Thailand's Kamol Sukosol Electric Company dumps three large cylinders containing cobalt-60 sources at a vacant parking lot in Samut Prakarn province. Three scrap collectors take the cylinders to a scrap metal shop and cut them open with an oxyacetylene torch. Fourteen people are exposed to the sources. The incident comes to light about 18 days later when one or more of them is treated at a local hospital. Three people die in March, two lose some of their fingers, and 11 are in critical condition for some period.
Officials from the Office of Atomic Energy for Peace (OAEP) trace the source to the scrap shop 11 hours later. Lacking any protective clothing, the team deals with Thailand's first radiation emergency by working in short stints and collecting the 5-cm Co-60 pellets with long pliers. Once the shop is cleaned up, a dispute over compensation ensues. Kamol Sukosol pays minimal amounts to some victims. Neither it nor the OAEP accepts any responsibility for the accident.
A tube fails in the steam generator of reactor #2 at Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, New York. The failure allows a small amount of radioactive steam to be vented. No detectable radioactivity is observed off the site. The plant operator, Consolidated Edison (Con Ed) is cited by the NRC for tardy notification. Con Ed is subsequently required to replace all four steam generators.
Four iridium-192 sources used for checking pipes are lost in or near Abu Rawash, near Cairo, Egypt in late April. Workers search but fail to find them, and do not inform authorities. The family of Fadl Hassan Fadl finds one source on 5 May and takes it home, believing it to be precious metal. Hassan Fadl Hassan, nine years old, dies on 5 June with an exposure of 750 rad, although the diagnosis is incorrect at this point. Similar symptoms appear in other family members on 12 June; they are hospitalized. The 61-year-old father, Fadl Hassan Fadl, dies on 16 June from a dose of 550 rad. Hassan's wife and four more of their children suffer radiation sickness from doses of 300 to 400 rad. 76 neighbors are treated for minor symptoms. Radiation surveys begin on 25 June and the source is found the next day. Authorities recover the other three sources on 3 July, after arresting the four workers who lost them.
The British nuclear attack submarine HMS Tireless suffers a leak in a primary coolant line, which disables her main reactor. She manages to make port in Gibraltar shortly after the accident. What is initially thought to be a minor crack in a coolant pipe turns out to be worse (described as a "split" by one source), and is reportedly due to a design fault. The Tireless is laid up at Gibraltar until 02 May 2001, nearly a year later. The other 12 vessels of her class are removed from service temporarily, reportedly so that their reactors can be checked for a similar problem.
United States Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH) leads a Senate field hearing to discover evidence about on- and off-site contamination at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Isotope Separation Plant in Piketon, Ohio. Testimony indicates that the Piketon plant staff altered workers' radiation dosimeter readings and worked with medical professionals to fight workers' compensation claims.
Wildfires in the vicinity of the Hanford Works hit the highly radioactive "B/C" waste disposal trenches, raising airborne plutonium levels in the nearby cities of Pasco and Richland to 1,000 times normal. Wildfires also threaten Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory. In the later case, the flames closely approach large amounts of stored radioactive waste and force the evacuation of 1,800 workers.
The Oscar II-class submarine SSGN Kursk sinks during a traning exercise in the Barents Sea after a torpedo accident results in two explosions. Because Kursk was scheduled to fire a high speed "super-cavitating" torpedo (which vented high pressure gas into the torpedo room, causing great discomfort to the torpedo crews) it has become normal practice to leave the watertight doors in the submarine open, to allow the gas to expand into a larger volume, reducing overpressure.
The first explosion apparently results from a leak of hydrogen peroxide from a torpedo. This propellant reacts violently with most metals and any organic substance, generating extreme heat and oxygen gas. The heat and oxygen tend to make the fire impossible to quench. (A similar incident in 1955 sank the British submarine HMS Sidon at the dock, killing 13.)
The second explosion, about two minutes after the first, is equivalent to 5,000 Kg of TNT — approximately the size of the warhead on a conventionally armed Russian torpedo. Presumably the fire set off the warhead in the Kursk's torpedo.
The submarine quickly sinks in shallow water near shore. Some of the crew of 118 survive the initial explosion and flooding. However, logistical problems, compounded by Russia's delay in requesting help from other nations, doom them to suffocation. About a year later, the hulk is raised and scrapped.
Three radiographers are checking a gas pipeline in Samara Oblast, Russia. Their radiation monitor has no batteries, so they don't notice the 240-curie Iridium-192 source drop out of its shielded compartment. They sleep in their vehicle with the equipment. In the morning all are nauseous and vomiting, having suffered doses from 100 to 300 rads.
While hosting a "Distinguished Visitor" cruise off Hawaii for the Chief of Staff, Submarine Forces Pacific and sixteen civilian guests, the Los Angeles class nuclear attack submarine USS Greeneville (SSN-772) demonstrates an Emergency Main Ballast Tank Blow — a way to get the submarine to the surface quickly. The Greeneville collides with the Japanese fishing boat Ehime Maru.
