Talk:Windscale fire

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Fixing Up Figures in the Release Table[edit]

Nice article. Just wondered if we could put actual figures for the radioactive gas release table. The table simply says "25 x Windscale" for the TMI incident. There is referenced materials stating the release of 93 petaBq of radioactive noble gases and 560 gigaBq of radioiodines. Can we put this in the table, or is the fact that it isn't further listed by TYPE of noble gas an issue?

source: Rogovin, Mitchell (1980). Three Mile Island: A report to the Commissioners and to the Public, Volume I (PDF). Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Special Inquiry Group. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:05, 11 July 2016 (UTC)

References Wrong[edit]

The references on mortality are wrong - the one apparently saying 240 deaths caused just says 'no increased mortality in wo0rkers' Please fix, or remove the 240 deaths claim. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:10, 9 June 2015 (UTC)

The source says: "Previously, it was thought that the radiation would have eventually led to about 200 cases of cancer, but the new contamination figures suggest it could have caused about 240." (talk) 09:34, 9 June 2015 (UTC)

Isotope Cartridges[edit]

This section of the article has Polonium-210 listed as a target. This is unlikely and would most likely be produced from a Bismuth target. Bismuth Oxide is listed just before as a target without a product, which on irradiation with thermal neutrons would be the Polonium 210. Also Thallium and Thulium are listed as targets. What are there products? Should they be products? If so what isotope? And what is the irradiation target that produces them? (talk) 11:42, 9 October 2009 (UTC)

Seems like a simple wording issue, to clarify what was placed into the targets as a precursor, and what was present in the irradiated targets as a product. Andy Dingley (talk) 11:48, 9 October 2009 (UTC)
Yep, also the same issues are there for there for other target/product combinations. Like Lithium Magnesium alloy and Tritium. Presumably the Lithium is transmuted into Tritium as the only product as Magnesium has a low capture cross-section for thermal neutrons, cf. the Magnox alloys used for fuel casing in the next generation of reactors in the UK. Similarly for the Aluminium Nitride target the important species is Nitrogen, which would be transmuted by the neutrons into Carbon-14. The Aluminium probably has a low cross section, otherwise why would be used as the casing for the fuel and the isotope cartridges?
Maybe there should be a table listing target material, active target isotope(s) and product isotope(s). (talk) 12:26, 9 October 2009 (UTC)


He recently died in Australia where he had emigrated - see reference 3 to The Independent's recent obituary. Government probabaly waited till he was out of the way before they sanctioned release of the docs.

Although "The Government" might well have had such devious motives, Tuohy had never been an establishment figure and thus never posed a serious threat or embarrassment. He died (in Newcastle, New South Wales), however, not until 12 March 2008, while the release of the official documents had aleady been timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the fire in October 2007. I'm not sure that any amount of official publication would have made much difference to Tuohy himself, who always knew what really happended and who had never made any fuss over being such an unsung hero. Martinevans123 (talk)

Official Report[edit]

The official transcripts and report into the disaster have just been declassified and published to mark the 50th anniversary of the incident. Link: [1] . The main thing from a quick skim is that the official explanation of human error is now shown to be a falsehood by Macmillan's government to avoid scuppering a major nuclear treaty with the Yanks. Can someone work this all into the article?

I can't find a source for this but I also distinctly remember reading that the man with the worst radiation exposure, the site manager Tom Tuohy, is alive and well at the age of 90 or so with no sign of cancer or suchlike, as are several of the other workers actually on the roof of the reactor that day. 09:45, 6 October 2007 (UTC)

Reference Needed[edit]

The subsection "The fire" under "The accident" heading has the following passage:

"'An inspection plug was taken out,' said Tom Hughes in a later interview, 'and we saw, to our complete horror, four channels of fuel glowing bright cherry red.'"

This is a direct, attributed quote, the source really needs to be listed. Does anyone know where this came from? If it can't be found, the text should be removed, or at least paraphrased. Jamesfett 18:19, 13 August 2007 (UTC)

When the wind blows (CSRF) contains many paragraphs identical to those in the Wikipedia article. However, certain dates mentioned in the CSRF article suggest it was written in early 2007. The similar passages existed in the Wikipedia article in 2005. So the CSRF article is not a good source, although it looks like one at first glance. —Ryan 21:27, 21 September 2007 (UTC)

Still hot[edit]

I did not in fact make up the idea that it could still be hot. From [2]:

Yet even today as the fateful chimneys are slowly taken down by shielded robots the centre of the fire crippled reactor of Pile one still contains molten uranium and still gives off a gentle heat. There is still unreleased Wigner energy in the graphite and water hoses are still left connected to the charge face as a final safety precaution.

