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How often do nuclear power plants go wrong? How many accidents and incidents are there?
The explosions and nuclear fuel rods melting at Japan‘s Fukushima nuclear power plant, following the Sendai earthquake and tsunami last week, have caused fears of what will happen next. Today Japan’s nuclear safety agency has raised the nuclear alert level for Japan from four to five – making it two levels lower than the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
So far, the Japanese authorities have maintained that there is “no cause to fear a major nuclear accident”.
We have identified 33 serious incidents and accidents at nuclear power stations since the first recorded one in 1952 at Chalk River in Ontario, Canada.
The information is partially from the International Atomic Energy Authority – which, astonishingly, fails to keep a complete historical database – and partially from reports. Of those we have identified, six happened in the US and five in Japan. The UK and Russia have had three apiece.
Using Google Fusion tables, we’ve put these on a map, so you can see how they’re spread around the globe:
International Atomic Energy Authority ranks them using a special International Nuclear Events Scale (INES) – ranging from ‘anomaly’ to ‘major accident’, numbered from 1 to 7.But how serious are they? The
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