Worst nuclear accidents ever

A nuclear accident is the sort of event that lives long in the memory. No matter where you are in the world the news that a reactor has let go is devastating so anyone around when these nuclear accidents occurred will be very familiar with the place names, even if the date and the facts have escaped them.


The Chernobyl disaster of 1986 was major international news as it was by far the worst power plant accident of all time. This is one of just two given the level 7 classification from the International Nuclear Event Scale. We’ll discuss the other one in the next section. At Chernobyl, half a million workers were involved and 18 billion rubles worth of damage was done. Soviet officials counted 31 deaths as a direct result of the disaster but the long term effects on those in the area have never been fully understood.


The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011 involved a series of nuclear meltdowns and equipment failures that released a bunch of nuclear materials. It followed on from the Tohoku Tsunami of March 2011, and it was the largest disaster of its kind for a generation.


The third largest nuclear disaster occurred at Kyshtym in Russia in 1957. The radiation contamination occurred at the town of Ozyorsk which was a city built around the plant. At that time Ozyorsk was not named on the map so the name of the nearby town of Kyshtym was given to the press and public when the disaster occurred on 29 September 1957.

Windscale Fire

The worst nuclear disaster to befall the UK happened in the same year as the Russian nuclear disaster, and less than 2 weeks after it. On 10 October 1957 the Windscale Fire occurred. The accident began with a reactor fire that released radioactive contamination into the atmosphere. All of the milk produced from within 500km of the disaster was destroyed for around a month. Over time 40 cancer sufferers came forward with claims that their illness was linked to the nuclear power disaster.

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