The submarine's vertical fin slices into the engine room of the Ehime Maru, which sinks in ten minutes. Nine of its 35 passengers and crew are killed. The survivors huddle on life rafts until help arrives. The Greeneville stands by, but is unable by configuration to assist with rescue.
The submarine's commander is relieved immediately after the accident. Two months of repair work in drydock are needed to put the Greeneville back in service. A later board of inquiry fines its commander and disciplines other senior officers. The routine practice of hosting civilian guests comes under review.
Eight days after the sinking, a Navy salvage team locates the Ehime Maru in 2,000 feet of water. She is later raised and placed in a shallow-water recovery site near Oahu. American and Japanese divers recover eight of the nine victims. On 25 November 2001 she is towed out to sea and ceremoniously laid to rest. The total cost of the accident, including repairs to the Greeneville, compensation to Japan and victims' families, and the $60 million salvage operation, comes to $100 million.
Three radioisotope power sources (RTGs) are stolen from lighthouses of Russia's Defense Ministry on an island in the White Sea. Two looters of non-ferrous metals receive severe doses of radiation. The RTGs are recovered in June 2001 and sent to the Mayak reprocessing facility. The Norwegian province of Finnmark foots the bill for this operation as part of a cooperative agreement with the Murmansk region. The agreement envisions decommissioning the many RTGs at Russian lighthouses and replacing them with solar array-battery systems.
The UK ministry of Defence admits exposing British, Australian and New Zealand servicemen to radiation during the 1950s and 60s. The experiments, for which each participant gave consent, tested the effectiveness of radiation-protection gear. Wearing the gear, the soldiers walked, ran or crawled through contaminated bomb test sites at Monte Bello Island and Maralinga. The governments of Australia and New Zealand demand a full inquiry.
Twenty-eight patients at the Panama National Institute of Oncology undergoing radiation therapy for colon, prostate, and cervical cancer receive overexposures ranging from 20 to 100 percent over the prescribed dose. Nine of the patients have died, with five of the deaths attributed to radiation overexposure. Many of the remaining patients are expected to develop serious radiation related complications.
Equipment used at the Institute included a Theratron 780-C Cobalt 60 teletherapy system manufactured by Theratronics Incorporated of Ontario, Canada, and radiation treatment planning software manufactured by Multidata Systems International Corporation of St. Louis, MO. Indications are that the causes of the problem are the way beam block data must be entered into the Multidata software and the way that software interprets the beam block data entered. Nothing to date suggests that a failure or malfunction of the Theratronics teletherapy system caused or contributed to the reported events.
Two workers are exposed to a small amount of radiation and suffer minor burns when a fire breaks out at the Onagawa Nuclear Power Station in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. The fire occurs in the basement of reactor #3 when, during a routine inspection, a spray can is accidentally punctured and ignites a sheet of plastic.
During an extended power uprate test of the Quad Cities nuclear power plant in Cordova, Illinois, Unit 2 begins to shake itself apart. On 29 March the vibrations cause leaks in the cooling system and the plant is manually shut down. Despite this, uprate tests continue through 11 July, with leaks continuing to develop and holes in pipes being found and patched.
The unit is restarted on 21 July and runs until 28 May 2003 when the steam dryer fails with a 3/4-inch by 9-foot crack. No further data are reported.
Workers at Davis-Besse nuclear power plant in Oak Harbor, Ohio are replacing a cracked CRDM (control rod drive mechanism) nozzle when they discover a "football-sized" hole eaten 6 inches into the steel outer shell of the reactor vessel head. Only a 3/16th-inch shell of stainless steel is left to hold back 87,000 U.S. gallons of radioactive water at 2,000 psi. The cracked CRDM nozzle leaked borated water (weak acid) onto the reactor head over a period of nearly six years, gradually eroding the steel.
On 22 April 2005, the NRC proposes a $5 million fine against FirstEnergy, the operator of Davis-Besse, for failure to clean the reactor vessel in 2000. (This fine is levied in June 2005.) System engineer Andrew Siemaszko is banned from working in the industry for five years because of his falsification of reactor vessel cleaning logs in May 2000.
Gu Jiming, a nuclear scientist in Guangzhou, China, attacks a business rival with pellets of iridium-192. Gu uses forged papers to obtain an industrial machine holding the pellets, then places them above the ceiling panels in the hospital office of his rival. The victim soon reports memory loss, fatigue, appetite loss, headaches, vomiting, and bleeding gums. Another 74 staff members at the hospital, including one pregnant woman, also develop symptoms. Gu is convicted 29 September 2003 and given a suspended death sentence (life in prison.) An assistant is sentenced to a 15-year prison term.
The British nuclear attack submarine HMS Trafalgar (S107) runs aground off the Isle of Skye while taking part in "Perisher", the six-month long training course for prospective submarine commanding officers. Travelling at roughly 15 knots, she suffers damage that takes 15 months to repair at the shipyard in Devonport, at a reported cost of £5 million. Two instructors are court-martialed and reprimanded, and the student in charge at the time receives administrative punishment.
The nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Oklahoma City (SSN-723) collides with a Norwegian commercial vessel while transiting the western Mediterranean Sea east of the Strait of Gibraltar. At the time of the accident, the submarine is coming up to periscope depth. The submarine suffers damage to its periscope and sail area, but its propulsion system is not affected, and there are no injuries. Oklahoma City proceeds to La Maddalena, Sardinia, where it undergoes repair at the Naval Support Activity facility. The Norwegian vessel does not respond to radio calls from the submarine, does not appear to need assistance, and steams away.
Military personnel from the Leningrad Naval Base discover a vandalized lighthouse near Kurgolovo on the Baltic Sea. The RTG was looted for scrap metal. The "hot" strontium-90 capsule, discarded on the ice, melted through to the sea floor. Even though the ice is one meter thick, the gamma radiation dose rate directly above the sunken capsule measures 0.3Sv/h.
A similar case happened in the Leningrad region in 1999. An identical lighthouse was found "completely destroyed". Its RTG's radioactive power element was discarded at a bus station in the city of Kingisepp, 50 km away. Three people whom the police established were the perpetrators of the 1999 episode died from radiation poisoning.
"A nuclear power facility in mid-Iraq was looted and barrels that stored uranium known as "yellow cake" were taken from the site. There is a high possibility that local residents near the facility have been exposed to radiation."
No. 361, a Chinese Ming-class diesel-electric attack submarine, is taking part in a training exercise east of the Neichangshan Islands, off the northeast coast of China, when it suffers an undescribed accident. Reportedly, the diesel engine failed to shut down, using up all the oxygen in the small submarine and suffocating the 70 people aboard. The loss is discovered 10 days later when No. 361 fails to report in as scheduled.
It is not known whether the vessel carried nuclear weapons. The crew of a Ming-class submarine is normally 55 (9 officers and 46 enlisted). Observers suggest that the fifteen additional casualties could be high-ranking observers, and suggest that the difficulty of hiding their disappearance might explain why the Chinese government made the accident known.
A cancer patient undergoing radiation treatment for breast cancer at Saint Joseph's Hospital in Houston, Texas receives a large localized skin dose due to source misplacement. The source, in a high dose-rate afterloader, is placed 20 cm instead of 20 mm from the catheter tip during this and subsequent treatments. The patient receives a 7,000 rad dose to a skin area 1 cm in diameter, resulting in erythema after two weeks. The erythema does not heal and the ulceration is surgically removed, after which the patient heals in two months.
The error is attributed to human error in entering the treatment plan into the device's control console following an initial QA test. Improvements to the device's control system are also recommended.
About 1,700 apartments in Taiwan become contaminated with Cobalt-60, and about 10,000 residents in the contaminated apartments receive gamma radiation doses averaging about 0.34 Sv, the highest 7 Sv. Such amounts of radiation should cause leukemia at many times the normal rate, with an increase in deaths due to solid cancer. But actually [the source claims], "the overall spontaneous cancer deaths of the residents were sharply reduced to only 3.6 % of the general population. So that the radiation received continuously (hereafter referred to as chronic radiation) in the Co-60 contaminated apartments is always hormetic and could effectively immunize from cancers. It is different from the health effects of radiation received instantaneously or acutely (hereafter referred to as acute radiation) in a nuclear explosion or accident. As chronic radiation is very much similar to the radiation received in the peaceful use of nuclear energy and medical use of radiation, chronic radiation should never be feared by public but should be earnestly and medically employed as immunity from cancers, and it might also immune from hereditary diseases. The conventionally policies, standards and measures for radiation protection should be managed separately for benefiting not only the peaceful use of nuclear energy and medical use of radiation, but also for effectively used as immunity from cancers and hereditary diseases. The hormetic health effects of chronic radiation might also occur in other substances, such as toxic chemicals and microorganisms, it might conclude that any toxic substances received in low dose rate is always beneficial to humanity even in quite amount dose."
Note: Here we have a report from Taiwan, badly translated from Chinese, which claims beneficial effects from continuous doses of radiation. I've edited it somewhat (leaving the grammar as is), but you can check the source to judge whether I've distorted the meaning. Suffice it to say that, in their claims for hormesis, these authors (the source provides contact information) have made a mistake somewhere. As for the origin of the cobalt-60 exposures, no information is provided.
An iridium-192 wafer somehow winds up on the floor of a building in Louisiana. A janitor, thinking it is ordinary contamination, tries to wipe it up by hand and receives a 20- to 700-rem dose to his hand.
A woman who believes she cannot become pregnant is admitted to Community Hospital in Anderson, Indiana. She declines a pregnancy test prior to treatment. She is administered 29.8 mCi of iodine-131 for hyperthyroidism treatment. She is later found to have been 15 weeks pregnant at the time of treatment. Dosage to the fetus is estimated at 7.4 rads whole body and 27,800 rads to the thyroid, with fetal thyroid ablation anticipated.
The licensee attributes the accident to human error by the patient.