How hot, I have no idea. But the fuel feeding system certainly didn't survive, so there's no way to get anything out, so the core is still there... --Andrew 05:51, Jan 20, 2005 (UTC)

Good article, but certainly there are no "continuing chain reactions". Molten is ambiguous but implies that the uranium is still liquid. I changed it to melted. pstudier 06:15, 2005 Jan 20 (UTC)

You're probably right about the continuing chain reactions (except in the trivial sense that there will always be a few chain reactions even in a subcritical mass) but I'm not sur why you disagree with the article on whether the uranium is still liquid. Do you have a reference? We could use some more good ones. --Andrew 18:36, Jan 20, 2005 (UTC)
Typical LWR fuel is stored underwater for a minimum of about 5 years. It then can placed in dry storage, where the fuel is sealed in a metal can a couple inches thick. This is then cooled by air convection, and if I recall correctly, maximum temperatures are a couple hundred degrees C. The Windscale reactor used unenriched uranium, so it was more dilute, and was not cooked as long in order to have higher quality plutonium. Therefore, the fuel is less hot than typical LWR fuel. It is not credible to me that there is enough heat to keep it molten at over 1000 C. Even if it was, it would probably would dissolve the ground underneath it until it was dilute enough to solidify.
The Canadian Nuclear FAQ discusses CANDU waste. The fuel bundles weigh 20Kg, and it states "The average heat generation of a fuel bundle at this point (one year) is about 100 W". This is also unenriched fuel, but it is cooked longer than for a plutonium reactor. It is also 1 year old instead of 48 years old. It is not credible that the uranium is still liquid.
To beat a dead horse into hamburger, I sure would not want to share a hot tub with anyone who described molten uranium as "still gives off a gentle heat".  :-) pstudier 20:14, 2005 Jan 20 (UTC)
You're probably right that it's not too hot, but figures about spent fuel are not terribly convincing, since they're separated pieces, each well below critical. In the core of the Windscale reactor, there's a mass of fuel, a moderator, and possibly still enough for criticality. I doubt, as you do, that it's still critical (uncontrolled, you'd almost certainly get exponential growth, which would be, well, noticeable) but fission cascades can still occur and so it might produce more heat than carefully isolated spent fuel rods. Moreover, if the waste canisters hit a temperature of several hundred degrees in dry storage, then it's not outrageous (but unlikely) that a large pile of uranium and graphite, designed to lose heat by forced-air cooling but shut off from the atmosphere, could get as hot as 1000C somewhere deep in the center. The graphite (or concrete) could keep it from melting out the bottom.
Anyway, further reading (all I have time for tonight) fails to clear up the state of the reactor core, but I added a bunch to the description of the accident itself. --Andrew 06:12, Jan 21, 2005 (UTC)
Oh, and the UKAEA is worried enough about the pile bursting into flame to want to put an argon atmosphere over it while decommissioning it. I don't know how hot it'd have to be for that to happen, but presumably hotter than the pile's design temperature... --Andrew 06:32, Jan 21, 2005 (UTC)


Was there a core meltdown during the Windscale fire? Should it be listed in the nuclear meltdown page?

I think the answer is yes to both, but the question was raised at Talk:nuclear meltdown, and I realize this article doesn't say one way or the other.

It's certainly the case that whether the core melted is not very relevant; the problem was the fire. --Andrew 22:37, Mar 25, 2005 (UTC)

The following page may be useful (it claims there was a partial meltdown): Partial Fuel Meltdown Events --Andrew 22:42, Mar 25, 2005 (UTC)


"The event, known as the Windscale fire, was considered the world's worst nuclear accident until Three Mile Island in 1979." However, at Sellafield#The_Windscale_fire it states that the fire released significant greater amounts of radiation then the incident at TMI. -- 15:04, 15 March 2006 (UTC)

