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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 July 2006, 09:45 GMT 10:45 UK
Timeline: Nuclear plant accidents
Nuclear power may be considered by some as a "viable" fuel source for the future, but anti-nuclear campaigners point to the industry's safety record around the world as a reason for caution.

The BBC News website lists a selection of accidents at nuclear plants over the years:


Three Mile Island
The Three Mile Island accident was the United States' worst of its kind

29 September

Mayak or Kyshtym nuclear complex (Soviet Union): A fault in the cooling system at the nuclear complex, near Chelyabinsk, results in a chemical explosion and the release of an estimated 70 to 80 tonnes of radioactive materials into the air. Thousands of people are exposed to radiation and thousands more are evacuated from their homes. It is categorised as Level 6 on the seven-point International Nuclear Events Scale (INES).

7 October

Windscale nuclear reactor (UK): A fire in the graphite-cooled reactor, in Cumbria, results in a limited release of radioactivity (INES Level 5). The sale of milk from nearby farms is banned for a month. The reactor is unsalvageable and buried in concrete. A second reactor on the site is also shut down and the site decontaminated. Subsequently part of the site is renamed Sellafield and new nuclear reactors are built.


3 January

Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (USA). A steam explosion in reactor SL-1 during preparation for start-up destroys the small US Army experimental reactor and kills three operators.


29 March

Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, Pennsylvania (US). A cooling malfunction causes a partial meltdown in one reactor, resulting in a limited release of radioactivity (INES Level 5).

The site's first reactor (TMI One) on the Susquehanna river was closed for refuelling. The second was at full capacity when two malfunctions occurred: first there was a release of radioactive water, then radioactive gas was detected on the perimeter. No deaths or injuries were reported.

It is considered the United States' worst nuclear accident and led to major safety changes in the industry.


26 April

Mitinskoye cemetery in Moscow
Dozens of Chernobyl workers died from Acute Radiation Sickness

Chernobyl nuclear power plant (Soviet Union). One of four reactors explodes after an experiment at the power plant (INES Level 7). The resulting fire burns for nine days and at least 100 times more radiation than the atom bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima is released into the air. Radioactive deposits are found in nearly every country in the northern hemisphere.

Two people die in the explosion and another 47 from Acute Radiation Sickness. Thousands of extra cancer deaths are expected as a resulted of the disaster. A huge cover, known as the New Safe Confinement, is due to be erected over the existing sarcophagus covering the site some time after 2008.


6 April

Severesk, formerly Tomsk-7 (Soviet Union). A tank at a uranium and plutonium factory inside the plant explodes, resulting in radioactivity being dispersed into the atmosphere contaminating an area of over 120 sq km (INES Level 4). A number of villages are evacuated and left permanently uninhabitable.


30 September

The Tokaimura accident shook confidence in the industry in Japan
Tokaimura nuclear fuel processing facility (Japan). Workers break safety regulations by mixing dangerously large amounts of treated uranium in metal buckets, setting off a nuclear reaction (INES Level 4). Two of the workers later die from their injuries, and more than 40 others are treated for exposure to high levels of radiation.


9 August

Mihama nuclear power plant (Japan). Five people die in an accident at the plant in the Fukui province (INES Level 1). Seven people are also injured when hot water and steam leaks from a broken pipe.

Officials insist that no radiation leaked from the plant, and there is no danger to the surrounding area.


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