Nuclear energy, back in the day, was widely believed to be the primary source of power for the world. It showed great promise until nuclear disasters came. Nuclear energy, when under the right conditions, is very safe and can provide power to millions of people for years to come.
It was intended to make our world a better place but like everything else in this world, it is not perfect. Nuclear disasters, like the one that happened in Chernobyl, Ukraine 33 years ago, has become a nightmare for some people. Over the years, thousands of people have lost their lives because of the unfortunate accidents that involve nuclear energy.
Chernobyl Disaster – 1986
On April 26, 1986, the world’s worst nuclear disaster occurred in a nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine. This incident happened because of a sudden power surge while conducting a test designed for reactor systems. The power surge lead to an explosion and a fire which destroyed the Unit 4 reactor.
As a result, a huge amount of radiation escaped out of the reactor and quickly spread across the entire western Soviet Union. Over 220,000 people have to evacuate from their homes. The nearby city of Pripyat with a population of 49,360 at the time of the incident was completely evacuated and is now a “ghost town”.
Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster – 2011
The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster was caused by an earthquake and a tsunami. The incident occurred on March 11, 2011.
After the magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck eastern Japan, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors automatically shut down to temporarily disable its fission reactions. Unfortunately, the ensuing tsunami after the earthquake disable the backup generators for the nuclear reactors. As a result, the cooling systems of the reactors were crippled. This lead to overheating which resulted in explosions inside the reactors. And because of that huge amounts of radiation escaped from three reactors. The radiation contaminated the surrounding areas of the nuclear power plant. As a result, around 500,000 residents have to evacuate because of the accident.
Three Mile Island Nuclear Accident – 1979
The partial meltdown that occurred on Three Mile Island is the worst nuclear disaster in US history.
This accident happened because of a series of mechanical failures and other human factors. The accidental opening of the reactor’s relief valve make the incident even worse. As a result, huge amounts of nuclear reactor coolant escaped. Nuclear disasters like this could have been prevented if the plant’s operators were able to identify the problem that aggravated it. This accident prompted anti-nuclear safety concerns from the public and developed new regulations involving the use of nuclear energy.
K-19 Nuclear Submarine Incident – 1961
A Soviet submarine conducting exercises in the North Atlantic ocean experienced a nuclear accident when its crew found out that the cooling system of their nuclear reactor dropped to zero. Later on, they found out that there is a major leak in the reactor’s cooling system.
The crew tried to contact Moscow but to no avail. As a result, they tried to fix the leak on their own by exposing themselves to high levels of radiation that can kill them. The reactor crew that fixed the leak which consists of eight members all died within three weeks after the accident.
Contamination also affected the rest of crew of the K-19 submarine. As a result, the base where the submarine was towed after answering the distress call also got contaminated. All the personnel working in the base also became contaminated. All in all, twenty of the original crew from the submarine died because of radiation within the next few years.
Nuclear disasters, like the ones above, now serve as a reminder of how atomic energy can be a nightmare if not use properly. These disasters will help prevent future catastrophes like these from ever happening again.