First is that by “accidents” I’m talking only about the onsite impacts of a particular energy system. Thus all of the things that occur outside of the facility, such as acid rain or climate change, aren’t included.
Second is that the table of nuclear accidents below excludes the recent events in Japan, and it also counts an “accident” differently than the nuclear industry. To be included in my table below, the accident:
• Must have occurred at a nuclear power plant and its associated infrastructure within its fuel cycle (mine, enrichment facility, reactor, spent storage pool, etc.);
• It must have resulted in at least one death or property damage above $50,000 (in constant dollars that has not been normalized for growth in capital stock);
• It had to be unintentional and in the civilian sector, meaning that military accidents and events during war and conflict are not covered, nor are intentional attacks nor those at defense installations;
• The accident had to be verified by a published source.
The “cost” of the accident includes total economic losses such as destruction of property, emergency response, environmental remediation, evacuation, lost product, fines, and court and insurance claims, and has been updated to 2006 US dollars.
Third and lastly, I can’t directly post most of my own articles on nuclear power because, since they are published in peer-reviewed journals, those journals hold the copyright. The best place to start for an extensive investigation, however, is this freely available article which was also tediously fact checked by the great students at William and Mary’s Law School:
Sovacool, BK and C Cooper. “Nuclear Nonsense: Why Nuclear Power is No Answer to Climate Change and the World’s Post-Kyoto Energy Challenges,” William & Mary Environmental Law & Policy Review 33(1) (Fall, 2008), pp. 1-119. Available at http://scholarship.law.wm.edu/....
For those that want more, a complete list of my work relating to nuclear power is below after the table.
Table 1: Accidents at Nuclear Power Facilities from 1952 to 2010
(shows date, name of facility, description, fatalities [if any], and damages [in millions of US$2006], table excludes recent Fukushima nuclear crisis)
1. 12 December 1952 Chalk River, Ontario, Canada Hydrogen explosion damage reactor interior, releasing 30 kilograms of uranium oxide particles 0 $45
2. 8 October 1957 Windscale, United Kingdom Fire ignites plutonium piles, destroys surrounding dairy farms 33 $78
3. 24 May 1958 Chalk River, Ontario, Canada Fuel rod catches fire and contaminates half of facility 0 $67
4. 26 July 1959 Simi Valley, California, United States Partial core meltdown takes place at Santa Susana Field Laboratory’s Sodium Reactor Experiment 0 $32
5. 3 January 1961 Idaho Falls, Idaho, United States Explosion at National Reactor Testing Station 3 $22
6. 5 October 1966 Monroe, Michigan, United States Sodium cooling system malfunctions at Enrico Fermi demonstration breeder reactor causing partial core meltdown 0 $19
7. 2 May 1967 Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland Fuel rod catches fire and causes partial meltdown at the Chaplecross Magnox nuclear power station 0 $76
8. 21 January 1969 Lucens, Canton of Vaud, Switzerland Coolant system malfunctions at underground experimental reactor 0 $22
9. 1 May 1969 Stockholm, Sweden Malfunctioning valve causes flooding in Agesta pressurized heavy water nuclear reactor, short circuiting control functions 0 $14
10. 16 July 1971 Cordova, Illinois, United States An electrician is electrocuted by a live cable at the Quad Cities Unit 1 reactor on the Mississippi River 1 $1
11. 11 August 1973 Palisades, Michigan, United States Steam generator leak causes manual shutdown of pressurized water reactor operated by the Consumers Power Company 0 $10
12. 22 March 1975 Browns Ferry, Alabama, United States Fire burns for seven hours and damages more than 1,600 control cables for three nuclear reactors, disabling core cooling systems 0 $240
13. 5 November 1975 Brownsville, Nebraska, United States Hydrogen gas explosion damages the Cooper Nuclear Facility’s Boiling Water Reactor and an auxiliary building 0 $13