Windscale fire states that a total of 20,000 curies, most of which was iodine-131 was released. Three Mile Island released 13 million curies, although most of it was radioactive noble gasses. Releasing nearly 1,000 times the quantity of radiation, despite the form, could only in my opinion by superceded if the more hazardous radiation lead to injury or death, but there were no deaths and no injuries at either site, so that's a non issue. In terms of economic loss, windscale was a very small reactor and compartively cheap to Three Mile Island. In addition to the loss of the reactor, the cost of the cleanup with highly disproportionate, although windscale may be further cleaned up, thus far it has simply been covered in concrete, although the article doesn't have a price figure, I'd estimate $20,000 for the cleanup; Three Mile Island's cleanup was $975 Million. As for the social impact, there was very little fear at the Windscale fire, and a great deal of fear at Three Mile Island, this can also be evidenced by the reactions to nuclear energy, since Three Mile Island not a single nuclear reactor has been built (that wasn't already under construction) to this day. Britain on the other hand didn't even pause their nuclear program. So to summarize, the health impact was potentially worse at Windscale, however there was no health impact, and in all other criteria, (quanitity of radiation, financial loss, social impact) Three Mile Island was worse. Vicarious 23:22, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
at the time of the fire, there was hardly any public awarness of the potential risks of radiation, so thats not a fair comparison to make. In "Rationality and ritual: The windscale inquiry and Nucleair decisions in Britain", Brian Wynne (1982) says The fire's continuing practical political relevance can be gauged from the comment at the Windscale Inquiry that more had been heard of the fire in 1977 than in 1957, and in 1980 the US union of concerned Scientists commisioned research into the health effects of the fire's radioactive release thousands of times greater than that at Three Mile Island. (p. 20). So they ignore the exact amount of radiation, but focusd instead on the health impact of the incident. And ofcourse, its is not clear how many people got pancreas cancer from the Windscale fire, but to say that there were no victims due to the event seems also hard to maintain. -- 11:46, 16 March 2006 (+0100)
I'm immediately a bit dubious about the quote for the simple fact that "thousands" is an exageration, although an admittedly small exageration. First off, we're to assume that they're neglecting all radiation aside from iodine, and secondly TMI is 15 and WS 20,000; thousands in my opinion mandates at least 30,000; but perhaps I'm being picky. As for the health impacts, if the book you're reading mentions any statistics on the rise in cancer I'd love to have them in the article; however I think it's unfair to assume the worst, especially because I think some newspapers would have been jumped on a scandalous story such as fatalities, even if indirect. You seem to think we should assume fatalities, and I think we shouldn't, so in the absence of evidence either way I'd prefer to discount that criteria entirely from the issue of which was worse, and again, in all other aspects TMI is worse. Vicarious 11:59, 16 March 2006 (UTC)
The book isnt about the aftermath of the Windscale fire, so I wont find any details about victims there. I just think its a bold statement to say TMI was worse then Windscale. But I believe we do agree both inicdents were dwarfed by Chernobyl. In 1957 there was no public debate whatsoever about (the risks of) nuclear technology. After a very small inquiry, on november 9th, 1957 The Daily Mail reported "ATOMIC BRITAIN is SAFE". The public seeked reassurance, and that is what they got. But today, in retrospect, we should be a bit more critical about the (failures in the) early days of British nuclear technologies, and its impact. 14:16, 17 March 2006 (+0100)
This article says that the coverage was hyperbolic, and that while some papers did defend nuclear energy, others were much harsher. As for being critical, the very nature of NPOV prohibits it. We should present all of the facts, and pull no punches, but not say "nuclear energy is bad and dangerous". Also, I don't think comparing WS to TMI makes WS seem better, but rather TMI seem worse. One statement I do agree with, that you might want to put in the article if you still have issue with the current statement is, WS was a worse meltdown, but at a much smaller reactor and in a less populated area so it had less impact than TMI. Vicarious 07:17, 18 March 2006 (UTC)
I just want to voice my concerns on this statement too. You two have hit on this already, but I certainly don't think that economic damage and change in public perception due to the accident should be included in reasons for saying one accident is worse than another. Why? Because people have a problem with nuclear power because of the human cost of it. The human cost is arguably low, but there have been MOUNTAINS of discourse on the issue. And this is what I'm getting from what I've read so far:
Predicted additional fatal cancers due to
TMI: 1
Windscale: 22
If you ask me, this should be the sole measuring tape for ranking the severity of nuclear accidents. Chernobyl had a number of 4,000 by the most recent releases btw. You could make other statements such as the Windscale fire was considered the worst accident for the industry until TMI. Even saying that TMI was of greater economic cost would be correct. But to say that TMI was worse than Windscale period, I don't think that is fair, particularly to the U.S. nuclear industry, because TMI did not pose a greater cost to the public, simple as that. theanphibian 16:15, 6 May 2007 (UTC)
I'm left wondering whether the amount of radioactive contamination to milk supplies was properly recorded or appreciated at the time. My father, now deceased, was working at Barrow Dairy at the time. Many years after the accident, he told me of a visit to the dairy by the army in 1957, where they had tested the milk coming in to the Dairy for radioactivity (I suppose it would not be made more explicit than that): he told me, and I have no reason to doubt it, that however far afield the incoming milk came from, it had to be thrown away, and that eventually, they "just gave up testing" and left, leaving the dairy employees in no doubt that they had to keep their mouths shut about the incident. The area supplying milk to that dairy was well beyond that discussed in the article. Since this is now 50 years ago, I suppose that it is unlikely to be corroborated,or made more precise, but I wonder if anyone has any further information about this or similar incidents in the vicinity. Or perhaps someone with knowledge of the clinical data collected at the time about thyroid uptake of Iodine 131 in local populations could comment (if, indeed, the inhabitants from a large enough area were checked). —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Messagetolove (talkcontribs) 15:40:50, August 19, 2007 (UTC).
  • I agree that Three-Mile Island can't be rightfully considered worse because of the number of casualties. But I immediately thought there was something wrong with that statement, because the Kyshtym disaster had just happened (Sept. 1957). The article does say "was considered", which would indicate that people could consider it the worst because they didn't know about Kyshtym and they thought TMI was worse. But this should be pointed out. I see this is a three-year-old argument, so I'm not likely to get an answer. --Elemarth (talk) 22:47, 11 June 2010 (UTC)
    • Never mind, I hadn't read the end of the article. I'm just going to change that sentence at the beginning. --Elemarth (talk) 22:55, 11 June 2010 (UTC)

