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Accidents: 1990's

The early 1990s saw the end of the Cold War . German unification became effec tive on October 3, 1990. By the end of 1991, the Soviet Union had disintegrated into the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as president of the USSR on December 25, 1991, ending seven-and-a-half decades of Communist rule. Gorbachev signed a decree making Russian President Boris Yeltsin commander of the arsenal of some 27,000 nuclear warheads. The early 1990s also saw the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Agreement (START I ) to reduce nuclear weapons by 50 percent by the end of the century.

The world was sobered to learn that Iraq was close to developing a nuclear weapons capability prior to its defeat by UN Coalition forces in early 1991. France and China agreed to accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty , and North and South Korea signed a "Join Declaration for a Non-Nuclear Korean Pensinsula" on December 30, 1991. In June 1992 Russian President

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Yeltsin reached an agreement to limit strategic nuclear warheads to 3000-3,500 on each side by the year 2003. Later in the year U.S. Secretary of State Eagleburger compared Serbian atrocities to Nazi genocide. In 1993, the START II Treaty was signed by the U.S. and Russia. The Chemical Weapons Convention was also signed in January. In March 1993 North Korea threatened to withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty , and for the rest of the year the U.S. engaged in negotiations for inspections of North Korean nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency . In June 1993 a World Conference on Human Rights called for establishing a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, approved by the UN General Assembly in December. A dramtic step toward Middle East peace occurred in September 1993, when Israeli Prime Minister Rabin and Palestinian Liberation Organization Chairman Arafat signed a Declaration of Principles. In 1994 Israel and Jordan signed a peace agreement. After a year of no nuclear testing in the world, China conducted its 39th nuclear test in October 1993. During 1994 China was the only country to continue testing. The nuclear weapons states were unable to agree on a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to permamently end all nuclear testing. In South Africa, the first multi-racial elections were held in 1994, and Nelson Mandela was elected the nation's first black President. In Rwanda, slaughter of genocidal proportions prompted the UN to establish an Ad Hoc Tribunal for genocide and crimes against humanity in Rwanda. Atrocities in Bosnia continued, but former U.S. President Jimmy Carter negotiated a four-month cease fire. In December 1994 the UN General Assembly requested an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the Iegality of the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons , against the wishes of the nuclear weapons states. In May 1994 the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference concludes with agreement of the parties to extend the Treaty indefinitely along with a set of Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament . China exploded a nuclear device in the 40-150 kiloton range, despite its pledge just days prior at the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference to "exercise utmost restraint" regarding future nuclear testing. On April 25, 1995, non-governmental organizations working for nuclear weapons abolition agree upon the Abolition 2000 Statement as the basis for a global citizens' effort to abolish nuclear weapons. In August China conducted its 43rd nuclear weapons test at its Lop Nor test site. The following month France broke its three-year moratorium on nuclear testing with a 20 kiloton explosion at the Moruroa atoll in the South Pacific. In December, North Korea signed a $4.5 billion accord in which the U.S. provides it with two nuclear reactors in exchange for an agreement to freeze its nuclear program. 1996 began with the ratification of START II Treaty by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 87 to 4. In June, the defense ministers of the U.S., Russia, and Ukraine gather at the Pervomaisk missile base in Ukraine to celebrate Ukraine's transfer of all of its nuclear warheads to Russia for dismantlement. The defense ministers scatter sunflower seeds and plant sunflowers where missiles were once buried. U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry states, "Sunflowers instead of missiles in the soil would ensure peace for future generations."

In August 1996 the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons , initiated and supported by the Australian government, finds that nuclear weapons diminish the security of all states, including the nuclear weapons states. The Commission calls upon the five declared nuclear weapons states to commit themselves "unequivocally to the elimination of nuclear weapons and agree to start work immediately on the practical steps and negotiations required for its achievement."

At the end of the year, retired U.S. four star Generals Lee Butler , who once commanded all U.S. strategic nuclear forces, and Andrew Goodpaster , former commander of NATO, issue a joint statement at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. General Butler states, "We are not condemned to repeat the lessons of forty years at the nuclear brink. We can do better than condone a world in which nuclear weapons are accepted as commonplace."

