Undergoing the first reactor refueling at a British yard, the Royal Navy attack submarine HMS Dreadnought encounters problems while docked at Rosyth, Scotland. The serious problems delay the completion of its scheduled refit for at least ten months.
A pneumatic hoist failure drops a Bullpup missile onto the deck of the weapons magazine of USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31). The broken body of the missile leaks toxic fuel. Two hundred crew members are evacuated from the immediate area, while the rest of the 3,500-person crew stands by to move the carrier away from its berth at Naval Station North Island near San Diego, CA should that prove necessary. A Navy spokesman says the missile is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead but is not believed to be armed at the time. Soon, the broken missile is safely lifted out of the ship and transferred back to the dock.
Maintenance is being done at a U.S. Army missile site in Boetingen, west Germany. Working alone, contrary to regulations, a technician drops the nuclear warhead from a Pershing IRBM onto the pavement. The fall damages the RV nosecone and ablative material. The area is sealed off and the base is evacuated. The incident is first reported as a "Broken Arrow", but this is soon downgraded to "Bent Spear".
Cruising roughly 300 miles northwest of Spain, the November-class nuclear submarine K-8 (see 13 Oct 1960) is taking part in a large Soviet naval exercise known as "Okean 70".
On 8 April, fires break out in compartments 8 & 9, asphyxiating 19 men. The sub surfaces so the crew can fight the fires. Automatic systems have shut down the reactor, so radiation is not a problem. However, the emergency generators cannot be started, so there is no electrical power to pump air into the ballast tanks. The stored compressed air that is keeping K-8 afloat runs out on 10 April. By this time, surface ships are standing by. U.S. Navy P3 antisubmarine patrol planes observe the K-8 lying dead in the water, with crew members on deck trying to rig a tow line to one of the ships. Late in the day, most of the crew transfers to these ships. But Moscow orders them back aboard to save K-8.
K-8 is taken under tow, but the tow cable snaps in heavy seas. At 0620 the next day, the stricken submarine sinks in 4,680 meters of water. Her captain and 22 crewmen go to the bottom with her. When the P3s arrive during full daylight, they find nothing but an oil slick at the location.
Soviet vessels stand sentinel duty over the K-8 for at least 6 months, and regular patrols visit the site until 1979. It is presumed this is to keep western military forces from attempting salvage.
The Lunar Excursion Module from the aborted Apollo 13 mission reenters Earth's atmosphere. It carries an RTG-powered science station, and is aimed so that the RTG with its charge of plutonium-238 will impact near the Tonga Trench in the Pacific Ocean.
In the northern Pacific, Soviet Echo-class nuclear-powered submarine K-108 collides with the USS Tautog (SSN-615) after doing a 180° turn known as the "Crazy Ivan Maneuver". American sailors believe that the sub sinks after the collision. But in 1992, Russian Navy officers assert that it did not.
Working on the Royal Navy nuclear-powered attack submarine HMS Valiant, a shipfitter accidentally inhales radioactive material. His exposure is not specified but, according to the Ministry of Defence, he "feels no ill effects and seems to be well." He is banned for a year from further work around radioactives.
At Cumbria in the north of England, the Windscale plant is used to recover plutonium from scrap. Windscale is thought to be a well-run operation, with effective safety features. One of these is a deep trap: a loop of hose that drops 25 feet from the transfer vessel, then comes back up to feed solution to the next stage of the process. Its purpose is to prevent backflow. The differential is achieved by having the transfer vessel 8 feet above the top of the trap.
When a brief, relatively small excursion is detected in a transfer vessel, it presents a mystery. It is known that the amount of plutonium in the batch is too small for critical mass, so the theory is that precipitate must have somehow collected in the vessel. Disturbing any such sediments might precipitate another and greater excursion.
A 6-inch hole is drilled in the ceiling and used as access to open the vacuum line going into the transfer vessel. Inspection is done with a fiber-optic probe developed especially for this problem. The vessel is found to contain just liquid, but both aqueous and organic solutions are present. The trap is found to hold 39 liters of organic solution that has been there for several months and perhaps as long as 2 years. Through that time it has been leaching plutonium from the aqueous solutions that passed through; it now contains a total of 2.15kg. Although the source does not provide every detail, it is clear that this is just a "red herring": the true answer to the puzzle is that when some aqueous solution has poured into the transfer vessel, it forms an emulsion with the organic — much like the oil & vinegar you shake for your salad dressing. When the pouring stops, the emulsion spreads out in a layer, making a favorable geometry that is just above critical. Then, over 10 seconds or so, the immiscible liquids separate and the reaction stops.