Graphite is not flammable![edit]

I'm not sure how to do this without being very blunt, but graphite simply isn't flammable. It's used in fire extinguishers as a primary smothering medium!

From the article on graphite "graphite is an extremely strong, heat-resistant (to 3000°C) material, used in reentry shields for missile nosecones, solid rocket engines, pebble bed reactors, brake shoes, electric motor brushes and as electrodes in EDM electrical discharge machines."

It's one of the most refractory common materials known to man, in other words!

Yes, it'll burn if you get it hot enough, but so will nearly anything. I'm making some edits to the article to reflect this. Gigs 23:43, 26 December 2006 (UTC)

I'm no expert on Nuclear Graphite, but I think it is regarded as flammable in the context of a nuclear reactor. e.g this Nuclear Decommissioning Authority Engineering Directorate report states on page 30 "Both graphite and magnox are flammable" [3], or see "The graphite fire" section in [4], or these Nuclear Power lecture notes[5]. Rwendland 02:26, 27 December 2006 (UTC)
It's about as flammable as diamond. The nearest I can tell (most sources consider graphite completely non-flammable, hard to find actual data on combustion of graphite) is that very finely divided graphite can oxidize in air around 900K. I found one story about carbon nanotubes catching fire from bright flashes of light ( I found a russian report about graphite possibly burning as low as 800C, and also one MSDS that claimed "sub-micron graphite can spontaneously combust in air".. Of course a sub-micron powder isn't a common thing! Anyway, I'm not saying it can't burn, I'm just saying it does a disservice to those people that designed these reactors to call it "flammable". It makes them look much stupider than they were, considering that graphite is often used as a refractory substance for coating and forming things that must withstand such things as plasma arcs, and rocket nozzles. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Gigs (talkcontribs) 02:40, 28 December 2006 (UTC).
there's also this "GRAPHITE is non-flammable in bulk form, but combustible. A reducing agent. Mixtures of graphite dust and air are explosive when ignited.Reacts violently with very strong oxidizing agents such as fluorine, chlorine dioxide, and potassium peroxide. Almost inert chemically when in bulk form. Keep away from ignition sources and oxidizing agents"[6].Put me down as another vote against saying graphite is flammable in this article, well it is but only under the right conditions. Sukisuki (talk) 05:26, 29 December 2007 (UTC)
Graphite is flammable if there are catalytic impurities present as in charcoal or briquettes. JLWinkler (talk) 20:05, 26 June 2008 (UTC)
Not sure where to put this: The "Isotope Cartridges" "The following substances were placed inside metal cans and subjected to neutron irradation to create radioisotopes." The list of isotopes were not all placed in the cartridges. Many were the product of neutron irradiation. The "Aluminum-nitride C14" suggests that aluminum nitride has radioactive carbon 14 in the compound, which it does not. JLWinkler (talk) 20:05, 26 June 2008 (UTC)
Under the right conditions the form of graphite used will burn at temperatures over 600 degrees centigrade.
If you pulverise graphite, and you pulverise coal ( which is 90% carbon ), then most of the particles have very similar composition. Pulverised coal burns very nicely, provides about 50% of the world's electricity. Graphite doesn't melt very easily but you sure can burn it. In most of the applications where its so-called refractory properties are utilised, it has to be kept in a non-oxidising environment or it won't last very long.Eregli bob (talk) 18:05, 3 April 2011 (UTC)
As was evidenced in Windscale, to a small extent and to a substantially larger extent at Chernobyl. For the latter, the reactor explosively diassembling itself shattered the graphite and threw burning graphite and other core components through the roof, to largely land on the surrounding intact roof. Most of the graphite wasn't burning, but reports stated that some of it was.Wzrd1 (talk) 04:09, 14 August 2012 (UTC)