In July 1997 the United States breaks a five year moratorium on nuclear testing by conducting an underground sub-critical nuclear weapons test, called Rebound , at the Nevada Test Site. Also that month the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) votes to invite Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to join NATO, a decision that requires ratification by all NATO members. Former Senator Sam Nunn states: "The Clinton Administration has not taken into account the implications of the expansion, including the possibility that it would leave Russia less willing to reduce its nuclear arsenal."

In September Alexander Lebed , President Boris Yeltsin's former National Security Advisor, claimed that 100 suitcase-sized nuclear bombs, each capable of killing up to 100,000 people, are missing in Russia. 1997 closed with The United Nations adopting Resolution 52/38 O welcoming the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons and calling for negotiations to commence which would lead to the conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention.

1998 was dominated by India and Pakistan's nuclear weapons tests . On April 6 Pakistan announced that it had successfully test-fired a medium-range 1,000-mile surface-to-surface missile believed to be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. In May India conducted a series of underground nuclear tests, its first in 24 years. Pakistan conducted five more nuclear tests in response to India's nuclear tests earlier in the month. In June the foreign ministers of eight middle power governments (Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, South Africa, and Sweden) issued a Joint Declaration calling upon all nuclear weapons states to commit themselves to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.


6 January
ARGENTINA - An Argentine newspaper, Clarin, recently published a rather strange account of a black leather briefcase measuring 30 cm x 30 cm containing radioactive material which was lost by an engineer, Salomon Blictein, in the Centenario Park area of Buenos Aires. According to the police the contents were pellets or 'pills' of Americium-241. The article continued with the police statement that according to the National Atomic Commission (CNEA) the contents were dangerous if inhaled or came into contact with the skin and that the suitcase, if found, should be traded immediately to the police. However the next day the Clarin published another curious article in which the CNEA denied that the briefcase contained sources of radioactivity and declared instead that the contents could have possibly been contaminated by being in contact with other sources of radioactive materials. They went on to explain that given the sources (whatever they were) and because of the fact that they (the contents of the briefcase) are made of a kind of ceramic material used in some lightning rods, contact does not produce contamination, so the fact that the briefcase was lost does not create any risk to the population, aside from wondering what an engineer might be doing wandering in the park with a briefcase containing possible radioactive materials, here is another question: While trying to figure just what is going on here, there is talk that Americium-241 is being used in lightning rods in Spain and Argentina. (Clarin (Argentina) 8 9/1/1990; WISE 326/7, 9/2/1990)

23 January
BRUCE A, CANADA - Software caused fuelling accident. AECB says that "a long standing error" in the computer software that controls the fuelling machine at the Bruce A. nuclear station in Ontario is responsible for the accident on 23 January at the station's unit 4. (12 metric tons of heavy water coolant had spilled into the reactor vault after all four brakes on the fuelling machine bridge were suddenly released during the fuelling process. ("Nucleonics Week" 31/5/90; WISE-335 6/7/90)

23 January
ONTARIO, CANADA - About 12,000 litres of heavy water coolant spilled into the reactor vault at Bruce reactor Unit no 4. The accident was caused by a fuelling machine which did not properly connect onto a fuel channel. ("Nuclear Awareness" Canada, Winter 1989/90; WISE 329 2/90)

31 January
(NAVAL REACTOR) U.K. - The U.K. Department of Defence today revealed that it has discovered a crack in the nuclear reactor of the H.M.S. Warsprite, and admitted that, if it had not been detected, this could have led to a large release of radiation. As a result the Department has ordered tests on all nuclear vessel to ascertain if similar defects exist in their reactors. (A.B.C. Radio National 31/1/90)

8 February
U.S.S.R. - Pravda today gave sketchy details of a nuclear submarine accident last December. The submarine was testing ballistic missiles when the accident occurred, releasing what was quoted as "massive amounts of radiation".

