List of nuclear and radiation accidents by death toll

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This image of the SL-1 core served as a sober reminder of the death and damage that a nuclear meltdown can cause.
The abandoned city of Pripyat with the Chernobyl plant in the distance

There have been more than 20 nuclear and radiation accidents involving fatalities. These involved nuclear power plant accidents, nuclear submarine accidents, radiotherapy accidents and other mishaps.

Chernobyl disaster[edit]

56 direct deaths (47 accident workers and nine children with thyroid cancer) resulted from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, and it is estimated that there may eventually be 4,000 extra cancer deaths among the approximately 600,000 most highly exposed people.[1][2][3]

Estimates of the total number of deaths potentially resulting from the Chernobyl disaster vary enormously: Thirty one deaths are directly attributed to the accident, all among the reactor staff and emergency workers.[4] A UNSCEAR report places the total confirmed deaths from radiation at 64 as of 2008. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests it could reach 4,000 civilian deaths, a figure which does not include military clean-up worker casualties.[5] A 2006 report predicted 30,000 to 60,000 cancer deaths as a result of Chernobyl fallout.[6] A Greenpeace report puts this figure at 200,000 or more.[7] A disputed Russian publication, Chernobyl, concludes that 985,000 premature deaths occurred worldwide between 1986 and 2004 as a result of radioactive contamination from Chernobyl.[8] Leaving the areas of nuclear disasters/nuclear bombs uninhabitable for many years to come.

Kyshtym disaster[edit]

The Kyshtym disaster, which occurred at Mayak in the Soviet Union on 29 September 1957, was rated as a level 6 on the International Nuclear Event Scale, the third most severe incident after Chernobyl and Fukushima. Because of the intense secrecy surrounding Mayak, it is difficult to estimate the death toll of Kyshtym. One book claims that "in 1992, a study conducted by the Institute of Biophysics at the former Soviet Health Ministry in Chelyabinsk found that 8,015 people had died within the preceding 32 years as a result of the accident."[9] By contrast, only 6,000 death certificates have been found for residents of the Tech riverside between 1950 and 1982 from all causes of death,[10] though perhaps the Soviet study considered a larger geographic area affected by the airborne plume. The most commonly quoted estimate is 200 deaths due to cancer, but the origin of this number is not clear. More recent epidemiological studies suggest that around 49 to 55 cancer deaths among riverside residents can be associated to radiation exposure.[10] This would include the effects of all radioactive releases into the river, 98% of which happened long before the 1957 accident, but it would not include the effects of the airborne plume that was carried north-east.[11] The area closest to the accident produced 66 diagnosed cases of chronic radiation syndrome, providing the bulk of the data about this condition.[12]

Windscale fire[edit]

33+ cancer fatalities (estimated by UK government)[13][14]Windscale, United Kingdom, October 8, 1957. The Windscale fire resulted when uranium metal fuel ignited inside plutonium production piles; surrounding dairy farms were contaminated.[13][14]

Fukushima disaster[edit]

In a 2013 report, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) stated the overall health risks from the Fukushima disaster to be far lower than those of Chernobyl. There have been no observed or expected deterministic effects. In pregnancies, there has been no expected increase in spontaneous abortions, miscarriages, perinatal mortality, birth defects, or cognitive impairment. Finally, there was no expected discernible increase in heritable disease or discernible radiation-related increases in any cancers, with the possible exception of thyroid cancer. However, the high detection rates of thyroid nodules, cysts, and cancer is may be a consequence of intensive screening. In a 2015 white paper, UNSCEAR stated its findings from 2013 remain valid and largely unaffected by new information, and the new information further supports the statement that high thyroid detection is likely due to more intensive screening.[15]

None of the workers at the Fukushima Daiichi site have died from acute radiation poisoning,[16] though six workers died due to various reasons, including cardiovascular disease, during the containment efforts or work to stabilize the earthquake and tsunami damage to the site.[16]

In contrast, an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal cites a 2013 Japanese study, which concluded that mortality due to "evacuation stress" from the area around Fukoshima had reached more than 1600. This includes deaths from suicide and lack of access to critical health care, but not from radiation, increased cancer, or any other direct result of the nuclear accident. The author also states these deaths occurred among people who had been evacuated from areas where the radiation posed little or no risk to their health, areas where they would experience less exposure than the normal amount received by residents in Finland.[17]