Comparison with other accidents[edit]

Would it perhaps be comparable, the first meltdown of a power-producing reactor in the United States, the 1959 Santa Susana Field Laboratory meltdown, which led to no immediate deaths, but is suspected of having released (and perhaps continuing to release) radiation into a major urban center (northern Los Angeles) ? - Eric 05:07, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

And what about the 1957 accident at Mayak: 20 MCi (20 million Curies), 200 reported deaths, 10,000 evacuees (many people were not evacuated), and 470,000 people exposed to radiation. Although this incident was only vaguely known till 1990, there could at least be a reference to it I suspect. --Hardscarf 08:54, 7 March 2007 (UTC)


Has anyone noticed that the diagram in this article shows the filter(s) at ground level, while the text of the article (correctly) places them in a gallery at the top of the chimney? Scott Johnson 15:33, 24 May 2007 (UTC)

The image contributor User:Jacj fixed this. Thanks! Scott Johnson 10:50, 8 June 2007 (UTC)
Theres some good diagrams here if anyone wants to copy them [7] John 21:40, 11 October 2007 (UTC)

New data[edit]

I have added new data on the release and three 2007 scientific references to the German version of the article -- maybe someone wants to integrate this material here? PSeibert (talk) 20:37, 18 March 2008 (UTC)


Reading up on the background section, it's really shaky on what sort of point it's trying to send across, especially mentioning an arms race and an atomic bomb. This wasn't a bomb, it was a nuclear plant. Can somebody fix this up, or I will? —Preceding unsigned comment added by TheVaultDweller (talkcontribs) 02:18, 6 April 2008 (UTC)

But this was a nuclear plant built to produce weapons grade plutonium. Electricity generation was seen as a useful though largely irrelevant by-product. If the USA had been more forthcoming with the UK about nuclear technology in the 1950s, the UK's power generation network might have turned out very differently. Martinevans123 (talk) 10:06, 6 April 2008 (UTC)
Okay, Fair enough. You've got me convinced. I never really bothered looking at it through that viewpoint. Thanks, Martin. TheVaultDweller (talk) 16:59, 6 April 2008 (UTC)

Yep. Ultimately its goal was to let the UK make plutomium to build our own bomb. Thats why the UK has a seat on the UN security council. In the BBC documentary (referanced) it goes into depth about this. (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 15:08, 25 February 2010 (UTC).

I think it needs to be expanded or maybe it should be included in another section? RorWiki (talk) 18:16, 18 April 2011 (UTC)

Wind Direction[edit]

I would question this "There is evidence to suggest, however, that the official Meteorological records may have been altered in an attempt to cover up the fact that, throughout the radiation leak, the wind was blowing from the North East, significantly increasing the risk of contamination dose to Ireland and the Isle of Man." The cited link is to a web site that displays a synoptic chart showing a light SW wind over the site and a NW wind over Ireland. The site misreads the chart as a NE wind over the windscale site. (talk) 12:00, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