A truck used by Mid American Inspection Services of Gaylord, Michigan is left at a car dealership for service with a 35 Curie iridium-192 source in the truck's vault. The vault is locked; however, the keys to it are on the ring left with the dealer, and the transport paperwork required by DOT is not in the truck. The truck is test-driven by dealer personnel who have no idea the source is present; and had it been in an accident, emergency responders would not have the benefit of the DOT paperwork. NRC proposes assessing a fine of $6,000 against radiography licensee Mid American.
While inspecting RTGs located on the Arctic coast of the Chukokta Autonomous District in Russia's far east, a team from the monitoring commission finds one RTG in a state of "utter dilapidation" on the Cape of Navarin in the Bering region. The commission's report states that the RTG "self-destroyed as a result of some, not specified yet, inner impact." It measures dose rates as high as 15 R/h on the surface of the RTG. A followup visit in July 2004 finds the dose rate has risen to 87 R/h and strontium-90 is beginning to leak into the environment.
A Russian "November" class attack submarine, the K-159, sinks in bad weather in the Barents Sea five kilometers northwest of the Arctic Island of Kildin. The nuclear-powered submarine is being towed on pontoons from the Gremikha naval base to the Polyarny shipyard for dismantling. Nine crew members are killed; only one survives the accident.
A lighthouse on the small island of Golets in Russia's Arctic region contains a particularly powerful RTG. Northern Fleet service personnel on an inspection visit find the door to the lighthouse forced and the casing materials from the RTG stolen. The materials used to encase and shield RTGs — aluminum, stainless steel and depleted uranium — are valuable on the surplus market. The report states that six RHS-90s (radioactive heat sources using strontium-90) were not taken, and implies that the RTG source may also have been left behind.
About 1.6 gallons of radioactive water leak from a funnel in the waste processing system of the No. 1 reactor at Chubu Electric Power's Hamaoka plant, The leak is discovered when warning alarms sound, alerting workers at the plant. The cause of the leak was still under investigation, according to company spokesman Toshiyuki Hayashi. He says the material is contained, and there is no danger to humans or the environment.
In November 2001, the same reactor, which has a generating capacity of 540,000 kilowatts, was shut down after two radioactive leaks occurred within three days. Although no radiation escaped outside the reactor in either of those cases, it has been undergoing rigorous inspections since April 2002, Hayashi said.
Japan relies on nuclear power for about 30 percent of its electricity. Chubu Electric is Japan's third-largest power company and serves the central Japan region, including the major city of Nagoya. Its Hamaoka plant is about 120 miles southwest of Tokyo.
USS Hartford (SSN-768), 57th member of the Los Angeles class of fast attack submarines, runs hard aground near Capera Island, Italy, sustaining heavy damage. The submarine returns under its own power to La Maddalena naval base for temporary repairs. The Hartford returns to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for additional repairs. USS Hartford had just began a 6-month deployment one month before the grounding. Following an investigation of the grounding, the Hartford's Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Christopher R. Van Metre, as well as one other officer and one enlisted crew member, are relieved of their duties. Also relieved is the Commander of Submarine Squadron 22, Capt. Greg Parker.
At Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific (SWFPAC) near Bremerton, Washington, a Trident I C4 missile being lifted out of its tube on the USS Georgia (SSBN-729) by a crane strikes a ladder mistakenly left inside the tube. The impact results in a 9-inch gash that damages the cone and "came within inches of hitting one of the missile's multiple warheads beneath the metal shroud." Following the incident, the commanding officer of SWFPAC is relieved of command.
An inspection team from the Hydrographic Service of the Russian Northern Fleet finds a Beta-M RTG from lighthouse 414.1 on the Bay of Oleniya at Kola Harbor vandalized on the shore. The unit has been disassembled and looted by scrap metal thieves. One strontium-90 source is found sunk near the shore in about three meters of water. The Beta-M carries multiple sources weighing about 5kg total and having an aggregate rated activity of 800 to 1,000 R/h at distances from 2 to 5 cm.
Nearly 1,000 RTGs are in use throughout Russia's Arctic region to power lighthouses and navigational aids. Of these, some 700 are of the Beta-M type. The Beta-M weighs 560 kg and has a power output of 230 Watts. Its case is not welded and can be taken apart with hand tools.
The same inspection team finds a completely dismantled Beta-M RTG, used to energize Navigational Mark #437, on the island of Yuzhny Goryachinsky in Kola Harbor, near Polyarny, Russia. The generator's radioactive source is found on the ground near the shoreline on the northern part of the island.
The perpetrators, thought to be the same ones who vandalized the beacon at lighthouse 414.1, are never caught. It is likely they received radiation injury, possibly even a fatal dose.
Three women being treated at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, South Bend, Indiana receive localized overdoses during brachytherapy using cesium-137 sources. The brachytherapy applicator is loaded with sources of incorrect size, allowing them to migrate from the intended position and cause localized doses of 2,000, 2,000, and 1,500 rad to the skin of the respective patients' upper thighs. All three patients develop skin lesions on the inner thigh after two weeks.