Other accidents[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "IAEA Report". In Focus: Chernobyl. Retrieved 2008-05-31. 
  2. ^ Sovacool, Benjamin K. (2008). "The costs of failure: A preliminary assessment of major energy accidents, 1907–2007". Energy Policy. 36: 1806. 
  3. ^ Benjamin K. Sovacool. A Critical Evaluation of Nuclear Power and Renewable Electricity in Asia, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol. 40, No. 3, August 2010, p. 396.
  4. ^ Hallenbeck, William H (1994). Radiation Protection. CRC Press. p. 15. ISBN 0-87371-996-4. Reported thus far are 237 cases of acute radiation sickness and 31 deaths. 
  5. ^ "Chernobyl: the true scale of the accident". Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts. Retrieved 2011-04-15. 
  6. ^ "Torch: The Other Report On Chernobyl- executive summary". European Greens and UK scientists Ian Fairlie PhD and David Sumner - April 2006. Retrieved 2011-08-20. 
  7. ^ "The Chernobyl Catastrophe - Consequences on Human Health" (PDF). Greenpeace. 18 April 2006. Retrieved 15 December 2008. 
  8. ^ Alexey V. Yablokov; Vassily B. Nesterenko; Alexey V. Nesterenko (2009). Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment (Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences) (paperback ed.). Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-57331-757-3. 
  9. ^ Schlager, Neil (1994). When Technology Fails. Detroit: Gale Research. ISBN 0-8103-8908-8. 
  10. ^ a b Standring, William J.F.; Dowdall, Mark; Strand, Per (2009). "Overview of Dose Assessment Developments and the Health of Riverside Residents Close to the "Mayak" PA Facilities, Russia". International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 6 (1): 174–199. doi:10.3390/ijerph6010174. ISSN 1660-4601. PMC 2672329Freely accessible. PMID 19440276. Retrieved 11 June 2012. 
  11. ^ "The Southern Urals radiation studies: A reappraisal of the current status" (PDF). Journal of Radiation and Environmental Biophysics. 41. 2002. 
  12. ^ Gusev, Igor A.; Gusʹkova, Angelina Konstantinovna; Mettler, Fred Albert (28 March 2001). Medical Management of Radiation Accidents. CRC Press. pp. 15–29. ISBN 978-0-8493-7004-5. Retrieved 11 June 2012. 
  13. ^ a b Perhaps the Worst, Not the First TIME magazine, May 12, 1986.
  14. ^ 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, p. 393.
  15. ^ jaya.mohan. "Fukushima". Retrieved 15 November 2014. 
  16. ^ a b "Radiation didn't cause Fukushima No. 1 deaths: U.N.". 25 May 2012 – via Japan Times Online. 
  17. ^ (Japanese), (English version), (Original WSJ publication in English, paywall)
  18. ^ Investigation of an accidental Exposure of radiotherapy patients in Panama - International Atomic Energy Agency
  19. ^ a b c d e Johnston, Robert (September 23, 2007). "Deadliest radiation accidents and other events causing radiation casualties". Database of Radiological Incidents and Related Events. 
  20. ^ Medical management of radiation accidents pp. 299 & 303.
  21. ^ Strengthening the Safety of Radiation Sources Archived 2009-06-08 at WebCite p. 15.
  22. ^ "The Worst Nuclear Disasters". 25 March 2009. Retrieved 15 November 2014. 
  23. ^ a b Ricks, Robert C.; et al. (2000). "REAC/TS Radiation Accident Registry: Update of Accidents in the United States" (PDF). International Radiation Protection Association. p. 6. 
  24. ^ Strengthening the Safety of Radiation Sources Archived 2009-06-08 at WebCite p. 14.
  25. ^ "Lost Iridium-192 Source". Retrieved 15 November 2014. 
  26. ^ Facts and Details on Nuclear energy in Japan
  27. ^ The Radiological Accident in Goiania p. 2.
  28. ^ a b Pallava Bagla. "Radiation Accident a 'Wake-Up Call' For India's Scientific Community" Science, Vol. 328, 7 May 2010, p. 679.
  29. ^ Benjamin K. Sovacool. A Critical Evaluation of Nuclear Power and Renewable Electricity in Asia, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol. 40, No. 3, August 2010, p. 399.
  30. ^ a b c d e István Turai and Katalin Veress (2001). "Radiation Accidents: Occurrence, Types, Consequences, Medical Management, and the Lessons to be Learned". CEJOEM. pp. Vol.7. No.1.:3–14. Retrieved 2010.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  31. ^ McInroy, James F. (1995), "A true measure of plutonium exposure: the human tissue analysis program at Los Alamos" (PDF), Los Alamos Science, 23: 235–255 

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