14. 22 February 1977 Jaslovske Bohunice, Czechoslovakia Mechanical failure during fuel loading causes severe corrosion of reactor and release of radioactivity into the plant area, necessitating total decommission 0 $1,700
15. 10 June 1977 Waterford, Connecticut, United States Hydrogen gas explosion damages three buildings and forces shutdown of Millstone-1 Pressurized Water Reactor 0 $15
16. 4 February 1979 Surry, Virginia, United States Virginia Electric Power Company manually shuts down Surry Unit 2 in response to replace failed tube bundles in steam generators 0 $12
17. 28 March 1979 Middletown, Pennsylvania, United States Equipment failures and operator error contribute to loss of coolant and partial core meltdown at Three Mile Island nuclear reactor 0 $2,400
18. 25 July 1979 Saclay, France Radioactive fluids escape into drains designed for ordinary wastes, seeping into the local watershed at the Saclay BL3 Reactor 0 $5
19. 12 September 1979 Mihama, Japan Fuel rods at the Mihama Nuclear Power Plant unexpectedly bow and damage the fuel supply system 0 $11
20. 13 March 1980 Loir-et-Cher, France A malfunctioning cooling system fuses fuel elements together at the Saint Laurent A2 reactor, ruining the fuel assembly and forcing an extended shutdown 0 $22
21. 22 November 1980 San Onofre, California, United States Worker cleaning breaker cubicles at San Onofre Pressurized Water Reactor contacts an energized line, electrocuting him to death 1 $1
22. 11 February 1981 Florida City, Florida, United States Florida Light & Power manually shut down Turkey Point Unit 3 after steam generator tubes degrade and fail 0 $2
23. 8 March 1981 Tsuruga, Japan 278 workers exposed to excessive levels of radiation during repairs of Tsuruga nuclear plant 0 $3
24. 26 February 1982 San Clemente, California, United States Southern California Company shut down San Onofre Unit 1 out of concerns for earthquake 0 $1
25. 20 March 1982 Lycoming, New York, United States Recirculation system piping fails at Nine Mile Point Unit 1, forcing 2 year shutdown 0 $45
26. 25 March 1982 Buchanan, New York, United States Multiple water and coolant leaks cause damage to steam generator tubes and main generator, forcing the New York Power Authority to shut down Indian Point Unit 3 for more than one year 0 $56
27. 18 June 1982 Senaca, South Carolina, United States Feedwater heat extraction line fails at Oconee 2 Pressurized Water Reactor, damaging thermal cooling system 0 $10
28. 12 February 1983 Fork River, New Jersey, United States Oyster Creek nuclear plant fails safety inspection, forced to shut down for repairs 0 $32
29. 26 February 1983 Pierce, Florida, United States Workers discover damaged thermal shield and core barrel support at St. Lucie Unit 1, necessitating 13 month shutdown 0 $54
30. 7 September 1983 Athens, Alabama, United States Tennessee Valley Authority discovers extensive damage to recirculation system pipeline, requiring extended shutdown 0 $34
31. 23 September 1983 Buenos Aires, Argentina Operator error during fuel plate reconfiguration cause meltdown in an experimental test reactor 1 $65
32. 10 December 1983 Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States Recirculation system piping cracks and forces Pilgrim nuclear reactor to shutdown 0 $4
33. 14 April 1984 Bugey, France Electrical cables fail at the command centre of the Bugey nuclear power plant and force a complete shutdown of one reactor
34. 18 April 1984 Delta, Pennsylvania, United States Philadelphia Electric Company shuts down Peach Bottom Unit 2 to due to extensive recirculation system and equipment damage 0 $18
35. 13 June 1984 Platteville, Colorado, United States Moisture intrusion causes 6 fuel rods to fail at Fort St. Vrain nuclear plant, requiring emergency shutdown from Public Service Company of Colorado 0 $22
36. 15 September 1984 Athens, Alabama, United States Safety violations, operator error, and design problems force 6 year outage at Browns Ferry Unit 2 0 $110
37. 9 March 1985 Athens, Alabama, United States Instrumentation systems malfunction during startup, convincing the Tennessee Valley Authority to suspend operations at all three Browns Ferry Units 0 $1,830
