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Accidents 1980's


19 January
FRANCE - Five rockets were fired into a nuclear power station being built near Lyons. The police said that the rockets, stolen from the French Army, smashed into the 80 metres high concrete wells which will hold the reactor's core. No-one was hurt and there were only minor changes. A man claimed responsibility for the attack a short time later in the name of a "pacifist and ecological committee". The plant has been the scene of bitter demonstrations involving police and anti-nuclear groups. A West German demonstrator was killed there in 1977 during fierce fighting with the police. ("The West Australian" 20th January 1982)

26 January
GINNA, NY., U.S.A. - Radioactive steam leaked into the air when a tube ruptured at the Ginna

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Nuclear Plant on Lake Ontario, 25 km from New York States third largest city. The leak which lasted 93 minutes led to the declaration of a site emergency. ("Daily News", 26th January 1982). Mild radioactive contamination had been detected on 12 workers at the nuclear power plant since the leak, according to officials. None of the contaminated workers required hospital treatment, a spokesman said. A spokesman at the Ginna Nuclear Plant said officials hoped to get their first look at any damage inside the steam generator by Saturday (30/1/82). ("The West Australian" 29th January 1982)

BYRON BAY, AUSTRALIA - The New South Wales Health Commission will investigate high levels of radioactivity in sand-mining waste at Byron Bay, on the far north coast. The contaminated waste was uncovered in a reclaimed swamp in the centre of the tourist town last month. ("The West Australian" 12/1/1982)

HARRISBURG, PA., U.S.A. - Leaking steam-generator tubes would probably delay the re-opening of the Three Mile Island Unit 1 nuclear reactor for at least six months, TMI officials said yesterday (26.1.82). They had expected the undamaged unit to be ready by the end of February, subject to permission by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Unit 1 has been shut since its sister reactor, Unit 11, was involved in the nations worst commercial nuclear-power accident in March 1979. ("The Canberra Times" 27/1/1982)

A five-year-old girl and her three-year-old brother have died of severe burns after touching waste material dumped outside a nuclear-fuel complex in Hyderbad, South India. The children had accompanied their mother to the nuclear-fuel complex area, while their mother was collecting firewood. Both suffered third-degree burns and later died in a local hospital. ("The West Australian" 9th March 1982)

CHALK RIVER, TORONTO, CANADA - Exposure to radiation on the job was the most probable cause of death of an Ontario nuclear-plant worker, according to a spokesman for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. A second worker at a nuclear plant has won a disability award for cancer believed to have been caused or aggravated by radiation. Both victims had been long-time employees at the A.E.C.L. nuclear reactor research centre at Chalk River, Ontario, near Ottawa. The two victims developed typical radiation related cancers, though they never received more than the maximum permissible dose of radiation during their years at Chalk River. Both received Ontario Workers Compensation Board Awards in 1982 based on A.E.C.L. acknowledgement to the Board that their radiation exposure was a possible or contributing cause of their cancers. ("The Canberra Times" 6/3/1982)

SURRY, VA., NEW YORK, U.S.A. - Fire damaged a storage building at the Surry nuclear plant of the Virginia Electric Power Company, causing what was described as a minor release of radiation into the air and the James River. Utility officials said that no one was injured and there was no danger from the radioactivity. ("The West Australian" 20/4/1982)

U.S.A. - Forty nuclear power plants in the United States have weak tubes in their steam generators and it is virtually impossible to make the needed design changes according to a recent report by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The tube problem is causing higher operating costs and is exposing plant staff to radiation. When a unit closes for the tube repairs, the report says, replacement power costs between $500,000 and $1 million and these costs are passed onto consumers. It notes that the Southern California Edison Company which operates the troubled San Onofre plant 144 km south of Los Angeles, has used a process called Cleaving., in which a smaller tube is inserted into each damaged tube. Tube problems at San Onofre were discovered during a routine inspection which led to a shut-down of the plant lasting more than a year. The plant did not resume operations until April 1981. The report says the tube problems in more than half the country's nuclear units are responsible for about 25 per cent of nuclear plant shut-downs that are unrelated to scheduled refueling of stations. The report says there is tube 'degradation' in at least 40 power plants. ("The Australian" 3rd April 1 1982)

Mislabeling of radioactive materials in containers at the Las Alamos national laboratory caused a plutonium leak that contaminated 15 people last year (October 1981), it was revealed this month. A four-member investigation team of the U.S. Department of Energy has listed three major factors that led to the incident last October. In addition to a container being labeled ambiguously, the report says, the container was opened and handled in an area of the laboratory that is not designed for handling plutonium. Then a contaminated worker accidentally spread radioactive material outside the laboratory to a van and residences. Laboratory officials said after the accident that a chemist might have inhaled Plutonium, while 14 others contaminated were given bills of health. The federal study said that the chemist remained under observation. One wing of a building was temporarily closed after the incident for cleaning and investigation. Plutonium, which does not exist in nature, is a by-product of any uranium-fuelled nuclear reactor, including commercial power plants. It is used for nuclear weapons. In large doses Plutonium is poisonous, but the greater risk is considered to be the radiation it produces. ("The West Australian" 13th April 1982)

