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The catastrophic Chernobyl nuclear disaster happened in 1986 and remains the worst nuclear accident in the world in terms of casualties and cost. It is also one of only two accidents that have been given a maximum rating on the International Nuclear Event Scale. But while it’s the most well-known nuclear disaster, it’s unfortunately not the only one. However, major accidents are extremely rare, considering how many nuclear power plants there are around the world. Here are a few other nuclear accidents.
Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster occurred in 2011 and is the other Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale. The incident began when the area was hit by a massive tsunami, which was triggered by a 9.0 magnitude undersea earthquake. While there have been no reports of short term radiation exposure fatalities, over 15,000 people lost their lives due to the earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
The Kyshtym disaster took place in 1957 in the Soviet Union. It was labeled a Level 6 (the only one to be labeled as such to date). Mayak, a plutonium production site, wasn’t managed well because there were limitations to the nuclear knowledge and safety regulations of those developing the radioactive materials. Inadequate storage led to an explosion, which sent a plume of radioactivity into the air, leading to massive evacuations in the nearby villages.
Three Mile Island accident
In Pennsylvania, a nuclear reactor at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station experienced a partial meltdown in 1979. It remains the worst nuclear accident in U.S. nuclear plant history, and was rated a Level 5. Factors such as failures in the non-nuclear secondary system were followed by a relief valve that was stuck open in the primary system. This allowed nuclear reactor coolant to escape. The incident was compounded by human error.
Lucens reactor partial meltdown
In Switzerland, the Lucens reactor experienced a partial meltdown in 1969. During startup one day, a loss-of-coolant accident occurred, which resulted in a partial core meltdown that flooded the underground cavern it was located in with radiation. The cavern was sealed and there was no escaping radiation. Nobody was harmed, either in the workers or in the local population.