As I understood it. that site presents the Air Ministry synoptic chart as evidence of the actual weather at the time, not the spurious Met Office version, arguing that winds would have been blowing toward the weather front, from both sides, both immediately prior to and during the accident. How does one explain the record tampering and the mysterious "MAST DISMANTLED" report? Is the IOM/ Eire epidemological data purely coincidental? I have no LLR axe to grind, I just thought this website was relevant to any discussion.Martinevans123 (talk) 13:30, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
Reading that site again I see that there is in fact no mention on any NE wind, only of a "cold front lying NE to SW". So I have amended the article to "the wind was blowing out to sea", which I think is the jist of the LLR argument. The other evidence, all secondary it seems, is still perplexing. It would have been useful to see the synoptics for the whole period from 10th October onwards to see how the front developed, but given its position already at 00:00 hrs on 11th it would seem that the fallout risk would have been far greater for the Isle of Man than for Eire. Martinevans123 (talk) 16:47, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
Beck daross (talk), the site referred to shows an "Air Ministry chart for 0000GMT 11 October 1957 - two days after the fire began" with a cold front lying NE - SW, apparently right across the Isle of Man. Next to this image it states: "The front is lying NE - SW and travelling eastwards. It has yet to reach the site of the fire. On either side of the front light winds are blowing towards it and rain is falling along it, depositing the radioactivity the wind is carrying.
The site also states this:
"Reports at the time said that it was blowing out to sea (1). This is supported by a meteorological analysis (2) showing a cold front lying NE to SW across the Irish Sea from Galloway to the Isle of Man and beyond to Dublin. Accompanied by heavy rain it was moving eastwards; light winds were blowing towards it.
But in 1974 Roger Clarke (now the Director of NRPB) disagreed. He says (3) that winds were from the NW throughout, blowing the radiation inland. Thus there could be no significant dose to Ireland or the Isle of Man.
LLRC went to the Meteorological Office Archives in Bracknell to find out the truth. We found that the original reports of wind speed and direction had been tampered with. Record sheets for 1957 had been removed from the Met. Office's Windscale station volume and replaced with new sheets of a slightly different colour from the sheets for previous and subsequent years. The pages for 1957 read: NO RECORD -- MAST DISMANTLED The mast "reappeared" in November. When we pointed this out to the archivist he had a good laugh."
To me this seems to me like clear evidence showing that the wind was indeed originaly blowing out to sea and evidence to show that there was some kind of falsification of records. Before you rv the article for a third time, could you please explain how it can be otherwise? Thanks, Martinevans123 (talk) 17:21, 2 June 2009 (UTC)
The Air Ministry chart does not show what LLRC claim and I'm perplexed as to how they or yourself managed to interpret it that way. The chart shows that before, during and after the cold front, the geostrophic wind (parallel to the isobars and direction iaw 'Buys Ballot's law') would have been towards the mainland. Note that regarding weather, the RAF and Met Office work as one, which is why the ministry synoptic chart was available at Bracknell. The missing Windscale observations are local and irrelevant to determining where the contamination went beyond the local vicinity. Furthermore, accounts of the local surface wind having blown out to sea do not contradict the big picture as local effects due to frontal activity and sea/shore breeze are to be expected.
The LLRC webpage is a dubious source and I have edited that paragraph to include caveats.
None of this is very relevant when rigorous studies have been done on this matter. The most recent by Johnson, Kitchen and Nelson in 2007 validating once more the conventional explanation of where the plume went. By comparison with that the Air Ministry chart is a mere snapshot but, significantly and ironically, it is anything but evidence that the plume was carried back across the Irish Sea. Co-author of another 2007 study, Prof Wakeford, has said that after the main plume had passed south-east over England, part of it swirled back over the Irish Sea and that "It may have just touched the east coast of Northern Ireland, but the radioactive concentration of the cloud was very low by this time". That's the nearest any proper study comes to concluding that any of the plume went across the Irish Sea. And although studies show that radioactive materials from Sellafield (along with the rest of the world) have reached Ireland none have found any that any did so as a result of the Windscale fire. Beck daross (talk) 19:14, 2 June 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for the explanation. Your complete lack of edit history and user page prompted my caution, but it is obvious that you are quite familar with both meteorology and this subject. I think you might agree that the image of the chart used by LLRC is not that clear, but it seems clear enough to support their claim as to the location of the cold front. But the actual values of the isobars is much less clear. I would agree with you that those reported winds would have to have been geostrophic. But I have taken the content of that site at face value - if you say it is a "dubious source" you might like to give some kind of evidence that discredits it. But much better than that you seem to have more reliable academic sources. I would welcome a more accurate description of what happened based on your Johnson, Kitchen and Nelson (2007) and/or on Prof Wakeford's work if that is also accessible. And I would certainly be interested to see what evidence they themselves draw upon. So this certainly seems to be an editing/ procedural issue - if you could provide the sources you cite as references, please go ahead and moderate the claim made by LLRC and/or add a more reliable description of meteorological events. Beware of a third straight rv which technicaly warrants an edit ban (not by me, I hasten to add), But I am sure that you could be more inventive and have much more to offer, I believe there is also some epidemeological evidence that may be relevant to the dispersion of the plume. Martinevans123 (talk) 20:06, 2 June 2009 (UTC)
Martin, you say you take the information of the LLRC webpage at face value. But as they are a pressure group I really don't think you can allow yourself that luxury. I think you should consider editing your entry to reflect that along with the fact that they have misinterpreted their chart in a most fundamental way, which is all I did in my last two edits.
When I say they misinterpreted their chart the evidence is in the chart itself viz the winds aloft and hence the airmass which runs parallel to the isobars. Their explanation of the met situation is at odds with this fundamental concept. I doubt anyone has bothered to publish a paper specifically citing their claim and refuting it so if you must have a reference you're out of luck, hence I am taking the trouble to explain a little myself.
They say this - "Radioactivity in the plume from the later part of the event was tracked south east across England and into Europe. But what happened in the early part?". Look again at the ministry chart. Remember it is for midnight on the 10/11 Oct and the front is right over Windscale at this time - "two days after the fire began" - so presumably they are interested in the winds ahead of the front ie those affecting the 'early part' of the fire. There is no question that the airmass ahead of the front is tracking over the mainland. Again I caution against confusion about local variations between the surface wind (especially on the coast) and the main airmass but, in terms of where the plume went, two things are clear even from the chart they cite - 1) it didn't go from Windscale to Ireland or even the IOM prior to the passage of the front 2) after the passage of the front the airmass passing over Windscale would have tracked in a south easterly direction (ie a 'north westerly' wind).
Also consider this. The LLRC say "It [the front] has yet to reach the site of the fire". And yet their chart shows the front right over Windscale. Do they even know where the plant is?
In short, the LLRC are a pressure group who have misinterpreted the met chart and even got the location of Windscale wrong. In linking to their site I don't think you've included enough cautions in your entry to satisfy the Wikipedia policy of neutral point of view. I merely suggest that you rethink this entry along the lines of the two edits I made.Beck daross (talk) 19:24, 4 June 2009 (UTC)
Thank you for your clarity and patience. Seascale seems to be at about the same latitude as Cranstal at the north end of the Isle of Man see mulitmap, but I'd agree the quality of that map image doesn't really easily support the statement made. Yes, LLRC are a pressure group, but that is no good reason to claim what they say is deliberately false (the detail about the records does not sound like it was made up, but I'm not sure where you would go for verification). I'd agree with everything else you say, but who, or what, is your Johnson, Kitchen and Nelson (2007) and your Prof Wakeford work? I shall certainly consider a toning down of the current entry if you do not wish to. Martinevans123 (talk) 20:06, 4 June 2009 (UTC)
AFAIK the relevant papers published on the plume are not available to link to under GFDL. The best I can do is an abstract for the one I mentioned - [8]. I wouldn't suggest that LLRC are deliberately misleading and I imagine they genuinely believe what they say but I have to disagree strongly with their claim. However, I have no reason to doubt that the Windscale records were missing from Bracknell and this may be noteworthy as it will be suspicious for some. Wakeford was co-author along with Garland of the 2007 report that revised upwards the estimate of extra cancers due to this accident. Again not available under GFDL but many quotes are out there eg [9]. I found the Windscale Fire article an interesting read. Thankyou.Beck daross (talk) 22:05, 4 June 2009 (UTC)
I have now edited the two sentences to moderate the claims made. Do you think that is sufficient? I think you, Beck daross, may be best placed to add any further detail about the meteorological analysis and the epidemiological findings. Many thanks. Martinevans123 (talk) 18:07, 5 June 2009 (UTC)
I think what you have there is fair comment. And if the studies of the plume were available under the GFDL I would link to them but I just can't find anything beyond the abstracts and a few quotes. If the purpose of those studies was to inform public opinion then the authors and sponsors should perhaps reflect on the limited impact they can achieve by not placing their material in the public domain. Re the epidemiological stuff, I don't feel qualified. Thanks Beck daross (talk) 20:37, 5 June 2009 (UTC)