(A.B.C. Radio News 8/2/90)

11 Februar
HINKLEY POINT, U.K. - A near-accident involving a scenario that, according to Greenpeace Canada, almost led to a meltdown, occurred at the Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Station. An attempt to cover up the problem ended 5 days later, when a Member of Parliament, Paddy Ashdown, revealed the incident on 16 February. (Greenpeace, Canada; WISE 328 2/90)

15 February
PENNSYLVANIA, U.S.A. - In the ongoing TMI accident which began in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (US) in March 1979, a metal sample cut from the reactor vessel shows a crack extending at least two inches into the five-inch-thick vessel bottom which raises questions about just how close the vessel was to being breached during the core melt accident. ("Nucleonics Week" 15/2/90. WISE 329 9/3/90)

11-17 February
POINT LEPREAUT, CANADA - Between 11-17 February Canada's Point Lepreaut took what "Nucleonics Week" calls a 'forced outage in order to repair a crack in the boiler (steam generator) feedwater system in the rear reactor downcomer to system suction'. ("Nucleonics Week" (US) 6/4/90; WISE333 1/6/90)

21 February
ROSSIYA, U.S.S.R. - Fire broke out on board a storage compartment in the stern of the nuclear powered icebreaker Rossiya, as it underwent repairs in the Arctic port of Murmansk. The reactor was undamaged. (T.A.S., W.Australian 21/2/1990)

23 February
OKLAHOMA, U.S.A. - An undated, but apparently recent accident at Seguoyah Fuels Facility in Gore, Oklahoma (US) resulted in a spill of 10,000 to 20,000 pounds of depleted uranium tetraflouride powder. ("The Nuclear Monitor" 26/2/90, WISE 329 9/3/90 ) -

25 February
SELLAFIELD, U.K. - Following studies on the high occurrence of childhood leukemia around Sellafield, a report for the U.K. Government indicates the strongest link to date between exposure of workers to radiation and their likelihood of passing damaged genes to their offspring. Dr. Berry, counselling scientist for Sellafield, has commented that if workers are worried about their children manifesting leukaemia as a result of their exposure, then they should not have any. (A.B.C. News 25/2/1990)

25 February
CREYS-MAVILLE, FRANCE - A capsule containing 2 giga-becquerels of krypton 79 broke during experiments at the French Superphoenix in Creys-Maville, near the Swiss border. The radiation released was equal to 200,000 becquerels per cubic meter and remained inside the plant. ("DeVolksrant (Netherlands) 23/2/90; WISE 331 27/4/90).

MAPE URANIUM MILL, CZEKOSLOVAKIA - This uranium mill near Ceske Budejovice has been the cause of severe radioactive pollution dating from the early 60's. In 1962/63, up to 80% of the cattle grazing in the neighbourhood of the facility died of leukaemia or deformities, following an accident which occurred in the 1960's.

A 1962 study by the Veterinarian Institute in Budejovice to find the causes of leukaemia, showed clearly that only contamination from MAPE could be responsible. Documentation of the investigation was immediately declared top secret. The only counteraction the authorities took at the time was to close down a local drinking water well without informing the local populace of the real reason. The area is used intensively for agriculture and livestock breeding, mainly cattle, geese, fish and hop for the famous Budweiser beer.

Another spill occurred in the same site in 1964 and several cases of malfunction occurred following this spill. News of the second accident were made public on 24th January in an interview in the Prague newspaper Mlada Fronts with Ing. Jaroslav Ruxicka, from the Czechoslovakian Ministry of Agriculture. Since then pollution has continued through the normal operations of the plant. Between 1965 and 1985 radioactive water from the mill was released directly into the Vlatava river, via a 20km underground canal. Since 1985 radwastes and tailings have been released into former open-pit mines next to the mill.

