*Issued January 2002. This list is subject to modification as documents are declassified in the future revealing other accidents that occurred in the year 2001.
1. A nuclear explosion in a Russian factory leaves four dead and three injured.
2. After being kept secret for some six months, The Romanian National Commission for the Control of Nuclear Activities (CNCAN) reported on 12 December that nine workers were exposed to serious levels of radiation while dismantling a smelting plant in western Romania.
3. A serious accident at the Chapelcross nuclear reactor in Annan, Scotland sent 24 radioactive fuel rods crashing to the floor, nearly causing the death of plant workers and the release of a radioactive cloud which would have contaminated the entire region.
4. Russia loses contact with four military satellites for part of the day on 10 May after a fire ravages a ground relay station southwest of Moscow.
5. Local Officials reveal in May that a nuclear reactor at the Nuclear Cycle Development Institute in Fukui (185 miles northwest of Tokyo) has been leaking radioactive tritium since January.
1. Nuclear Explosion in Russian Factory Leaves Four Dead and Three Injured
According to a report from the Russian Ministry released on 22 June, a nuclear explosion on 21 June caused four deaths and three injuries. A previous report stated that there was only one death and seven injuries. The explosion, which was reportedly self-generated, occurred in the calcium reprocessing area of the Tchepetski factory in Glazov, Russia. The factory specializes in manufacturing zirconium alloys and enriched uranium.
2. Romanian Workers Exposed to High Radiation
The Romanian National Commission for the Control of Nuclear Activities (CNCAN) reported on 12 December that nine workers were exposed to serious levels of radiation while dismantling a smelting plant in western Romania last June. The men have been hospitalized since June, but the incident was kept secret while police conducted an investigation. The nine workers were employed to dismantle two furnaces at the Victoria Calan plant, which has been closed since the fall of communist rule in the country in 1989. CNCAN Director Anton Coroianu stated, “They wore no protective clothes. They got a huge dose of radiation from Cobalt 60, which could have killed them at once.” Cobalt 60 is a man-made radioactive isotope which serves many medical and industrial uses. An 1,100-square-foot area around the furnaces has been sealed off to everyone except authorized personnel, including investigators, who must wear protective clothing before entering the site.
3. Nuclear Accident Highlights Folly of Nuclear Energy
A serious accident at the Chapelcross nuclear reactor in Annan, Scotland sent 24 radioactive fuel rods crashing to the floor, nearly causing the death of plant workers and the release of a radioactive cloud which would have contaminated the entire region. The accident occurred when engineers were routinely removing irradiated uranium fuel rods by remote control from reactor three. After trying to attach a cylinder containing 24 rods to a crane, the cylinder came loose and fell two-and-a-half feet onto the shaft door. Authorities at the nuclear power plant are currently working on how to retrieve the fuel rods which are lying where they fell on 5 July. Normal fueling operations were suspended at Chapelcross and its sister station, Calder Hall at Sellafield.
Chapelcross is Scotland’s oldest nuclear power station and is operated by British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL). The plant houses four 50-megawatt reactors and a secret military plant which produces radioactive tritium for Trident warheads. Two months ago another accident occurred at Chapelcross during de-fueling when a grab-release mechanism failed. In 1999 alone there were four pollution incidents at the plant. One of those incidents caused contamination in the surrounding community. In May 1967 radioactivity was released into the environment when fuel caught fire in a reactor and it suffered a partial meltdown.
News of the accident was not publicized in Scotland, which alarmed environmentalists and politicians alike. They are calling for stricter regulations and say that this accident further demonstrates the folly of nuclear energy and the British government’s plan to build new nuclear reactors.
4. Fire Raises Concern Over Russia’s Early Warning System
Russia lost contact with four military satellites for part of the day on 10 May after a fire ravaged a ground relay station southwest of Moscow. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, a short circuit triggered the fire in the complex located underground. The fire demonstrated rising concern about failures in Russia’s aging early-warning satellite system, which provide assurances against false nuclear launch alerts. Without an early-warning system, false alerts could lead to an accidental retaliatory nuclear launch. The most recent incident occurred in 1995 when Russia briefly mistook a scientific rocket launch from Norway for a US nuclear missile launch.
5. Japanese Nuclear Reactor Leaks Radioactive Material
Local officials revealed in May that a nuclear reactor at the Nuclear Cycle Development Institute in Fukui (185 miles northwest of Tokyo) leaked radioactive tritium since January. The facility has been in operation since 1979 and is used to develop new fuel and research plutonium usage.
A Fukui prefectural government official stated that “A small leak [of] tritium is natural. But this leak was slightly over the normal amount.” The reason for the leak is unknown. Operation at the facility has been temporarily halted to conduct inspections.
On 30 September 1999, a radiation leak at the Tokaimura fuel reprocessing plant killed two workers and injured many others. Two workers who, in trying to save time, mixed excessive amounts of uranium in buckets instead of using designated mechanized tanks, triggered the leak. Six former reprocessing plant officials have been charged with negligence in the leak.
Japan has 51 nuclear reactors which provide approximately one third of the nation’s energy supply. Nuclear power is promoted as the solution to Japan’s energy needs, but accidents and mishaps have heightened public concern over the safety of the nuclear industry.