Comparison with other accidents[edit]

Would it be worth mentioning Tokaimura in this section? Although it's not a reactor, it did have a criticality accident that caused two fatalities - which superficially appears worse (though much later) than the one mentioned at Los Alamos. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:08, 9 September 2009 (UTC)

cause of the windscale pile fire[edit]

Has the team which has been decommissioning the piles for several years now discovered any evidence as to the initiating event? Did the graphite burn or was it just the fuel, AM etc which burned? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:14, 17 March 2010 (UTC)

Did fuel removal start in 2008 as stated?[edit]

The article states "The final removal of fuel from the damaged reactor was scheduled to begin in 2008..." Did this actually happen? If so, the sentence should be re-written. Paulburnett (talk) 17:42, 3 April 2011 (UTC)

"Brink of a major nuclear disaster"[edit]

This needs clarification, and to be moved to a more suitable place in the article - it isn't about the documentary. The only other mention in the article is in "The Windscale Piles" section: "As it was, "Cockcroft's Folly" probably prevented a disaster from becoming a catastrophe." - unfortunately this isn't referenced or properly explained either. Peter E. James (talk) 01:25, 17 April 2011 (UTC)

Removed "brink of a major nuclear disaster" text. Johnfos (talk) 21:55, 17 April 2011 (UTC)


Is the two line "Background" section really needed unless it gets expanded? Maybe it should be included in another section? Thoughts please. RorWiki (talk) 18:16, 18 April 2011 (UTC)

Have made a small change which I think helps. Johnfos (talk) 17:45, 20 April 2011 (UTC)

BBC Documentary[edit]

<iframe width="640" height="390" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

this is a long documentary but it does carry some interesting information. It specifically says the fire was extinguished by shutting down the cooling fans. That the water was not effective until then.

--Patbahn (talk) 02:49, 19 September 2011 (UTC)

2007 BBC website ref[edit]

This article draws heavily on a single small reference, the 2007 BBC website press release. The reference does not have the required data to support it contentions; an estimate of 240 deaths is given, but no methodology is given, no mention of collective dose, etc. In stead we have to make do with a propaganda map of "high, medium and low contamination". This reference is neither unbiased nor authoritative. It is sensational and non-verifiable. I've removed it. Please people come up with a better reference than this anti-nuclear dross. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Siphon06 (talkcontribs) 20:32, 4 September 2014 (UTC)

Radioactive Release[edit]

The column for the Three Mile Island incident adds nothing of value to the article, there is no data supplied. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:49, 22 September 2014 (UTC)

I changed it so that TMI is next to Windscale, but I agree that a table without numbers isn't very useful. I wanted to add numbers for TMI, but there are varying claims, and most of them lump together all radioiodides and all radioactive noble gases. If we were to change the table to accommodate that, it may be easier to make the table useful. For example, "Radioactive noble gases (including 133Xe and 135Xe)". Roches (talk) 00:08, 13 August 2015 (UTC)

Personal experience of the Windscale Fire[edit]

My late father was working on the Windscale site (on the prototype AGR) when the fire broke out. At the time, I was 3 1/2 years old and living in Seascale, about 3 miles south of Sellafield. When the fire started, the authorities stopped people and goods (of any description) going in or out of the Sellafield site, and maintained this regime for about 24 hours. They did allow workers to ring home saying that they would be kept on-site overnight. I do know that it worried my mother, and I recall that I wasn't too happy about the situation either. My father was a friend of Tom Tuohy, later becoming near-neighbours in the nearby village of Beckermet (about 2 miles north of Sellafield) and they regularly discussed the fire, usually at the village pub! Despite being shut down, you could recognize which of the 2 piles caught fire, as there was a 'mild' scorch mark at the top of the affected chimney stack.

Although not relevant to the fire, the text correctly states that the Sellafield site was split into 2 parts, separated by the River Calder - Calder Hall on the south side of the river, with Windscale on the north. There was an old Bailey Bridge across the river, (called the Wincal Bridge) giving unfettered access between the two sites. Despite the distinction between the two sites, the entire complex was locally known as Sellafield. Even the nearby railway station had the same name. As a result, the 'official' renaming of the site as Sellafield was seen as an awful joke.

Taff Hewitt (talk) 21:46, 11 May 2015 (UTC)