Since 1989, MAPE has treated uranium ore from the German Menzenschwand uranium mine. The German government has defended itself for being party to this pollution by stating that "it supposes the Czechoslovakian Government was observing international safeguards. (Peter Diehl (FRG); Greenpeace (via GreenNet, gp. press, topic 304, 26/1/1990 and topic 205, 21/1/1990); WISE 326/7 9/2/1990)

l4 March
CHERNOBYL, UKRAINE, U.S.S.R. - On 3rd March the Government of the Ukraine announced that the three operating reactors at the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station will be phased out of operation over the next five years and the station will then be completely closed. Pollution at Mogilev amounts to 45100 curies of Cesium-137 per square kilometre. More than 100,000 people are said to have fallen sick. 25% of children suffer from thyroid gland diseases and children below the age of two are reported to have died from cancer.

In the Chernobyl zone, 2,700-3,000 people have fallen seriously ill, 17 million suffer acutely from the consequences of the disaster and one million have already suffered genetic damage. At Cherkassy, one in five babies are born with deformities. Limbs, eyes and ears are missing. Among children, three main types of diseases have been observed. Grey cataracts, blood diseases and liver diseases and cancer and collapse of the immune system (already seen in 3 year olds).

In the Mogilev area, the numbers of babies born with deformities are as follows (according to "Sov. Kultura", October 1989):

1985 - 5
1986 - 21
1987 - 39
1988 - 84
1989 - 50

One of the most affected areas is that of Narodichi (Zitomir). The film Maximum Limit deals with the present situation there. It shows pictures of deformed calves, two-headed foals. The pollution in this area amount to 15-1,000 curies of Cesium-137 per square km. Every second child suffers from hyperthyroidism. After strong protests by the local populace, 12 villages of the Narodichi area are to be evacuated between now and 1993. 93,000 thousand inhabitants live in the whole area, 18,000 of whom are children. (Abstract of Dr. Bahro's paper (FRG); "The Nuclear Monitor" (US) 12/3/90; "Guardian" (US) 14/3/90; "WISE" 330 6/4/90).

15 March
BALTIC SEA, GERMANY - The West German transport ship 'MS Godewind' collided with a corn transport in the Baltic Sea, 10km from the island Rugen (GDR). MS Godewind is used to transport nuclear fuel and radioactive scrap material to Sweden. ("TAZ" FRG 375/90; WISE 333 1/6/90).

6 April
FRANCE - In France, where 75% of the electricity is of nuclear origin, the national planning bureau noted that already, beginning a few years ago, EDP have an over-capacity. EDF Director Delaporte recently justified this overcapacity by referring to export profits. In the leaked reports, however, the French Government admits to dumping prices for electricity exports. Prices for exported electricity are lower than production costs.

EDF has begun a public relations campaign after an interrupted flow of reports of incidents in French nuclear power plants. In a French weekly journal it wrote of incidents occurring on an average of 15 per month. ("DeVolkshrant (Netherlands) 8/3/90; "TAZ" (FRG) 8/3/90; WISE 330 6/4/90).

PHILADELPHIA, PA., U.S.A. - According to an article in the 6 March 1990 Philadelphia Daily News, a nuclear power plant worker was charged with spiking the lunchroom water cooler with radioactive water. (MACE (US) Apr 90; WISE 331/27/4/90).

DOUNREAY, SCOTLAND - The Dounreay fast breeder reactor was closed down after liquid sodium leaked from the secondary cooling system and burnt on contact with air. (NENIG Briefing (P.A.) 5/90. WISE 333 1/6/90).

13 May
BLIND RIVER, CANADA - Leak shuts down Canadian refinery. Approx. 178kg of radioactive uranium dust leaked from CAMECO's Blind River Uranium Refinery into the air over a 30 hour period during the week of 13 May. The filter system was bypassed accidentally and officials are unsure whether it was a mechanical or human error. ("Nuclear Awareness News" Canada, Spring 1990; WISE335 6/7/90 ) .

21 May
RINGHALS-2, SWEDEN - A serious incident occurred at Ringhala-2 Sweden, a Westinghouse built reactor, when operators were unable to turn on the both the main pump and the two reserve pumps for the cooling system of a basin in which the fuel elements had been placed during the reactor's annual inspection. ("Aftonblade" TV News Prog. (Sweden) 21/5/90; "Dagens Nyheter", 22/5/90; WISE 333 1/6/90).