Two people are in the plant at the time of the excursion. They receive doses of 2 rads and less than 1 rad.
South of Cuba en route to the Pacific, the USS Seawolf (SSBN-575) suffers a breakdown in the engine room main drain. It surfaces dead in the water and radios for assistance. The USS Blandy gets under way to escort or tow the submarine, but the next day the crew of the Seawolf is able to correct the problem and she proceeds under her own power to the U.S. base at Guantanamo.
A fire breaks out on the stern of the submarine tender USS Canopus at Holy Loch, Scotland. This vessel carries several nuclear weapons and is moored alongside two nuclear submarines: the USS Francis Scott Key (SSBN-657) and the USS James K. Polk (SSBN-645). The Francis Scott Key casts off, but the Polk remains alongside.
U.S. naval authorities in Holy Loch and London reassure the public: "We have drills and precautions which rule out any danger whatsoever." It takes four hours to bring the fire under control; its cause is never determined. Three men are killed. U.S. Navy documents record extensive damage in the area of the fire.
The Baneberry underground test in Nevada is sponsored by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The 10-kT bomb is buried 900 feet down a shaft, but because of improper stemming and capping, it releases 6.7 MCi through a fissure in the rock. This release includes 80,000 Curies of iodine-131; it exposes 86 employees of the site. The cloud of radioactive dust rises to 10,000 feet and later drifts into Canada, violating the 1963 test ban treaty.
After studying an abandoned salt mine at Lyons, KS for eight years as a waste disposal site, the Atomic Energy Commission attempts to store 180,000 gallons of contaminated water in a borehole there. Unfortunately for this effort, dubbed "Project Salt Vault", the water promptly and unexpectedly disappears. Project Salt Vault is abandoned two years later.
A technician at a seed irradiator facility somewhere in the USA walks within 0.6 meters of a 7,700-Curie cobalt-60 source, unaware that it is unshielded. His whole-body dose is estimated as 50-400 rads, with one hand receiving 600-1200 rads.
A series of reflector-evaluation experiments at the Kurchatov Institute uses fuel rods enriched to about 20% U-235 (a value typical of icebreaker reactors.) Conducted at the critical experiment facility, SF-7, these experiments involve comparing iron and beryllium as reflectors. Fuel-rod configurations are variable, with a fixed lattice of boron carbide safety rods. Criticality is achieved by flooding the core with light water and regulating the neutron flux with the safety rods.
On the day of the accident, a new core configuration has been assembled and left overnight in the dry tank. The beryllium reflector is left in place because it was used in the previous phase of testing. However, calculations for this configuration have been done only for an iron reflector. Without waiting for the supervising physicist or the control console operator, the supervisor switches on the pump to begin filling the tank with water. Some instrumentation is powered on, but not all. In particular, the safety rods are not inserted.
As the tank fills, the supervisor begins talking with a scientist from Gorky who just arrived. Standing by the tank, they see a blue glow reflected from the ceiling and hear an audible neutron alarm. They think the trouble is elsewhere and race from the room. Other workers also leave. Later, a manager is informed and tries to enter the room. But radiation levels and steam from the tank make it impossible to approach the control console. After 5 to 7 minutes, power to the pump is shut off at a substation.
Later assessment shows about 50 pulses of neutrons have occurred, each with a yield of 5x1017 fissions. Total yield is estimated as 2x1019. The scientist and the supervisor each receive roughly 1,500 rem on their feet. Other personnel are behind heavy shielding and receive much smaller doses. Because the rate of criticality insertion is low, no fuel rods are damaged and the room is not contaminated.
The New York Times reports that a U.S. Navy Sturgeon-class nuclear-powered attack submarine collides with a Soviet submarine 17 miles off the coast of the USSR. This incident is part of the Holystone intelligence-gathering effort.
In the SL-3 facility at Kurchatov Institute, a long series of experiments to measure the critical mass of a certain type of 90%-enriched fuel rod. The apparatus is broadly similar to that of the February incident: a large number of fuel rods of adjustable configuration, housed in a tank which is filled with water as a moderator. The water can be drained by a slow outlet in 15-20 minutes, or by a fast dump in 20 to 30 seconds. The crucial difference is that here the rods are supported by relatively fragile plexiglas plates.
