Nuclear reactor accidents in the United States


Nuclear reactor accidents in the United States

According to a 2010 survey of energy accidents, there have been at least 56 accidents near nuclear reactors in the United States (defined as incidents that either resulted in the loss of human life or more than US$50,000 of property damage). The most serious of these was the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant has been the source of two of the top five most dangerous nuclear incidents in the United States since 1979.[1] Relatively few accidents have involved fatalities.[2]

Contents

Context

Globally, there have been at least 99 (civilian and military) recorded nuclear reactor accidents from 1952 to 2009 (defined as incidents that either resulted in the loss of human life or more than US$50,000 of property damage, the amount the US federal government uses to define major energy accidents that must be reported), totaling US$20.5 billion in property damages. Property damage costs include destruction of property, emergency response, environmental remediation, evacuation, lost product, fines, and court claims.[2] Because nuclear reactors are large and complex accidents onsite tend to be relatively expensive.[3]

At least 56 nuclear reactor accidents have occurred in the USA. Relatively few accidents have involved fatalities.[2] The most serious of these U.S. accidents was the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Davis-Besse has been the source of two of the top five most dangerous nuclear incidents in the United States since 1979.[1]

History

The Atomic Energy Act of 1954 encouraged private corporations in the United States to build nuclear reactors and a significant learning phase followed with many early partial core meltdowns and accidents at experimental reactors and research facilities.[4] This led to the introduction of the Price-Anderson Act in 1957, which was "an implicit admission that nuclear power provided risks that producers were unwilling to assume without federal backing".[4]

Nuclear reactor accidents continued into the 1960s with a small test reactor exploding at the Stationary Low-Power Reactor Number One in Idaho Falls in January 1961 resulting in three deaths which were the first fatalities in the history of U.S. nuclear reactor operations.[5] There was also a partial meltdown at the Enrico Fermi Nuclear Generating Station in Michigan in 1966.[4]

The large size of nuclear reactors ordered during the late 1960s raised new safety questions and created fears of a severe reactor accident that would send large quantities of radiation into the environment. In the early 1970s, a highly contentious debate over the performance of emergency core cooling systems in nuclear plants, designed to prevent a core meltdown that could lead to the "China syndrome", received coverage in the popular media and technical journals.[6][7]

In 1976, four nuclear engineers -- three from GE and one from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission—resigned, stating that nuclear power was not as safe as their superiors were claiming.[8][9] These men were engineers who had spent most of their working life building reactors,[10][11] and they testified to the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy that:

"the cumulative effect of all design defects and deficiencies in the design, construction and operations of nuclear power plants makes a nuclear power plant accident, in our opinion, a certain event. The only question is when, and where.[8]

Three Mile Island accident

President Jimmy Carter leaving Three Mile Island for Middletown, Pennsylvania, April 1, 1979

On March 28, 1979, equipment failures and operator error contributed to loss of coolant and a partial core meltdown of Unit 2's pressurized water reactor at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant in Pennsylvania. [12] The scope and complexity of this reactor accident became clear over the course of five days, as a number of agencies at the local, state and federal levels tried to solve the problem and decide whether the ongoing accident required an emergency evacuation, and to what extent.

The World Nuclear Association has stated that cleanup of the damaged nuclear reactor system at TMI-2 took nearly 12 years and cost approximately US $973 million.[13] Benjamin K. Sovacool, in his 2007 preliminary assessment of major energy accidents, estimated that the TMI accident caused a total of $2.4 billion in property damages.[14] The health effects of the Three Mile Island accident are widely, but not universally, agreed to be very low level.[15][13]

The TMI accident forced regulatory and operational improvements on a reluctant industry, but it also increased opposition to nuclear power.[16] The accident triggered protests around the world.[17]