21 May
SWITZERLAND - The Superphoenix plant was once again temporarily closed due to a new leak of about 10 to 30 litres of sodium in the second cooling circuit. (CECSR Switzerland 21/5/90; WISE-334 22/6/90)

28 May
LOVIISA, FINLAND - Break in thinned feedwater pipe shuts Finnish PWRs. Both units at the Loviisa Nuclear Power Plant were stopped due to a rupture of a feedwater pipe at Loviisa-1. ("Nucleonics Week" US 31/5/90; WISE335 6/7/90)

7 June
SPAIN - A leak of water into the containment vessel at the rate of 280 litres per hour began the night of 7th June and lasts approximately 10 hr ; (WISE Tarragona 11/7/90; Trouw (NL))

6 June
BIBLIS A. - A nuclear 'incident' rated in the category 'urgent' occurred at the RUE nuclear power station Biblis A. While the block was shut down for maintenance, and the fuel elements removed from the reactor pressure vessel, a branch of the electricity supply for reactor protection was mistakenly switched off for 3 minutes before it was noticed. ("Power in Europe" (aim.) 21/6/90; WISE-335 6/7/90)

21 June
AUSTRALIA - A senior technical officer with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation committed suicide after an apparently minor accident at the University of Melbourne. The officer had been supervising the transfer of a 15cm rod of Cobalt-60 from one lead receptacle to another when mechanical failure resulted in what was described as an "insignificant" release of radiation. ("The Australian" 21 June 1990; WISE-334 22/6/90)

MURUROA ATOLL, PACIFIC - Radioactive waste from French underground nuclear tests at Mururoa Atoll in the Pacific is seeping towards the surface faster than has previously been claimed, warns Professor Manfred Nochstein, director of Auckland University's Geothermal Institute. He believes the waste could come to the top of the Atoll in about 30 years - not the thousands of years claimed by the French authorities. (Greenpeace (via Greennet 25/5/90); WISE 333 1/6/90)

U.S. NAVY, U.K. - A US nuclear weapons carrier ship, the T-AK 286 Vega, was damaged in a collision with a barge at Holy Loch (U.K.). (Scotland on Sunday (U.K.) 24/6/90 (via GreenNet, 24/6/90); WISE-336 20/7/90)

(CHERNOBYL) IRELAND - According to the Irish Nuclear Energy Board the radioactive cesium levels in mountain sheep which graze upland pastures have not decreased significantly since the Chernobyl accident in 1986. In fact, its report on sheep monitoring for 1989, which covered more than 25,000 animals, showed a slight increased compared with 1988 levels. ("Nuclear Energy Board"; "Irish Times" 19/6/90; WISE-336 20/7/90)

LENINGRAD, U.S.S.R. - Soviet newspapers have reported that radioactive waste has been dumped in the Leningrad area, even in city parks. According to the newspaper "Komsomolskaya Pravda", there are at least 1,500 places in Leningrad where levels of radon exceed allowed levels. About 150,000 cubic metres of soil are known to be contaminated. The newspaper also reported that radioactivity has seeped down into ground water and out into the Bay of Finland. In one case a medical research institute burned up contaminated materials and spread the ashes out on the side-walks in the area. In another case, radioactive waste buried underground came up to the surface again when houses were built on the dump site. ("Dagena Nyheter(Sweden) 16/8/90; WISE-338 14/9/90).