After the final experiment concludes, the supervisor orders all control and safety rods inserted. The neutron source is removed from the core. Four staff members (including the supervisor) enter the room to examine the experiment. The supervisor then orders a fast dump of the water. The slow drain has been used in all previous experiments. Water pressure causes the plexiglas baseplate to deform; the fuel rods, unsupported, fall into a highly supercritical arrangement. The energy release, estimated as 5x1018 fissions, destroys some of the fuel rods and splashes water out of the tank.
Despite this, radioactive contamination of the room is minimal, and none escapes to the outer premises. However, all four personnel are severely exposed. A technician beside the tank receives 6,000 rem and dies in 5 days. The supervisor gets 2,000 rem and dies within 15 days. Doctors are able to save the other two, who receive doses of 700-800 rem, but both suffer long-term health impairment.
A water storage facility at a nuclear power plant operated by Northern States Power Company in Monticello, Minnesota overflows, releasing 50,000 U.S. gallons of radioactive waste water into the Mississippi River. Some radioactive substances enter the downstream water system for the city of St. Paul, MN.
The USS Dace (SSN-607) is docked at New London, CT for maintenance. During a routine transfer of reactor coolant water from the submarine to the USS Fulton (AS-11), 500 gallons of coolant are inadvertentaly spilled into the Thames River. The Navy says the coolant contains "a very small amount of radioactivity" and reports measuring no increase in environmental activity. Navy sources at the Pentagon state that similar releases have occurred in the past, without disclosure, but that none pose any danger to the public.
An individual receives a self-administered fatal dose from cesium-137 radiotherapy capsules, possibly by injecting them into soft tissue. The localized dose in this incident in Bulgaria exceeds 20,000 rads.
A U.S. Navy P-3 Orion spots Soviet nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine K-19 (Hotel-II class) on the surface 600 miles northeast of Newfoundland. The next day the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Boutwell sights the disabled submarine in company with five Soviet ships. At first it is thought that the problem relates to a nuclear-propulsion fault; but it is actually due to a hydraulic-system fire in compartment 9, with 28 deaths.
On 18 March the stricken vessel is still moving slowly across the north Atlantic, now under tow by the cruiser Vice Admiral Drozd and escorted by nine Soviet ships and the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Gallatin. On 5 April, the West German Navy reports the submarine has reached its home waters in the White Sea. It is later learned that 12 sailors were trapped aboard in the dark for the entire three-week trip, surviving on canned food and water that condensed on the hull.
The Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Plant in West Valley, NY is closed after six years of operation. The plant leaves behind tanks containing 600,000 gallons of high-level wastes, some of which eventually contaminate Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.
Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska submits information to the Congressional Record that shows the drinking water supply of a nuclear power plant has been cross-connected to a 3,000-gallon tank of radioactive water.
The PM-3A, a 1.25MW nuclear reactor, has supplied the U.S. base at McMurdo Station in Antarctica with heat and electrical power since March 1962. However, during those ten years it has not been problem-free. Now it is shut down permanently and shipped back to the U.S. along with 101 drums of contaminated soil. Later, a further 11,000 cubic meters of contaminated rock are removed. The site is not safe for general use until 1988.
"According to raw CIA intelligence reports", a Soviet nuclear submarine from the Northern Fleet suffers a radiation accident while on patrol in December off the eastern coast of North America. The accident reportedly traps some crew members in the compartment where a nuclear torpedo is leaking radiation.
"According to raw CIA intelligence reports", a Soviet nuclear submarine is crippled during naval operations in the Atlantic, probably in December 1972 or early January 1973. Crew members trapped in a forward compartment consume dry rations stored there, and later are fed from the weather deck through a small opening. The submarine reportedly is towed slowly to its home port of Severomorsk, where it arrives in February 1973. There, it is discovered that the majority of the crew has received severe exposure and several men die of radiation sickness a short time later.
(Note: It's not clear to me that this is a different event from the preceding one, or from the one dated 27 February 1972. Nor do I understand why a report dated December 1972 describes happenings in January and February 1973.)
A stuck needle on a depth gauge sends the USS Greenling (SSN-614) below its safe diving depth during a training exercise. The true depth is disclosed by another gauge before the submarine goes deep enough to crush her hull. She returns to port at Groton, CT and ultimately goes to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for a thorough check.