A corroded pipe at the #3 reactor of the Mihama plant in Fukui Prefecture suddenly bursts at 3:30 PM, inundating 11 or 12 nearby workers with superheated steam. Two of the workers die the same day; the rest are in critical to serious condition. The ultimate death toll is five, making this Japan's worst reactor accident.
There is no radiation release because the pipe is part of the secondary cooling loop. But the plant operator, Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO), has ignored warnings about the corroded condition of cooling-system pipes. The particular pipe that burst has not been inspected for 28 years, and has degraded to 1.4mm in thickness — roughly one-tenth of its original dimension. Also, a similar incident on the #2 reactor in 1991 allowed the primary and secondary loops to exchange coolant.
These poor safety management practices impel Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency to raise the incident rating on 3 June 2005. The agency also orders KEPCO to shut down the reactor until it can document that all plumbing systems are in satisfactory condition.
Businessman Roman Tsepov, of St. Petersburg, Russia, falls ill shortly after a business trip to Moscow. He dies on 24 September of poisoning with unknown material. A post mortem analysis reportedly suggests radioactive material was used in the murder, with contamination of an unspecified radioactive element found at one million times background levels. Other reports suggest the poison was a medicine used to treat leukemia. Tsepov's symptoms prior to death have been described as severe radiation sickness.
Tsepov was general director of the Baltik-Escort private security company, whose clients had included Vladimir Putin when Putin was deputy mayor of St. Petersburg. Both Tsepov and Alexander Litvinenko had connections to a scandal involving the Russian oil company Yukos.
Zemlya Bunge, Novosiberian Islands, Yakutia — Suspended on cables below a helicopter, two RTGs (specifically numbers 4 & 5 of the "Efir-MA" model, produced in 1982) are being flown to the Russian polar station at Sannikova. Approaching the island, the helicopter runs into heavy weather and the crew is forced to jettison the RTGs 112 km short of their destination. They fall onto the tundra of Zemlya Bunge island from a height of 50 meters and the impact shatters their shielding. (The report notes that this happens because they are being flown without protective transport casks, in breach of IAEA regulations.) At a height of 10 meters above the impact site, gamma radiation flux measures 4 milliSieverts per hour. Recovery operations can take place no sooner than the summer of 2005.
A pregnant woman is administered hyperthyroidism diagnosis and treatment at Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. The woman has indicated in writing that she is not pregnant. She is administered 0.205 mCi of iodine-123 on 2 November for a hyperthroidism diagnostic procedure, and 12.7 mCi of iodine-131 on 16 November for treatment of hyperthroidism.
The pregnancy is discovered when the woman later sees her physician for abdominal pain; she was 17 weeks' pregnant at the time of the iodine-131 administration. Estimated fetal dose was 2.04 rad whole body and 22,400 rad to the thryoid. A blood test on the fetus confirms that the fetus had hyperthroidism; an ultrasound test shows no other abnormalities. In-utero treatments are planned to mitigate the effects of hyperthyroidism.
At 1:24 PM, a turbine malfunction shuts down block number two of Russia's Balakovskaya nuclear power station. Despite reports from RIA Novosti news agency that no radioactivity was released, residents of this region 800 km southeast of Moscow rush to buy radiation antidotes such as iodine. Sergei Kiriyenko, Russian presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District, flies out and inspects the plant on Nov. 6, declares it safe. The reactor is restarted on Nov. 7.
The Russian nuclear submarine K-223 from the Pacific Fleet suffers an explosion that kills a sailor. The explosion, caused by the "rupture of a pipe feeding pressure to a fresh water tank," injures several crewmen and leads to the death of Dmitry Koval, who dies aiding his fellows. Some of them were injured after the explosion. The accident happens at a jetty at the Pacific Fleet submarine base in Kamchatka. A source in the Pacific Fleet headquarters is quoted as saying that the military prosecutor's office of the Pacific Fleet has opened a criminal case about the sailor's death.
A patient in Lyon, France receiving treatment by radiotherapy is overexposed due to confusion over units used in defining the body surface to be irradiated. The patient develops symptoms in May 2005 which at that time are attributed to over-sensitivity to radiation. These conditions lead to the patient's death in March 2006.
During a high-speed run from Guam to Australia, the Los Angeles class nuclear submarine USS San Francisco (SSN-711) runs aground about 260km south of the island of Guam. One sailor dies on board the submarine after failed attempts at treatment. Of the crew of 137 sailors, 98 are injured, 30 seriously. The submarine, escorted by USCG cutter Galveston Island (WPB-1349) and USNS GYSGT Fred W. Stockham (T-AK 3017), proceeds on the surface to Guam for emergency repairs.
Radiotherapy patients at the Jean Monmet d'Epinal hospital in Epinal, France begin to show symptoms of radiation overexposure. It develops that, over the previous year, 23 patients were overdosed during prostate cancer treatments. Of these, 13 show localized radiation injuries; one dies on 25 JUne 2006 as a result. In September 2006, an inquiry concludes that mis-designed software, compounded by inadequate staff training, was the cause.