38. 9 June 1985 Oak Harbor, Ohio, United States Loss of feedwater provokes Toledo Edison Company to inspect Davis-Besse facility, where inspectors discover corroded reactor coolant pumps and shafts 0 $23
39. 22 August 1985 Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, United States Tennessee Valley Authority Sequoyah Units 1 and 2 fail NRC inspection due to failed silicon rubber insulation, forcing 3 year shutdown, followed by water circulation problems that expose workers to excessive levels of radiation 0 $35
40. 26 December 1985 Clay Station, California, United States Safety and control systems unexpectedly fail at Rancho Seco nuclear reactor, ultimately leading to the premature closure of the plant 0 $672
41. 11 April 1986 Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States Recurring equipment problems with instrumentation, vacuum breakers, instrument air system, and main transformer force emergency shutdown of Boston Edison’s Pilgrim nuclear facility 0 $1,001
42. 26 April 1986 Kiev, Ukraine Mishandled reactor safety test at Chernobyl nuclear reactor causes steam explosion and meltdown, necessitating the evacuation of 300,000 people from Kiev and dispersing radioactive material across Europe 4,056 $6,700
43. 4 May 1986 Hamm-Uentrop, Germany Operator actions to dislodge damaged fuel rod at Experimental High Temperature Gas Reactor release excessive radiation to 4 square kilometers surrounding the facility 0 $267
44. 22 May 1986 Normandy, France , A reprocessing plant at Le Hague malfunctions and exposes workers to unsafe levels of radiation and forces five to be hospitalized 0 $5
45. 31 March 1987 Delta, Pennsylvania, United States Philadelphia Electric Company shuts down Peach Bottom units 2 and 3 due to cooling malfunctions and unexplained equipment problems 0 $400
46. 12 April 1987 Triscastin, France, Areva’s Tricastin fast breeder reactor leaks coolant, sodium, and uranium hexachloride, injuring seven workers and contaminateing water supplies 0 $50
47. 4 May 1987 Kalpakkam, India Fast Breeder Test Reactor at Kalpakkam has to shut down due to the simultaneous occurrence of pump failures, faulty instrument signals, and turbine malfunctions that culminate in a refuelling accident that ruptures the reactor core with 23 fuel assembles, resulting in a two year shutdown 0 $300
48. 15 July 1987 Burlington, Kansas, United States Safety inspector dies from electrocution after contacting a mislabelled wire 1 $1
49. 17 December 1987 Hesse, Germany Stop valve fails at Biblis Nuclear Power plant and contaminates local area 0 $13
50. 19 December 1987 Lycoming, New York, United States Fuel rod, waste storage, and water pumping malfunctions force Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation to shut down Nine Mile Point Unit 1 0 $150
51. 29 March 1988 Burlington, Kansas, United States A worker falls through an unmarked manhole and electrocutes himself when trying to escape 1 $1
52. 10 September 1988 Surry, Virginia, United States Refuelling cavity seal fails and destroys internal pipe system at Virginia Electric Power Company’s Surry Unit 2, forcing 12 month outage 0 $9
53. 5 March 1989 Tonopah, Arizona, United States Atmospheric dump valves fail at Arizona Public Service Company’s Palo Verde Unit 1, leading to main transformer fire and emergency shut down 0 $14
54. 17 March 1989 Lusby, Maryland, United States Inspections at Baltimore Gas & Electric’s Calvert Cliff Units 1 and 2 reveal cracks at pressurized heater sleeves, forcing extended shutdowns 0 $120
55. 10 September 1989 Tarapur, Maharashtra, India Operators at the Tarapur nuclear power plant discover that the reactor had been leaking radioactive iodine through its cooling structures and discover radiation levels of iodine-129 more than 700 times normal levels. Repairs to the reactor take more than one year. 0 $78
56. 24 November 1989 Greifswald, East Germany Electrical error causes fire in the main trough that destroys control lines and 5 main coolant pumps and almost induces meltdown 0 $443