List of accidents and incidents

Nuclear reactor accidents in the U.S.[18][3]
Date Location Description Fatalities Cost
(in millions
2006 US$)
INES
rating
July 26, 1959 Simi Valley, California, USA Partial core meltdown at Santa Susana Field Laboratory’s Sodium Reactor Experiment 0 32
January 3, 1961 Idaho Falls, Idaho, US Explosion at National Reactor Testing Station 3 22
October 5, 1966 Monroe, Michigan, USA Sodium cooling system malfunctions at Enrico Fermi demonstration breeder reactor causing partial core meltdown 0 19
July 16, 1971 Cordova, Illinois, USA An electrician is electrocuted by a live cable at the Quad Cities Unit 1 reactor on the Mississippi River 1 1
August 11, 1973 Palisades, Michigan, USA Steam generator leak causes manual shutdown of pressurized water reactor 0 10
March 22, 1975 Browns Ferry, Alabama, USA Fire burns for seven hours and damages more than 1600 control cables for three nuclear reactors at Browns Ferry, disabling core cooling systems 0 240
November 5, 1975 Brownsville, Nebraska, USA Hydrogen gas explosion damages the Cooper Nuclear Facility’s Boiling Water Reactor and an auxiliary building 0 13
June 10, 1977 Waterford, Connecticut, USA Hydrogen gas explosion damages three buildings and forces shutdown of Millstone-1 Boiling Water Reactor 0 15
February 4, 1979 Surry, Virginia, USA Surry Unit 2 shut down in response to failing tube bundles in steam generators 0 12
March 28, 1979 Middletown, Pennsylvania, US Loss of coolant and partial core meltdown, see Three Mile Island accident and Three Mile Island accident health effects 0 2,400
November 22, 1980 San Clemente, California, USA Worker cleaning breaker cubicles at San Onofre Pressurized Water Reactor contacts an energized line and is electrocuted 1 1
February 26, 1982 San Clemente, California, USA Southern California Company shuts down San Onofre Unit 1 out of concerns about earthquake 0 1
March 20, 1982 Lycoming, New York, USA Recirculation system piping fails at Nine Mile Point Unit 1, forcing two year shutdown 0 45
March 25 1982 Buchanan, New York, USA Damage to steam generator tubes and main generator resulting in a shut down Indian Point Energy Center Unit 3 for more than a year 0 56
June 18, 1982 Senaca, South Carolina, USA Feedwater heat extraction line fails at Oconee 2 Pressurised Water Reactor, damaging thermal cooling system 0 10
February 12, 1983 Fork River, New Jersey, USA Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant fails safety inspection, forced to shut down for repairs 0 32
February 26, 1983 Fort Pierce, Florida, USA Damaged thermal shield and core barrel support at St Lucie Unit 1, necessitating 13-month shutdown 0 54
September 15, 1984 Athens, Alabama, US Safety violations, operator error, and design problems force six year outage at Browns Ferry Unit 2 0 110
March 9, 1985 Athens, Alabama, US Instrumentation systems malfunction during start-up, which led to suspension of operations at all three Browns Ferry Units 0 1,830
April 11, 1986 Plymouth, Massachusetts, US Recurring equipment problems force emergency shutdown of Boston Edison’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant 0 1,001
March 31, 1987 Delta, Pennsylvania, US Peach Bottom units 2 and 3 shutdown due to cooling malfunctions and unexplained equipment problems 0 400
July 15, 1987 Burlington, Kansas, USA Safety inspector dies from electrocution after contacting a mislabeled wire 1 1
December 19, 1987 Lycoming, New York, US Malfunctions force Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation to shut down Nine Mile Point Unit 1 0 150
March 29, 1988 Burlington, Kansas, USA A worker falls through an unmarked manhole and electrocutes himself when trying to escape 1 1