Farmers in the Normandy region of France are informed that groundwater they use for their dairy cattle is contaminated by radioactive tritium. The contamination, discovered and revealed by the French laboratory ACRO, comes from the nuclear waste disposal facility at La Hague, the Centre Stockage de la Manche (CSM), located on the western tip of the Cotentin Peninsula. Dr. David Boiley, ACRO's Director, says that repeated releases have occurred and that a high, constant level of contamination exists in the aquifer that underlies the area. ACRO measurements show an average level in the aquifer 7.5 times the permitted value of 100 Bequerels per liter (Bq/l). In farmland close to the dumpsite, tritium levels in the underground aquifer average 9,000 Bq/l. Tritium is regarded by the French Radioactive Waste Agency as a precursor for contamination by other radionuclides including strontium, cesium and plutonium.
High tritium levels are detected when workers dig a new foundation for a crane at the Indian Point site, which is operated by Entergy. The level in one well is thirty times the EPA standard. The source of the leak has not yet been pinpointed, although a leak in a spent-fuel pool near one of the reactors is suspected.
At a construction site in Ranquil, Chile, a 90-Curie Ir-192 source is being used for radiography of welds on an evaporation tower. Unnoticed by the operator, working just before midnight, the source falls from the machine onto a 22-m high work platform. About 11 AM on 15 December, a worker finds the source and carries it in his hand to the site's office. Two other workers are also in contact with it for several minutes. Shortly thereafter, the loss is discovered when a Finnish worker approaches the office and the dosimeter he carries sounds an alarm.
On 16 December, the three workers most exposed are hospitalized in Santiago. On 19 December, an IAEA team visits the site and recommends the worker who carried the source be transferred to France for treatment; he is admitted to a hospital in France on 29 December. As of March 2006 he remains hospitalized in France. His injuries include radiation burns on the hands and legs.
Subsequent investigation identifies a fourth worker with symptoms of radiation injury.
Beginning on 5 January 2006, a fifteen-year-old female patient with a tumor is given radiotherapy treatments at Beatson Oncology Centre in Glasgow, Scotland. The final treatment is given on 1 February. Then it is discovered that, due to human error, her entire course of 17 treatments has been given with excessive doses. (One report states the doses were 65% too high.)
Symptoms appear promptly. As of early February 2006, they include large sores on the scalp and ears and permanently higher than normal body temperature. The total dose is reported as potentially fatal; the localized dose to the brain and neck poses a risk of brain damage, paralysis, or death through damage to blood vessels in nerve tissue. The patient's condition, including damage to the eyes, improves by late February in response to hyperbaric treatment. On 19 October the patient, then aged 16, dies; she had been recovering from surgery in September to remove fluid from her brain.
An investigation into the cause of the accident is reportedly in its final stages as of October. The patient's death is ultimately attributed by health officials to her cancer. Reports indicate that 39 other patients at Beatson had received overdoses during radiotherapy between 1985 and 2006; most suffered no ill effects.
A tritium leak is discovered at the Byron Nuclear Generating Station, another Exelon plant in Illinois. The tritium levels in vaults along pipes that transport waste water were at four times the EPA standard. It is not yet clear whether these elevated tritium levels have reached the groundwater.
Arizona Public Service (APS) reports to the state of Arizona that it had found water with a concentration of tritium three and a half times the EPA standard, in a maze of underground pipes at the Palo Verde site. Palo Verde discharges tritium into the air, and APS has suggested that some of it may have fallen back to the ground as rain. It is unclear if tritium has moved beyond the boundary of the plant or seeped into the underground aquifers that supply water to the local area.
A worker is accidentally exposed to a Co-60 source at a facility that sterilizes medical devices by irradiation. The facility, in Fleurus, Belgium, places the devices in an exposure cell whose source is normally stowed in a pool when personnel are present. A safety interlock system is supposed to assure the stowage.
Finding the door to the exposure cell open and a radiation monitor sounding an alert, the worker resets the alarm and enters the cell for some 20 seconds to close the door. Soon afterward he becomes nauseous but does not suspect radiation exposure. Not until he suffers massive loss of hair several weeks later does he visit a doctor. Then it is discovered that his exposure was around 420 rem; this estimate is subsequently raised to 440-480 rem. He begins treatment for radiation sickness on 31 March at a French hospital.
Investigation suggests the primary cause of the accident to be a failure of the hydraulic control system that raises and lowers the source from safe storage in its pool.
Residents in Mill County, IL and areas near other Exelon Corp. nuclear power plants express concern about leaks of cooling water containing radiaoactive tritium that have been going on for years.
On 17 March, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan joins Will County district attorney James Glasgow in filing suit against Commonwealth Edison, the operator of the Braidwood plant, and its parent Exelon Corporation.
Since 2002, authorities have also been concerned about vibration problems at Excelon's Quad Cities plant and others it operates.