12th September
The official Soviet news agency Tass has reported that an explosion took place on 12th September at the Soviet fuel fabrication plant in Ust-Kamenogorak in Kazackstan, a city with a population of a half million, located near the border of the U.S.S.R., Mongolia and China. No fatalities occurred, but many people are said to be injured. (TAZ (FRG) 14/9/90; VLT (Sweden) 14/9/90; WISE-339 28/9/9

16 September
CREYS-MALVILLE, FRANCE - The French Government has been forced to close a fast-breeder nuclear power reactor in Creys-Malville after a series of technical problems climaxed in reduction of power and automatic shutdown. The accident rated 2 on a severity scale of 6. It was thought that a bubble of argon gas in the reactor core was causing the trouble. The Superphoenix fast breeder was also in trouble with an unrelated problem of corrosion product contamination in the primary sodium coolant. Neither reactor was expected to restart until late 1991 at the earliest. (The Australian, 19/9/90, Nuclear News, August 1991 )

GERMANY - The German Government has informed Moscow that it will shut down five VVER 230 nuclear power reactors in former East Germany because they are unsafe. A Nuclear Energy Agency spokesperson was quoted as saying that "those machines are incredibly far off our own regulations and requirements." At least 26 similarly unsafe reactors are scattered across Czeckoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and the Soviet Union. Pressure continued to build on these to be closed also. (The Sydney Morning Herald, 22/10/90).

HANFORD, WASHINGTON STATE, U.S.A. - A potentially explosive situation was reported by safety inspectors at a nuclear waste tank (codenamed 101-SY) at Hanford. The waste slurry had formed a thick crust which is trapping hydrogen being continuously generated underneath. One calculation has it that an explosion equivalent to 230 kilos of TNT could occur. The tank has uncertain chemistry and contents. Up to 66 tanks at Hanford are believed to be leaking, 22 are accumulating hydrogen and a further 22 are potentially explosive. (New Scientist, October 1990; The Canberra Times, 28/12/90).

21 November
FARALLON ISLANDS, off U.S.A. - Marine scientists have produced graphic evidence that drums of nuclear waste are leaking in part of the northwest Pacific which happens to be a rich fishing area and a marine reserve. At least 47,500 drums are known to have been dumped near the Farallon Islands, 50 km off San Franciaso, between 1946 and 1970. Images show fish swimming among corroded and collapsed drums scattered over an area of 48 square km. (The Age, 22/11/90)

18 December
HEMATITE, MISSOURI, U.S.A. - One worker was slightly injured and 25 evacuated following a release of uranium hexaflouride ('hex') at a nuclear fuel fabrication plant. The spill occurred after an employee failed to turn off a valve before disconnecting sampling equipment from a cylinder of hex being tested for degree of enrichment. (Nuclear News, February 1991)


ERZGEBIRGE, former EAST GERMANY - Details were released of the size and possible cost of the task of cleaning up the 1000 sq km of former uranium mines in the Erzgebirge region. There are hundreds of slag heaps which must be levelled or covered and greened. 1600 km of mine workings to be filled in or flooded; plus more than 300 shafts and tunnels, 85 ventilation shafts and 18 waste ponds to be decontaminated and closed off or reclaimed. The equivalent of 2-5 billion pounds sterling was said to be needed to pay for the cleanup. At least 20,000 former miners contracted lung cancer or silicosis from the 40-year uranium mining operations. (New Scientist, 2/2/91, The Weekend Australian, 27-28/4/91)

9 February
FUKUI, JAPAN - A serious accident occurred in the Mihama nuclear power plant. A pipe in the steam generator burst, leaking 55 tonnes of radioactive primary (reactor) coolant water into the secondary steam-generating circuit. Some radioactivity was released to the atmosphere and the plant's emergency corecooling system was required. MITI reported later that the accident was caused by human error, some anti-vibration bars being wrongly installed by workers and sawn off short to make them fit. (Nuclear News, August 1991, The Age, 23/2/91)

25 April
CHERNOBYL, UKRAINE, U.S.S.R. - The head of a Ukranian parliamentary committee on Chernobyl reported that the concrete and steel casing built around the reactor devastated in 1986 is in danger of collapsing in a blast of radioactive dust. A more detailed appraisal was given simultaneously by a team of Soviet scientists at a conference in Paris. The sarcophagus is deteriorating faster than expected, increasing the risk of water penetration and dust escape. Water entering the still-hot reactor could cause explosions. There is even a risk that, as parts of the structure collapse, radioactive fuel still inside the building may form a critical mass, prompting a self-sustaining fission reaction. At present the sarcophagus contains 180 tonnes of uranium, 570 kilos of plutonium and significant quantities of other transuranic elements. (New Scientist, 27 April 1991; The Canberra Times, 27/4/91)