September 10, 1988 Surry, Virginia, USA Refuelling cavity seal fails and destroys internal pipe system at Surry Unit 2, forcing 12-month outage 0 9
March 5, 1989 Tonopah, Arizona, USA Atmospheric dump valves fail at Palo Verde Unit 1, leading to main transformer fire and emergency shutdown 0 14
March 17, 1989 Lusby, Maryland, US Inspections at Calvert Cliff Units 1 and 2 reveal cracks at pressurized heater sleeves, forcing extended shutdowns 0 120
November 17, 1991 Scriba, New York, USA Safety and fire problems force shut down of the FitzPatrick nuclear reactor for 13 months 0 5
April 21, 1992 Southport, North Carolina, USA NRC forces shut down of Brunswick Units 1 and 2 after emergency diesel generators fail 0 2
February 3, 1993 Bay City, Texas, USA Auxiliary feed-water pumps fail at South Texas Project Units 1 and 2, prompting rapid shutdown of both reactors 0 3
February 27, 1993 Buchanan, New York, USA New York Power Authority shuts down Indian Point Energy Center Unit 3 after AMSAC system fails 0 2
March 2, 1993 Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, USA Equipment failures and broken pipes cause shut down of Sequoyah Unit 1 0 3
December 25, 1993 Newport, Michigan, USA Shut down of Fermi Unit 2 after main turbine experienced major failure due to improper maintenance 0 67
14 January 1995 Wiscasset, Maine, USA Steam generator tubes unexpectedly crack at Maine Yankee nuclear reactor; shut down of the facility for a year 0 62
May 16, 1995 Salem, New Jersey, USA Ventilation systems fail at Salem Units 1 and 2 0 34
February 20, 1996 Waterford, Connecticut, US Leaking valve forces shutdown Millstone Nuclear Power Plant Units 1 and 2, multiple equipment failures found 0 254
September 2, 1996 Crystal River, Florida, US Balance-of-plant equipment malfunction forces shutdown and extensive repairs at Crystal River Unit 3 0 384
September 5, 1996 Clinton, Illinois, USA Reactor recirculation pump fails, prompting shut down of Clinton boiling water reactor 0 38
September 20, 1996 Senaca, Illinois, USA Service water system fails and results in closure of LaSalle Units 1 and 2 for more than 2 years 0 71
September 9, 1997 Bridgman, Michigan, USA Ice condenser containment systems fail at Cook Units 1 and 2 0 11
May 25, 1999 Waterford, Connecticut, USA Steam leak in feed-water heater causes manual shutdown and damage to control board annunicator at the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant 0 7
September 29, 1999 Lower Alloways Creek, New Jersey, USA Major Freon leak at Hope Creek Nuclear Facility causes ventilation train chiller to trip, releasing toxic gas and damaging the colling system 0 2
February 16, 2002 Oak Harbor, Ohio, US Severe corrosion of control rod forces 24-month outage of Davis-Besse reactor 0 143
January 15, 2003 Bridgman, Michigan, USA A fault in the main transformer at the Donald C. Cook nuclear power plant causes a fire that damages the main generator and back-up turbines 0 10
June 16, 2005 Braidwood, Illinois, USA Exelon’s Braidwood nuclear station leaks tritium and contaminates local water supplies 0 41
August 4, 2005 Buchanan, New York, USA Entergy’s Indian Point Energy Center Nuclear Plant leaks tritium and strontium into underground lakes from 1974 to 2005 30
March 6, 2006 Erwin, Tennessee, USA Nuclear fuel services plant spills 35 litres of highly enriched uranium, necessitating 7-month shutdown 0 98
February 1, 2010 Vernon, Vermont, US Deteriorating underground pipes from the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant leak radioactive tritium into groundwater supplies 0 700
This list is incomplete; please help to expand it.

