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The Windscale nuclear accident 1957, and still not cleaned up. – a warning from history

Nuclear power: the warnings from history. The PM wants to keep the lights
on with eight new atomic plants. He’s in denial if he thinks the
catastrophes of the past won’t happen again.

If Johnson is going to use nuclear history to justify his strategy, perhaps he needs to look a little
deeper, because Windscale was also the site of one of the world’s first
serious nuclear accidents. In October 1957, a fire raged for three days in
one of the reactors after changes to increase production.

Through the heroism of staff, and a significant degree of luck, the catastrophe was
contained. But significant radiation was released. Milk from cows within
200 square miles was contaminated. In 1982 officials estimated 260 people
developed cancer and 32 people died as a result. The two first reactors at
Windscale were closed, but the clean-up is still under way today.

Last November the top of the chimney in which the fire blazed was removed as
part of the demolition. The renowned nuclear historian Serhii Plokhy
describes the episode in a forthcoming book and points out: “The existing
nuclear industry is an open-ended liability.” No nuclear power station
has ever been fully decommissioned.

In Atoms and Ashes, Plokhy, 64, a
Ukrainian historian at Harvard, explores the causes and consequences of
Windscale and five other nuclear accidents: at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific
in 1954, Kyshtym in Russia in 1957, Three Mile Island in the US in 1979,
Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986 and Fukushima in Japan in 2011.While most of
these accidents took place in the formative years of nuclear science,
Plokhy argues they could easily happen again. “Technology was improved as
a result, and every accident contributed to the shaping of subsequent
safety procedures and culture,” he writes.

“And yet nuclear accidents
occur again and again. Many of the political, economic, social, and
cultural factors that led to the accidents of the past are still with us
today, making the nuclear industry vulnerable to repeating old mistakes in
new and unexpected ways.”

 Times 9th April 2022

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/nuclear-power-latest-warnings-history-chernobyl-ph9q7w80j

April 11, 2022 - Posted by | history, incidents, UK

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