WILMINGTON, N.C., U.S.A. - A potential criticality incident occurred at GE's nuclear fuel fabrication plant in Wilmington. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission later found that workers and managers at the plant were complacent on safety matters and that there had been a general deterioration of criticality safety. (Nuclear News, September 1991)

17 June
HANAU, GERMANY - Sieman's mixed oxide nuclear fuel fabrication plant was closed down as the result of a plutonium leak followed by a leaking roof. Three workers suffered slight contamination. The plutonium leakage was from a damaged container and was graded as an 'B' (urgent) incident. A plant investigation has been ordered (Nuclear Engineering International, August 1991)

22 June
BELLEVILLE-2 PWR, FRANCE - The second Level 2 (IAEA scale) incident was experienced at the Belleville nuclear power plant inside a month. Faulty welds were discovered in the crucial low pressure auxiliary primary coolant system. The earlier Level 2 incident involved failure of two primary water level measuring systems. (Nuclear Engineering International, August 1991)

1 July
SLOVENIA, YUGOSLAVIA - The country's only nuclear power plant was closed down for fear of military attack after three federal jet fighters 'buzzed' the facility. (Nuclear News, August 1991)

10 July
BALLEVILLE-2, FRANCE - Yet another Level 2 incident at Belleville-2. This time, 10 cubic metres of pure (is unboronated) water was allowed to enter the primary circuit through human error. A prescribed level of boron is required in the circuit to keep the reactor core subcritical. (Nuclear News, September 1991)

6 August
MOXLODUY VVER 440, BULGARIA - This reactor, described as probably the most dangerous reactor on earth, suffered a fire in a 400-kv transformer. The fire was well away from reactor buildings, however. (Nuclear News, September 1991)

10 August
CHERNOBYL-2, USSR - A Level 2 incident occurred in which several cubic metres of cooling water leaked while the reactor was shut down for maintenance work. The leak was caused by failure of a pipe seal near the main circulation pumps. (Nuclear News, September 1991)

13 August
NEW YORK STATE, USA - A three-year-old nuclear power reactor at Nine Mile Point malfunctioned and was closed down on the following day. An NRC investigation was begun into reasons why a control room warning system and its backup power supply failed. (The Australian, 15/8/91)

21 August
HUNTERSTON-5 ACR, UK - This advanced gas-cooled nuclear power station requiring up to 40 million gallons of seawater per hour for turbine condenser cooling was shut down when thousands of jellyfish were sucked into the screens of the seawater cooling intake. (Nuclear News, October 1991)

23 August
KARLSRUHE, GERMANY - Workers at the Nuclear Research Centre, Karlsruhe, discovered that an entire nuclear fuel assembly consisting of 37 fuel rods had somehow switched with a dummy (training) assembly. The most likely fate of the active assembly was considered to have been destruction and placement in nuclear waste drums. However, theft ofthe nuclear material was not ruled out. (New Scientist, 5 October 1991)

RAWATBHATA, INDIA - Rajasthan, a power station with one of two reactors running at a maxium of 501 capacity and described as 'crippled', caused an uproar in the Indian Parliament because of findings by a medical team that villagers living nearby are suffering from unusual health problems.

These include spontaneous abortions, sterility, deformed children, rare skin diseases and so on. The plant, commissioned in 1973, was shut down at least 250 times during its first decade and has had serious leakage problems throughout the 1980's. A more detailed study of the villagers would become available after six months. (The Age, 23/9/91)

23 September
MURMANSK, U.S.S.R. - More revelations on Soviet nuclear waste dumping off its northern shores from Mr Andrei Zolotkov, a national parliamentarian from Murmansk. He said that the waste, in leaky containers, was dumped in very shallow waters for more than 20 years, and included the damaged reactor core from the nuclear-powered icebreaker Lenin, which suffered a meltdown in 1966. (The Sydney Morning Herald, 25/9/91)