Nuclear safety

Nuclear safety in the U.S. is governed by federal regulations and continues to be studied by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The safety of nuclear plants and materials controlled by the U.S. government for research and weapons production, as well those powering naval vessels, is not governed by the NRC.[19][20]

Following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, according to Black & Veatch’s annual utility survey that took place after the disaster, of the 700 executives from the US electric utility industry that were surveyed, nuclear safety was the top concern.[21] There are likely to be increased requirements for on-site spent fuel management and elevated design basis threats at nuclear power plants.[22][23] License extensions for existing reactors will face additional scrutiny, with outcomes depending on the degree to which plants can meet new requirements, and some of the extensions already granted for more than 60 of the 104 operating U.S. reactors could be revisited. On-site storage, consolidated long-term storage, and geological disposal of spent fuel is "likely to be reevaluated in a new light because of the Fukushima storage pool experience".[22]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Nuclear Regulatory Commission (2004-09-16). "Davis-Besse preliminary accident sequence precursor analysis" (PDF). http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/operating/ops-experience/vessel-head-degradation/news/2004/09-16-04-ml0426005320.pdf. Retrieved 2006-06-14.  and Nuclear Regulatory Commission (2004-09-20). "NRC issues preliminary risk analysis of the combined safety issues at Davis-Besse". http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/news/2004/04-117.html. Retrieved 2006-06-14. 
  2. ^ a b c Benjamin K. Sovacool. A Critical Evaluation of Nuclear Power and Renewable Electricity in Asia, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol. 40, No. 3, August 2010, pp. 379-380.
  3. ^ a b Benjamin K. Sovacool (2009). The Accidental Century - Prominent Energy Accidents in the Last 100 Years
  4. ^ a b c Benjamin K. Sovacool. The costs of failure: A preliminary assessment of major energy accidents, 1907–2007, Energy Policy 36 (2008), p. 1808.
  5. ^ Perhaps the Worst, Not the First TIME magazine, May 12, 1986.
  6. ^ Walker, J. Samuel (2004). Three Mile Island: A Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective (Berkeley: University of California Press), pp. 10-11.
  7. ^ Wolfgang Rudig (1990). Anti-nuclear Movements: A World Survey of Opposition to Nuclear Energy, Longman, pp. 66-67.
  8. ^ a b Mark Hertsgaard (1983). Nuclear Inc. The Men and Money Behind Nuclear Energy, Pantheon Books, New York, p. 72.
  9. ^ Jim Falk (1982). Global Fission: The Battle Over Nuclear Power, Oxford University Press, p. 95.
  10. ^ The San Jose Three TIME, Feb. 16, 1976.
  11. ^ The Struggle over Nuclear Power TIME, Mar. 08, 1976.
  12. ^ World Nuclear Association (1999). Three Mile Island: 1979 Retrieved December 24, 2008.
  13. ^ a b World Nuclear Association. Three Mile Island Accident January 2010.
  14. ^ Benjamin K. Sovacool. The costs of failure: A preliminary assessment of major energy accidents, 1907–2007, Energy Policy 36 (2008), p. 1807.
  15. ^ Mangano, Joseph (2004). Three Mile Island: Health study meltdown, Bulletin of the atomic scientists, 60(5), pp. 31 -35.
  16. ^ Wellock, Thomas R. Three Mile Island: A Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective (Book review) The Historian, 22 September 2005.
  17. ^ Mark Hertsgaard (1983). Nuclear Inc. The Men and Money Behind Nuclear Energy, Pantheon Books, New York, p. 95 & 97.
  18. ^ Benjamin K. Sovacool. A Critical Evaluation of Nuclear Power and Renewable Electricity in Asia, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol. 40, No. 3, August 2010, pp. 393–400.
  19. ^ About NRC, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Retrieved 2007-6-1.
  20. ^ Our Governing Legislation, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Retrieved 2007-6-1.
  21. ^ Eric Wesoff, Greentechmedia. "Black & Veatch’s 2011 Electric Utility Survey." June 16, 2011. Retrieved October 11, 2011.
  22. ^ a b Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2011). "The Future of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle". p. xv. http://web.mit.edu/mitei/research/studies/documents/nuclear-fuel-cycle/The_Nuclear_Fuel_Cycle-all.pdf. 
  23. ^ Mark Cooper (July 2011 vol. 67 no. 4). "The implications of Fukushima: The US perspective". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. p. 9. http://bos.sagepub.com/content/67/4/8.abstract. 

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