57. 17 November 1991 Scriba, New York, United States Safety and fire problems force New York Power Authority to shut down the FitzPatrick nuclear reactor for 13 months 0 $5
58. 21 April 1992 Southport, North Carolina, United States NRC forces Carolina Power & Light Company to shut down Brunswick Units 1 and 2 after emergency diesel generators fail 0 $2
59. 13 May 1992 Tarapur, Maharashtra, India A malfunctioning tube causes the Tarapur nuclear reactor to release 12 curies of radioactivity 0 $2
60. 3 February 1993 Bay City, Texas, United States Auxiliary feedwater pumps fail at South Texas Project Units 1 and 2, prompting rapid shutdown of both reactors 0 $3
61. 27 February 1993 Buchanan, New York, United States New York Power Authority shut down Indian Point Unit 3 after AMSAC system fails 0 $2
62. 2 March 1993 Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, United States Equipment failures and broken pipes cause Tennessee Valley Authority to shut down Sequoyah Unit 1 0 $3
63. 31 March 1993 Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh, India, The Narora Atomic Power Station suffers a fire at two of its steam turbine blades, damaging the heavy water reactor and almost leading to a meltdown 0 $220
64. 25 December 1993 Newport, Michigan, United States Detroit Edison Company prompted to shut down Fermi Unit 2 after main turbine experienced catastrophic failure due to improper maintenance 0 $67
65. 6 April 1994 Tomsk, Russia Pressure build-up causes mechanical failure at Tomsk-7 Siberian Chemical Enterprise plutonium reprocessing facility, exploding a concrete bunker and exposing 160 onsite workers to excessive radiation 0 $44
66. 14 January 1995 Wiscasset, Maine, United States Steam generator tubes unexpectedly crack at Maine Yankee nuclear reactor, forcing Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company to shutdown the facility for 1 year 0 $62
67. 2 February 1995 Kota, Rajasthan, India , The Rajasthan Atomic Power Station leaks radioactive helium and heavy water into the Rana Pratap Sagar River, necessitating a two year shutdown for repairs $280
68. 16 May 1995 Salem, New Jersey, United States Ventilation systems fail at Public Service Electric & Gas Company’s Salem Units 1 and 2 0 $34
69. 20 February 1996 Waterford, Connecticut, United States Leaking valve forces Northeast Utilities Company to shut down Millstone Units 1 and 2, further inspection reveals multiple equipment failures 0 $254
70. 2 September 1996 Crystal River, Florida, United States Balance-of-plant equipment malfunction forces Florida Power Corporation to shut down Crystal River Unit 3 and make extensive repairs 0 $384
71. 5 September 1996 Clinton, Illinois, United States Reactor recirculation pump fails, prompting Illinois Power Company to shut down Clinton boiling water reactor 0 $38
72. 20 September 1996 Senaca, Illinois, United States Service water system fails and prompts Commonwealth Edison to close LaSalle Units 1 and 2 for more than 2 years 0 $71
73. 9 September 1997 Bridgman, Michigan, United States Ice condenser containment systems fail at Indiana Michigan Power Company’s D.C. Cook Units 1 and 2 0 $11
74. 25 May 1999 Waterford, Connecticut, United States Steam leak in feedwater heater causes manual shutdown and damage to control board annunicator at the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant 0 $7
75. 18 June 1999 Shika, Ishikawa, Japan Control rod malfunction set off uncontrolled nuclear reaction at Shika Nuclear Power Station’s Unit-1 0 $34
76. 29 September 1999 Lower Alloways Creek, New Jersey, United States Major Freon leak at Hope Creek Nuclear Facility causes ventilation train chiller to trip, releasing toxic gas and damaging the cooling system 0 $2
77. 30 September 1999 Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan Workers at the Tokaimura uranium processing facility try to save time by mixing uranium in buckets, killing two and injuring 1,200 2 $54
78. 27 December 1999 Blayais, France An unexpectedly strong storm floods the Blayais-2 nuclear reactor, forcing an emergency shutdown after injection pumps and containment safety systems fail from water damage 0 $55