The Braidwood Generating Station in Illinois, 60 miles southwest of Chicago and run by Exelon, has recently been plagued by a series of tritium releases. The site has experienced eight leaks between 1996 and 2006, including one in 1998 and another in 2000. The 1998 leak resulted in the release of three million gallons of tritium-contaminated water.
It was not until November 2005 that the leaks were revealed to state officials. The public was not informed until the following month. Tritium-contaminated water has since been found in at least one drinking well and beyond the site boundary in a forest preserve.
Residents from the local area have filed a class action lawsuit against Exelon over potential health problems and loss in property values. On March 16, 2006, the state of Illinois files a lawsuit against Exelon seeking $36.5 million in fines for both the company's failure to properly maintain the underground pipeline that leaked and their delay in notifying state officials.
Workers at the Turkey Point nuclear power plant find a 1/8-inch hole drilled in a pipe connected to the reactor's cooling system pressurizer. The plant's Unit 3 was being tested after a scheduled refueling and maintenance period that began March 5th. FBI agents interview contractors and workers at the plant 30 miles south of Miami, Florida to determine whether the hole was deliberate sabotage or a simple error.
Note: This story is preserved at Liberty Post. It is gone from the Sun-Sentinel's archive, which is only maintained for the two previous weeks.
At McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence, South Carolina, a pregnant woman is administered a thyroid ablation treatment involving 15 mCi of metastable technetium-99 (Tc-99m) and 14 uCi of iodine-131. The woman had signed a statement that she was not pregnant, and persuades the administering technician that she is not pregnant. The technician fails to perform a pregnancy test as required by procedure. However, the woman is 17 weeks' pregnant.
Her obstetrician reports the issue to the nuclear medicine licensee on 3 October 2006; they estimate the dose to the fetus as 5.17 rad whole body and 13,920 rad to the thyroid. The child is born November 2006 with underactive thyroid gland but no other apparent health problems. The child is receiving thyroid supplement.
After a radiography machine is used in Dakar, Senegal, it is prepared for transport to a new location for another job. The workers who pack it up do not notice that its Ir-192 source fails to retract into a shielded compartment. The equipment is stored under a staircase for several weeks before being moved to its next use location.
Operators at the destination, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, discover the mistake as they unpack the machine. Between the two locations, four individuals receive sufficient exposure to warrant transfer to Paris, France for medical treatment. One individual's condition is described as "particularly serious." Other employees at both sites are tested for exposure.
Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent and recent critic of Russia's Putin administration, had been granted asylum in the United Kingdom in 2000 following persecution in Russia. On 1 November he falls ill in London and eventually dies of poisoning. Litvinenko had been investigating the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist critical of the Putin administration. On 1 November he meets with two Russians, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, at Pine Bar in London's Millennium Hotel, then meets with Italian Mario Scaramella at a London sushi bar. The symptoms develop a few hours later, and he is admitted to a London hospital.
Doctors conclude on 21 November that poisoning by a radioactive substance is the likely cause. Litvinenko dies on 23 November; on 24 November his death is linked to a "major dose" of radioactive polonium-210, an alpha emitter with a half-life of 138 days. Polonium-210 is a fairly volatile metal; the ingested maximum permissible body burden is 0.03 microcuries, or about 7 nanograms. Reportedly, Litvinenko's symptoms and time from exposure to death are consistent with the ingestion of about 5 microcuries of polonium-210 (about 1 microgram, equivalent to a sphere 0.6 millimeters in diameter).
On 24 November, unusually high levels of polonium-210 are found at the sushi restaurant visited by Litvinenko as well as in his home and a portion of the hospital where he was treated; these sites are closed off for decontamination. Trace levels of polonium-210 are reported on 27 November at two other central London locations, on 29 November on two British Airways 767s that served the London-Moscow route, and on 30 November at a total of 12 London locations including a soccer stadium visited by Lugovi and Kovtun on 1 November.
After a massive investigation involving 3,233 possibly exposed people, British authorities have tested a total of 735 people for Po-210 contamination. Of these, 596 are not contaminated, 120 showed probable contact with Po-210 but with levels indicating no health risk, and 17 people (one relative of Litvinenko, probably his wife, and 16 motel staff) have Po-210 levels too low to cause any illness in the short term and likely of small risk in the long term.
On 6 December, UK authorities officially announce Litvinenko's death is being investigated as a homicide. On 7 December, Russian authorities announce they are opening a criminal case, additionally stating that Kovtun has fallen ill. Disputed reports state that Kovtun is in critical condition and in a coma. On 8 December Lugovoi was reported ill as well. The use of polonium-210 in a poisoning would require access to the product from a nuclear research-type reactor and/or sophistication laboratory separation techniques. The Russian government has denied any involvement in the poisoning. On 28 May 2007 UK authorities formally request extradition of Lugovoi from Russia under charges for Litvinenko's murder. Russia formally refuses the request on 5 July, asserting that the Russian constitution does not permit extradition of citizens. The United Kingdom and Russia expel four of each other's diplomats in the rift that follows. In July 2008 it is reported that British officials have concluded there arre "strong indications" that the murder was backed by the Russian government.
