The Top 10 Nuclear Disasters
10. Castle Bravo, a Botched Hydrogen Bomb Test
In 1954, some engineers from Los Alamos National Laboratory made a little miscalculation before a nuclear weapons test. Their hydrogen bomb was more than twice as powerful as expected. It created a 15 megaton blast that showered a Japanese fishing boat and several Pacific islands with radioactive fallout.
9. Three Mile Island
In 1979, just weeks after a Jane Fonda movie (The China Syndrome) raised questions about the safety of nuclear power, a valve in the cooling system of the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor failed. It was stuck open, allowing lots of coolant water to escape. To make matters worse, an indicator light had gone out, which mislead the plant operators to think that the valve was closed. Over the course of several hours, the nuclear reactor overheated and had a partial meltdown. There was a small explosion, and a miniscule amount of radioactive material was released outside of the plant. The inside of the plant, however, was highly contaminated, and had to be shut own. The initial cleanup effort cost nearly a billion dollars.
8. Baneberry test
Of the many nuclear weapons tests conducted at Yucca Flat in Nevada, this 1970 explosion was the biggest disaster. Although the warhead was buried 900 feet below ground, it sent a plume of iodine-131-packed gas up into the jet stream. Soon after, radioactive snow was falling in Northern California.
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