79. 21 January 2002 Manche, France Control systems and safety valves fail after improper installation of condensers, forcing a two month shutdown 0 $102
80. 16 February 2002 Oak Harbor, Ohio, United States Severe corrosion of control rod forces 24 month outage of Davis-Besse reactor 0 $143
81. 22 October 2002 Kalpakkam, India Almost 100 kilograms of radioactive sodium at a fast breeder reactor leaks into a purification cabin, ruining a number of valves and operating systems 0 $30
82. 15 January 2003 Bridgman, Michigan, United States A fault in the main transformer at the Donald C. Cook nuclear power plant causes a fire that damaged the main generator and backup turbines 0 $10
83. 10 April 2003 Paks, Hungary Damaged fuel rods hemorrhage spent fuel pellets, corroding heaver water reactor 0 $37
84. 9 August 2004 Fukui Prefecture, Japan Steam explosion at Mihama Nuclear Power Plant kills 5 workers and injures dozens more 5 $9
85. 19 April 2005 Sellafield, United Kingdom 20 metric tons of uranium and 160 kilograms of plutonium leak from a cracked pipe at the Thorp nuclear fuel reprocessing plant 0 $65
86. 16 May 2005 Lorraine, France Sub-standard electrical cables at the Cattenon-2 nuclear reactor cause a fire in an electricity funnel, damaging safety systems 0 $12
87. 16 June 2005 Braidwood, Illinois, United States Exelon’s Braidwood nuclear station leaks tritium and contaminates local water supplies 0 $41
88. 4 August 2005 Indian Point, New York, United States Entergy’s Indian Point Nuclear Plant, located on the Hudson River, leaks tritium and strontium into underground lakes from 1974 to 2005 $30
89. 6 March 2006 Erwin, Tennessee, United States Nuclear fuel services plant spills 35 litres of highly enriched uranium, necessitating 7 month shutdown 0 $98
90. 24 December 2006 Jadugoda, India One of the pipes carrying radioactive waste from the Jadugoda uranium mill ruptures and distributes radioactive materials more than 100 square kilometers 0 $25
91. 18 July 2007 Kashiwazaki, Japan The Tokyo Electric Power Company announces that their Kariwa nuclear plant leaks 1,192 litres of radioactive water into the Sea of Japan after being damaged by a 6.8 magnitude earthquake 0 $2
92. 4 June 2008 Ljubljana, Slovenia, Slovenian regulators shut down the Krsko nuclear power plant after the primary cooling system malfunctions and coolant spills into the reactor core 0 $1
93. 14 June 2008, Fukushima Province, Japan , A 7.2 magnitude earthquake cracks reactor cooling towers and spent fuel storage facilities, spilling 19 litres of radioactive wastewater and damaging the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s No. 2 Kurihara Power Plant 0 $45
94. 4 July 2008 Ayrshire and Suffolk, United Kingdom Two British Energy nuclear reactors (the Largs and the Sizewell B facilities) shutdown unexpectedly after their cooling units simultaneously malfunction, damaging emergency systems and triggering blackouts 0 $10
95. 13 July 2008 Tricastin, France The nuclear power operator Areva reports that dozens of litres of wastewater contaminated with uranium are accidentally poured on the ground and runoff into a nearby river 0 $7
96. 15 March 2009 Oskarshamn, Sweden A maintenance worker repairing a shutdown reactor at the Oskarshamn dies after falling from the top of the turbine hall 1 $0
97. 12 August 2009 Gravelines, France Assembly system fails to properly eject spent fuel rods from the Gravelines Nuclear Power Plant, causing the fuel rods to jam and the reactor to shutdown 0 $2
98. 27 August 2009 St. Petersburg, Russia A cracked discharge accumulator and malfunctioning feed pump force the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant reactor number 3 to close for extended repairs 0 $110
99. 1 February 2010 Montpelier, Vermont, United States Deteriorating underground pipes from the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant leak radioactive tritium into groundwater supplies in Vermont, resulting in the eventual shutdown of the plant 0 $700
For further reading:
1. Sovacool, BK. Contesting the Future of Nuclear Power: A Critical Global Assessment of Atomic Energy (London: World Scientific, forthcoming 2011), available at http://www.worldscibooks.com/....
