunicator at the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant 0 7
September 29, 1999 Lower Alloways Creek, New Jersey, USA Major Freon leak at Hope Creek Nuclear Facility causes ventilation train chiller to trip, releasing toxic gas and damaging the colling system 0 2
February 16, 2002 Oak Harbor, Ohio, US Severe corrosion of control rod forces 24-month outage of Davis-Besse reactor 0 143
January 15, 2003 Bridgman, Michigan, USA A fault in the main transformer at the Donald C. Cook nuclear power plant causes a fire that damages the main generator and back-up turbines 0 10
June 16, 2005 Braidwood, Illinois, USA Exelon’s Braidwood nuclear station leaks tritium and contaminates local water supplies 0 41
August 4, 2005 Buchanan, New York, USA Entergy’s Indian Point Energy Center Nuclear Plant leaks tritium and strontium into underground lakes from 1974 to 2005 30
March 6, 2006 Erwin, Tennessee, USA Nuclear fuel services plant spills 35 litres of highly enriched uranium, necessitating 7-month shutdown 0 98
January 7, 2010 Buchanan, New York, USA NRC inspectors reported that an estimated 600,000 gallons of mildly radioactive steam was intentionally vented after an automatic shutdown of Indian Point Energy Center Unit 2. The levels of tritium in the steam were below those allowable by NRC safety standards.[18] 0 -
February 1, 2010 Montpelier, Vermont, US Deteriorating underground pipes from the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant leak radioactive tritium into groundwater supplies 0 700
This list is incomplete; please help to expand it.

Nuclear safety

The nuclear power industry has improved the safety and performance of reactors, and has proposed new safer (but generally untested) reactor designs but there is no guarantee that the reactors will be designed, built and operated correctly.[19] Mistakes do occur and the designers of reactors at Fukushima in Japan did not anticipate that a tsunami generated by an earthquake would disable the backup systems that were supposed to stabilize the reactor after the earthquake.[20][21] According to UBS AG, the Fukushima I nuclear accidents have cast doubt on whether even an advanced economy like Japan can master nuclear safety.[22] Catastrophic scenarios involving terrorist attacks are also conceivable.[19] An interdisciplinary team from MIT have estimated that given the expected growth of nuclear power from 2005 – 2055, at least four serious nuclear accidents would be expected in that period.[23][24] To date, there have been five serious accidents (core damage) in the world since 1970 (one at Three Mile Island in 1979; one at Chernobyl in 1986; and three at Fukushima-Daiichi in 2011), corresponding to the beginning of the operation of generation II reactors. This leads to on average one serious accident happening every eight years worldwide.[21]

See also


  1. ^ a b Benjamin K. Sovacool (January 2011). "Second Thoughts About Nuclear Power". National University of Singapore. p. 8. 
  2. ^ a b Benjamin K. Sovacool. A Critical Evaluation of Nuclear Power and Renewable Electricity in Asia Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol. 40, No. 3, August 2010, pp. 379-380.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Benjamin K. Sovacool (2009). The Accidental Century - Prominent Energy Accidents in the Last 100 Years
  4. ^ Stencel, Mark. "A Nuclear Nightmare in Pennsylvania", The Washington Post, March 27, 1999. Accessed July 5, 2010.
  5. ^ "International Nuclear Event Scale Enhances Public Communications", Nuclear Energy Institute. Accessed July 5, 2010.
  6. ^ Mulvey, Steve. "Chernobyl diary - Part One", BBC News, April 4, 2006. Accessed July 5, 2010.
  7. ^ a b c d e Benjamin K. Sovacool. A Critical Evaluation of Nuclear Power and Renewable Electricity in Asia, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol. 40, No. 3, August 2010, pp. 393–400.
  8. ^, Accidents 1980's
  9. ^ a b c d e Benjamin K. Sovacool. A Critical Evaluation of Nuclear Power and Renewable Electricity in Asia, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol. 40, No. 3, August 2010, pp. 380.
  10. ^ a b c d e Associated Press (March 17, 2011). "A look at Japan's history of nuclear power trouble". Bloomberg Businessweek. 
  11. ^ a b c The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2007 p. 23.
  12. ^ "The international experts have estimated that radiation could cause up to about 4000 eventual deaths among the higher-exposed Chernobyl populations, i.e., emergency workers from 1986-1987, evacuees and residents of the most contaminated areas". – World Health Organization. Chernobyl: the true scale of the accident 5 September 2005.
  13. ^ Perhaps the Worst, Not the First TIME magazine, May 12, 1986.
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ [2]
  16. ^ Benjamin K. Sovacool. A Critical Evaluation of Nuclear Power and Renewable Electricity in Asia, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol. 40, No. 3, August 2010, pp. 393–400.
  17. ^ Perrow, Charles Normal Accidents (New York: Basic Books 1984) ISBN 0465051421 pp. 45-46
  18. ^ Luby, Abby (January 7, 2010). "Nuclear steam leak intentional: Response to Indian Point plant shutdown". Daily News (New York). 
  19. ^ a b Jacobson, Mark Z. and Delucchi, Mark A. (2010). "Providing all Global Energy with Wind, Water, and Solar Power, Part I: Technologies, Energy Resources, Quantities and Areas of Infrastructure, and Materials". Energy Policy. p. 6. 
  20. ^ Hugh Gusterson (16 March 2011). "The lessons of Fukushima". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 
  21. ^ Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named DIAZMAURIN2011; see Help:Cite errors/Cite error references no text
  22. ^ James Paton (April 4, 2011). "Fukushima Crisis Worse for Atomic Power Than Chernobyl, UBS Says". Bloomberg Businessweek. 
  23. ^ Benjamin K. Sovacool (January 2011). "Second Thoughts About Nuclear Power". National University of Singapore. p. 8. 
  24. ^ Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2003). "The Future of Nuclear Power". p. 48. 

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