The USS Guardfish (SSN-612) experiences a primary coolant leak while running submerged about 370 miles south-southwest of Puget Sound. The submarine surfaces and is ventilated and decontaminated, and repairs the damage unassisted. Four crewmen are transferred to the Puget Sound Naval Hospital for monitoring.
Operating off the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Echo-II class nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine K-56 is involved in a collision with the Soviet research vessel Academic Berg. A civilian technician and 26 crewmen are killed. Because of long-standing Russian reticence on this accident, many observers believe it is due to a reactor failure.
Soviet Yankee-I class Navaga K-219 suffers a fire in a missile tube. One man is killed by toxic fumes from the interaction of missile propellant and sea water. The submarine makes port under her own power. There the damaged tube is permanently sealed and K-219 returns to service.
The U.S. Defense Department reports that a Soviet Echo-II class nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine has been sighted in the Caribbean sunt of Cuba with an eight-foot gash in her bow. This appears to result from collission woth another Soviet ship, perhaps a cruiser with visible scrapes on its hull. Both ships are part of the Soviet Caribbean task force and are taking part in practice maneuvers. According to the report, the submarine is not in danger of sinking.
This incident in the USA continues into 1976. Calibration of a cobalt-60 teletherapy unit is based on an erroneous decay curve. Overexposures rise from 10% in the first five months to 50% after 22 months. The medical physicist who did the calibration falsifies patient records to conceal his mistake. Outside consultants brought in by the hospital discover the problem. The altered records prevent a full accounting of the 22-month episode, but of the 426 patients treated during the last 16 months, 300 die within one year of exposure and 88 undergo severe trauma but survive.
The USS Spadefish (SSN-668) is undergoing a year-long overhaul at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia. Since the fall of 1973, several cases in which electrical wires aboard the submarine have been cut are noted, prompting the Navy to open an investigation into the possibility of sabotage.
The nose gear of a USAF FB-111 collapses as it commences an engine run-up during an alert exercise at Plattsburg, NY. The fighter-bomber carries two short-range air-to-surface missiles and two nuclear bombs, but these weapons are undamaged and they are unloaded without incident.
The Royal Navy nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine HMS Renown strikes the seabed while carrying out an exercise in the Firth of Clyde. The vessel has just undergone an extensive refit, but carries no nuclear warheads. Her captain faces a court-martial.
In May, the USS Pintado (SSN-672) reportedly collides almost head-on with a Soviet Yankee-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine while cruising 200 feet deep in the approaches to the Petropavlosk naval base on the Kamchatka Peninsula. The Soviet vessel surfaces almost immediately, but the extent of her damage is unknown. The Pintado departs the area at top underwater speed and proceeds to Guam. There she is placed in drydock and undergoes seven weeks of repairs. Her diving planes are moderately damaged, the starboard torpedo hatch is jammed shut, and much of her sonar gear is smashed. This was, of course, a Holystone intelligence-gathering mission.
The Isomedix Company facility in Parsippany, NJ uses a cobalt-60 source. William McKimm, the company's radiation director, receives a 400-rem dose of radiation when irradiating medical supplies. He is saved by prompt hospital treatment.
The Mutsu, Japan's first and only nuclear-powered merchant ship, develops a reactor leak while on its maiden voyage in the Pacific. Rather than a leakage of coolant, the problem appears to be neutrons and gamma rays escaping through inadequate shielding. According to reports, a temporary fix is accomplished by applying a thick layer of boiled rice. However, fishermen who are concerned about possible contamination of their scallop beds around the port of Mutsu prevent its docking for weeks. The Japanese government ends the protest by promising compensation, and the ship docks on 15 October. In 1978 it moves to Sasebo. There, work on repairing the fault begins in August 1980 at the Sasebo Heavy Industries Company.
The New York Times reports that a Soviet Kashin-class destroyer exploded and sank in the Black Sea about two weeks previously. The Kashin class can be fitted with nuclear-capable SA-N-1 Goa surface-to-air missiles, but since this particular ship was on its sea trials it is not thought to have any nuclear weapons aboard. The report is said to come from Turkey's semi-official Anatolian News Agency. Neither the U.S. Department of Defense nor officials of the Turkish Navy will confirm the account.