2. Sovacool, BK. “Coal and Nuclear Technologies: Creating a False Dichotomy for American Energy Policy,” Policy Sciences 40(2) (June, 2007), pp. 101-122. Available at http://dx.doi.org/....
3. Sovacool, BK. “The Costs of Failure: A Preliminary Assessment of Major Energy Accidents, 1907 to 2007,” Energy Policy 36(5) (May, 2008), pp. 1802-1820. Available at http://dx.doi.org/....
4. Sovacool, BK. “Valuing the Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Nuclear Power: A Critical Survey,” Energy Policy 36 (8) (August, 2008), pp. 2940-2953. Available at http://dx.doi.org/....
5. Sovacool, BK and C Cooper. “Nuclear Nonsense: Why Nuclear Power is No Answer to Climate Change and the World’s Post-Kyoto Energy Challenges,” William & Mary Environmental Law & Policy Review 33(1) (Fall, 2008), pp. 1-119. Available at http://scholarship.law.wm.edu/....
6. Sovacool, BK. “Running on Empty: The Electricity-Water Nexus and the U.S. Electric Utility Sector,” Energy Law Journal 30(1) (April, 2009), pp. 11-51. Available at http://www.felj.org/....
7. Sovacool, BK and KE Sovacool. “Identifying Future Electricity Water Tradeoffs in the United States,” Energy Policy 37(7) (July, 2009), pp. 2763-2773. Available at http://dx.doi.org/....
8. Sovacool, BK and KE Sovacool. “Preventing National Electricity-Water Crisis Areas in the United States,” Columbia Journal of Environmental Law 34(2) (July, 2009), pp. 333-393. Available at http://www.columbiaenvironmentallaw.org/....
9. Sovacool, BK. Questioning a Nuclear Renaissance (Washington, DC and Berlin, Germany: Brookings Institution and Global Public Policy Institute, GPPi Policy Paper Number 8, May, 2010), 21pp, available at http://www.gppi.net/... and http://www.globalenergygovernance.net/....
10. Sovacool, BK. “Critically Weighing the Costs and Benefits of a Nuclear Renaissance,” Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences 7(2) (June, 2010), pp. 105-122. Available at http://dx.doi.org/....
11. Sovacool, BK and A D’Agostino. “Nuclear Renaissance: a Flawed Proposition,” Chemical Engineering Progress 106(7) (July, 2010), pp. 29-35. Available at http://www.aiche.org/....
12. Sovacool, BK. “A Critical Evaluation of Nuclear Power and Renewable Energy in Asia,” Journal of Contemporary Asia 40(3) (August, 2010), pp. 369-400. Available at http://dx.doi.org/....
13. Sovacool, BK and SV Valentine. “The Socio-Political Economy of Nuclear Energy in China and India,” Energy 35(9) (September, 2010), pp. 3803-3813. Available at http://dx.doi.org/....
14. Sovacool, BK. “Exploring the Hypothetical Limits to a Nuclear and Renewable Electricity Future,” International Journal of Energy Research 34 (November, 2010), pp. 1183-1194. Available at http://dx.doi.org/....
15. Valentine, SV and BK Sovacool. “The Socio-Political Economy of Nuclear Power Development in Japan and South Korea,” Energy Policy 38(12) (December, 2010), pp. 7971-7979. Available at http://dx.doi.org/....
16. Sovacool, BK. “Second Thoughts about Nuclear Power,” A Policy Brief—Challenges Facing Asia (Singapore: Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, January, 2011, 11 pp. Available at http://www.spp.nus.edu.sg/....