AUSTRALIA - Tests have detected radioactive material up to 60 times that of normal levels in a household rainwater tank near laboratories which often deal with uranium. The Australian Radiation Laboratory, a division of the Federal Department of Health, made the discovery after analyzing rainwater and sludge from a tank from the Australian Mineral Development Laboratories at Thebarton in suburban Adelaide. The tests, which had been requested by Federal Labour M.P. Mr. John Scott, found that the sludge in the bottom of the rainwater tank contained about 60 times the normal level of Caesium-137, a radioactive element found in fallout from nuclear bomb tests. The laboratory also found that levels of uranium in the tank were 10 times higher than normal and levels of radioactive Thorium were 3 times higher. Levels were compared with those normally found in soil samples. ("The Australian" 15th May 1982)

KOZLOKUJ, BELGIUM - A reactor was allowed to operate at 75% during maintenance of a main cooling pump. Radioactive coolant escaped through an undetected leak for 3 hours before the reactor was shut down. ("Der Spiegel" 20/4/87, WISE NC 275 12/6/87)

CHERNOBYL l, UKRAINE, U.S.S.R. - Partial core melt at Chernobyl-1 following an incorrect action by operating staff. Release of radioactive material into the industrial zone and the city of Pripyat; irradiation of staff involved in repairing the core. ("Nucleonics Week" 31/5/90; WISE-334 22t6/90).

LITTON SYSTEMS, TORONTO, CANADA - A bomb blew up part of the Litton Systems Canada plant which makes components for Cruise missiles. ("West Australian" 16th October 1982)

ARMENIA 1, U.S.S.R. - Explosion of the generator of Armenia-1 (WER440), setting fire to the turbine building. The operating staff managed to keep the coolant flowing, and a team from the faraway seater plant at Kola arrived by airplane to help the Armenia operators save the reactor core.("Nucleonics Week" 31/5/90; WISE-334 22/6/90 ) .

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - Potentially dangerous levels of radiation found at a diffused mineral sands mining site on Queensland's Gold Coast. ("West Australian" 16/10/1982) Wastes from mineral sands operations at Stadroke Island have been used to fill sand pits in some Queensland kindergartens. Parents, not surprisingly, are concerned. ("Daily News" 18/10/1982)

GERMANY - A truck carrying a Pershing missile crashed into a car, killing 3 people. ("Daily News" 4th November 1982) This crash was one of a series of accidents involving U.S. Pershing missiles which has upset many Germans. The controversy was not reported in the local press.

SELLAFIELD & DOUNREAY, U.K. - 10 kgs of Plutonium produced at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant is missing. 10 kgs is enough to make a nuclear bomb. The report said that between 1970 and 1980, 94 kgs of uranium was missing from Dounreay and 47 kgs of Plutonium from Windscale. ("West Australian" 8th November 1982)

TULLAHOMA TENNESSEE, U.S.A. - Four men were killed in an MX missile silo during a flash fire. 16 other men were injured. The Tullahoma centre is a 17,000 hectare missile test area, the largest in the U.S.A. A 27,000 kg second-stage engine for the MX exploded 10 days before the fire and the men killed had been cleaning up after that event. ("The Age" "The West Australian" 30th November 1982)

LOS ANGELES, CA., U.S.A. - A B-52 bomber exploded on landing at Castle Air Force Base. Nine crewmen escaped uninjured. Air Force spokespersons would neither confirm nor deny that atomic weapons were aboard. ("Daily News" 1st November 1982. "The Age" 1st/2nd November 1982)

U.S.A. - The U.S. civil nuclear industry is facing ruin due to economic, legal, political and technical problems. Last month, incidents which caused more heartburn for nuclear reactor supporters were:

- the Ohio River plant, under construction for a decade, closed down by regulatory authorities for safety violations.

- the owners of the Yankee plant in Vermont fined $40,000 over an incident similar to the event at Three Mile Island.

- the Virginia Electric Power Company decided to write off $540 million instead of bringing the Surry plant into operation.

- public outcry at attempts to restore the undamaged reactor at Three Mile Island.

- a slinging match in Court between the builders and the operators over culpability at Three Mile Island.

David Freeman, Managing Director of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the biggest users of nuclear energy, said: "we should be fundamentally re-examining the nuclear option. It is time to confess that we went too far, too fast in deploying the large-scale design of a reactor type we knew too little about." ("The Age" 14th/15th/12/1982)

LOS ANGELES, CA., U.S.A. - Nine crew died when a B-52 crashed into a field. No mention of nuclear weapons was made on the report. ("West Australian" 18th December 1982)

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