The Dresden Generating Station in Grundy County, Illinois is a third Exelon nuclear plant that has had recent tritium leaks. A 2004 test following the October discovery of a pipeline leak revealed groundwater tritium levels at 500 times the federal limit. A second leak was discovered on February 12, 2006, and follow-up tests found tritium levels 25 times higher than the EPA safe drinking water level.
Water is leaking from the pond that cools Sizewell A plant's highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel. The British plant is being decommissioned, and the leak is noticed only because a contractor happens to visit on this Sunday morning to do some laundry and sees water pooling on the floor of the laundry room. A pipe has split along a 15-foot length. Some 40,000 gallons of radioactive cooling water have spilled, and the level in the pond has dropped by one foot. None of the plant's alarm systems was triggered by this event, so control room personnel are not alerted. It is likely that by the time of the next scheduled inspection of the pond, its level would have dropped far enough to expose the nuclear fuel rods. It takes only about 10 hours to drain the pond.
The report of Britain's Nuclear Installation Inspectorate treated this as a very serious incident. The rods could have caught fire, sending a plume of radioactive contamination along the Suffolk coastline. But the report said the plant operator, Magnox Electric (now Magnox South) responded well once notified.
A powerful earthquake triggers a series of malfunctions at the Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power plant on Japan's northwest coast. The problems include fires, bursting pipes and spills of radioactive water.
At Minot AFB, North Dakota, twelve AGM-129 cruise missiles are loaded aboard a B-52H bomber for transport to Barksdale AFB in Louisiana. Six of these missiles contain live W80-1 nuclear warheads, instead of the training warheads they are supposed to carry. The mistake is caused by confusion over which documentation to use. Complicating factors are the early removal of the missiles from their storage bunker by a transport crew, who did not inspect them, and the failure of the aircraft crew to properly inspect all the missiles.
The warheads are not missed for 36 hours, during which time the aircraft is not guarded as required by nuclear security protocols. When discovered, the lapse is treated as a Bent Spear. Most of the personnel involved suffer demotions or other administrative punishment. Ultimately, the incident contributes along with other problems to the resignations of General T. Michael Mosely, Air Force Chief of Staff, and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne.
A reservoir overflowed at the Tricastin facility at Bollene, 40km (25 miles) from the popular tourist city of Avignon, allowing approximately 30 cubic meters of liquid containing unenriched uranium to leak into the ground and into the nearby Gaffiere and Lauzon rivers. The site houses a nuclear power plant as well as a materials processing facility.
The French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) inspected the Tricastin plant on 10 Jul 2008 and found that existing prevention measures were deficient and that its operator, Societe Auxiliaire de Tricastin (Socatri), had been too slow to inform authorities about the leak. The plant was temporarily shut down until deficiencies could be corrected. Groundwater was contaminated by the leak, and the local population has been warned not to drink water from the rivers or eat fish caught in them. They were also cautioned not to swim in the rivers or use river water to irrigate crops. Legal action against Socastri, a subsidiary of giant Avera, is expected, because of plant deficiencies and because Socastri was late in notifying authorities of the problem.
Liquid containing uranium leaked from a broken underground pipe at a nuclear materials processing plant in Romans-sur-Isère in the Drôme region of southeastern France. It's thought that the pipe ruptured several years ago, and its construction apparently did not meet applicable regulations.
The French Nuclear Safety Authority said experts were trying to determine how much leaked uranium was present at the plant, which is owned by the electricity company Areva. An Areva spokesman, Charles Hufnagel, said the leak of lightly enriched uranium did not spread outside the site and had "absolutely no impact on the environment." He said the factory hoped the problem would be classified as INES Level 1, the lowest level possible.
Corrosion caused a 1.5" hole in a cooling-system pipe at the Indian Point NPP in Buchanan, New York. The leak, discovered Feb. 16, allowed 100,000 gallons of water to escape onto the floor of the building housing reactor #2. This water poses no threat to the environment,since it is cleaner than tap water and never comes into direct contact with radioactivity. Officials stated that the reactor could still have been safely shut down by a backup cooling system.
However, the corrosion raises concerns about other pipes in the reactor systems of the aging plant, which began operating in August 1973 and is now in its [37th] year of operation. The plant's owner, Entergy Corporation, and the NRC are studying the matter.
Indian Point also leaked water with tritium from its spent fuel pool in 2005.
A fault in a transformer shuts down the Krümmel nuclear power station near Hamburg in Bavaria, blacking out most traffic lights in the German port city and interrupting the water supply to thousands of homes. The plant had just been restarted after upgrades resulting from a similar incident in 2007.
Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel of the center-left Social Democrats wants Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives to abandon their demand to delay the planned shutdown of the country's oldest reactors. The country currently is on track to phase out all of its 17 reactors by 2021. Abandoning nuclear power quickly will make it difficult for Germany to meet its carbon-reduction targets, and will be a particular hardship for Bavaria, which currently derives some 60 percent of its power from nuclear sources.