RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – When I was young, around five years old, my mom took me and my brothers to a “No Nukes” concert in New York City. That would have been around 1977, and my mom claims no memory of it. The point is, the high-tension, cold war environment I grew up in was saturated with Nuclear fears.
The current disaster in Japan has brought back all kinds of phrases and terms to the public’s consciousness; Nuclear reactors, cores, fuel rods, melt downs, radiation, toxic zombies, scary stuff.
The International Atomic Energy Agency judges Nuclear accidents based on a scale from one to seven. The most serious are classified as a seven, referred to as a “major accident,” while a one is considered a minor “anomaly.”
Last year Discovery News created this list of the five most dangerous Nuclear accidents in the world, in order of increasing danger, excerpts are below:
Tokaimura, Japan, Sept. 30, 1999, INES Rating: 4 – Less than a hundred workers and people who lived nearby were hospitalized for exposure to radiation, and 161 people who lived within 1,000 feet of the plant were evacuated.
Three Mile Island, United States, March 28, 1979, INES Rating: 5 – The NRC determined that no one had died of causes related to the incident, but found there might be one excessive cancer death over a thirty year period as a result of radiation. Also in the thirty years since, not a single U.S. nuclear power plant has been approved for development.
Windscale Fire, Great Britain, Oct. 10, 1957, INES Rating: 5 – It is estimated that 200 people in Britain developed cancer because of Windscale, half of them fatal. The exact number of fatalities is hard to come by because the British government attempted to cover up how serious the fire had been.
Kyshtym, Soviet Union (now Russia), Sept. 29, 1957, INES Rating: 6 – The Soviet government released little information about the accident, but was forced to evacuate 10,000 people in the affected area after reports surfaced of people’s skin literally falling off. The radiation is estimated to have directly caused the deaths of 200 people due to cancer.
Chernobyl, Soviet Union (now Ukraine), April 26, 1986, INES Rating: 7 – About 200,000 people had to be permanently relocated after the disaster. IAEA reported in 2005 that 56 deaths could be linked directly to the accident.
With all these scary stories of unknown and unmanageable dangers, it’s a wonder that anyone still deals with trying to harness Nuclear Energy. But a lot of people do, and even in Brazil, just a few hours south along the coast are Brazilian power plants Angra 1 and 2.
Brazil’s Eletronuclear, which operates the plants, accounts for the generation of approximately 3 percent of electric power consumed in Brazil, and more than 50 percent of electric power consumption in the State of Rio de Janeiro. Angra 3 is under construction and expected to be operational in 2015.
Proponents maintain Nuclear Energy is the is the safest, cleanest, cheapest, and most efficient type of energy, which already supplies about 17 percent of the world’s electricity. That sounds good of course, if we can just build a better mousetrap.