11 October
CHERNOBYL, UKRAINE - A major fire occurred at the generator hall served by the still-functioning Chernobyl-2 reactor, wrecking the hall and destroying its roof. The fire was said to have broken out after a turbine had idled for repairs and then was unexpectedly turned on by an automatic switch. The fire took three hours to extinguish and forced a shutdown of Chernobyl-2. The destroyed hall was immediately adjacent to the concrete sarcophagus contining 30 tonnes of radioactive debris from the 1986 accident. (The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 and 15/10/91)

HANAU, GERMANY - More trouble at the Siemens nuclear fuel plant. A release of ammonia caused a 'blue fog' and affected nearby forest workers. The chemical section of the main fuel fabrication plant was closed down by the Hesse Government. (Nuclear News, October 1991)

VLADIVOSTOK, U.S.S.R. - Information was released concerning a catastrophic accident on a Soviet nuclear submarine which took place on 10th August 1985 during refuelling. Vital contol rods were mistakenly pulled out of the vessel's reactor, causing an explosion which killed 10 sailors and spewed radioactive materials into the air and sea. (The Sydney Morning Herald, 26/10/91)

21 October
FASLANE, SCOTLAND, U.K. - An alert was sparked by a fire on the nuclear powered submarine HMS Sceptre at the Faslane submarine base. The fire, which required two fire engines to extinguish, was later described as occurring in a non-essential switchboard area of the vessel. (The Canberra Times, 22/10/91)


No records yet available for this year.


No records yet available for this year.


March 14, 1994
In Long Island, New York a fire erupted at a nuclear facility. It resulted in radioactive contamination of a technician, three reactor operators, and three fire fighters. Harmful radioactive substances were also released into the area.


December 8, 1995
Over a ton of volatile liquid sodium leaks from secondary cooling system of a fast-breeder reactor in Tsuruga, 220 miles west of Tokyo. No one is injured, and no radioactivity leaks, but cover-up of extent of damage includes falsified reports and hidden video footage. Japanese government closes reactor for a year.


No records yet available for this year.


March 11, 1997
Fire breaks out at an 11-million-square-foot complex in Tokaimura, Japan. The site includes a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant and laboratories 70 miles northeast of Tokyo. The fire exposes 37 workers to low-level radiation.

July 19, 1997
A reactor at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s nuclear plant complex (the world's largest nuclear power plant, northwest of Tokyo) leaks a small amount of radiation, but officials say none is released into the atmosphere.

November 20, 1997
Fire breaks out at a uranium-enrichment laboratory northeast of Tokyo. The blaze is extinguished in an hour without any injuries or radioactive leaks.

March 14, 1997
20,000-30,000 gallons of plutonium contaminated water was released when a forty gallon tank of toxic chemicals exploded. The tank had been stored illegally at the US Government's Hanford Engineers Works. It resulted in a cover up involving the contractors and the Department of Energy who denied the release of radioactive materials. they even went so far as telling workers that they had not been exposed to plutonium even though no tests had actually occurred.


April 6, 1998
A cooling pump stops working at a nuclear reactor of the the world's largest nuclear power plant about 135 miles northwest of Tokyo. The reactor is shut down. The Tokyo Electric Power Co. reports no radiation leak.


July 12, 1999
Radiation at 11,500 times the safety limit leaks from a cracked pipe in a pressurized light-water nuclear reactor in Tsuruga, 200 miles west of Tokyo. Officials say no radiation is released into the atmosphere from the power plant.

Sept. 30, 1999
Radiation leaks from uranium-processing plant in Tokaimura, 70 miles northeast of Tokyo. Radiation measures at 10,000 times above normal near leak site. Three workers are hospitalized, two in critical condition.

July 15, 1999
Speaking on behalf of President Clinton, a spokesperson said that thousands of workers at US Nuclear Weapons facilities have been exposed to toxic and radioactive substances over the past fifty years. They are allowed to seek any compensation needed for related illnesses.