Karen Silkwood is a metallography laboratory technician at the Cimarron River plutonium plant of Kerr-McGee Nuclear Corporation in Crescent, OK. She joins the Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers Union local at the plant and participates in a strike. That strike reduces the number of union members from 150 to 20, and Kerr-McGee schedules a decertification election. Silkwood is elected to the union bargaining committee with the assignment to investigate health and safety issues. In the summer of 1974, she testifies to the AEC that the company is careless with the plutonium it is building into reactor fuel rods. Safety standards allegedly have slipped because of a production speedup, which results in employees being given tasks for which they are poorly trained. Silkwood also alleges that Kerr-McGee welds the fuel rods improperly and falsifies inspection records.
In October or November of 1974, Silkwood is discovered to be significantly contaminated with plutonium. Strangely, though the gloves in the glovebox she uses to make the plutonium pellets are in good shape, there is contamination on their outside surfaces. Silkwood is decontaminated at the plant, but the next day is found to show alpha activity again, although she does not work at the glovebox that morning. Her locker and automobile show no activity. Her apartment, however, shows higher levels of alpha emission than the areas where she works. The worst is 400,000 dpm (disintegrations per minute) on a package of bologna and cheese in the refrigerator. Kerr-McGee arranges for her to be examined at Los Alamos, where a doctor assures her that the amount of plutonium in her body is not dangerous. The situation causes her some stress nevertheless. Under prescription, she begins using Methaqualone to calm her nerves.
Silkwood says she has documents to prove her allegations. Shortly after six o'clock on 13 November she leaves a union meeting at the Hub Cafe in Crescent. Another attendee of that meeting later testifies that she does have a binder and a packet of documents at the cafe. She gets into her car and heads alone for Oklahoma City, about 30 miles away, to meet with New York Times reporter David Burnham and Steve Wodka, an official of her union's national. She never gets to the meeting. Later that evening, her body is found in her car, which has run off the road and struck a culvert. The car contains no documents. There is no firm evidence of foul play, and the coroner finds 0.35 milligrams of methaqualone (Quaalude) per 100 milliliters of blood at the time of her death. That amount is almost twice the recommended dosage for inducing drowsiness.
Kerr-McGee closes its nuclear fuel plants in 1975. The grounds of the Cimarron plant are still being decontaminated 25 years later. In 1979, Silkwood's estate is awarded $10.5 million for personal injury and punitive damages, but this judgement is reversed on appeal. In 1986, the Supreme Court restores the original verdict. The suit is headed for retrial when Kerr-McGee settles out of court for $1.38 million, admitting no liability. Many aspects of the case are controversial. There are those who think Karen Silkwood was murdered on Kerr-McGee's orders. Others believe she stole some plutonium and deliberately contaminated herself, seeking to discredit the company. The BBC (which has the best summary) says "That controversy continues to this day. It seems likely that the facts will never be publicly known."
Operating far at sea, the USS Guardfish (SSN-612) surfaces to dump depleted resin from its primary coolant loop demineralization system. A change in wind direction blows the waste back, contaminating the submarine. This type of accident is reportedly quite common. (See 1961.)
An Italian worker disables all safety systems on a cobalt-60 food irradiator in Brescia, Lombardia, Italy, climbs onto a conveyer belt, and enters the irradiation chamber. He receives a 1,200-rad whole-body dose and dies 13 days later.
During post-overhaul trials, the USS Swordfish (SSN-579) runs aground near Lanai in the Hawaiian Islands. She surfaces and returns to Pearl Harbor for repairs. The Navy says there is damage to sensor devices but no hull penetration or leakage. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, however, reports that a torpedo room floods.
A technician checking for air leaks with a lighted candle ignites insulation on control wiring at the Brown's Ferry nuclear power plant, located on the Tennessee River in Decatur, AL. The fire burns out electrical controls, causing a dangerous lowering of coolant water levels. The incident results in $100 million worth of damage.
The New York Times publishes a lengthy report on secret U.S. Navy intelligence operations known by the code name "Holystone." Such operations involve sending U.S. nuclear submarines into Soviet waters to photograph naval vessels there and otherwise gather data about them. Collisions occur often.
During preparations for an underground nuclear test at Yucca Flats, Nevada, a canister containing the nuclear weapon's fissile core falls 40 feet to the bottom of a shaft. Although the warhead does not detonate and there is no leakage of radioactive material, 11 Nevada Test Site workers are injured. The device, with a rated yield of under 20 kilotons, was to be detonated as part of a test series code-named "Peninsula".
While disabled in Guam's Apra Harbor, the submarine tender USS Proteus (AS-19) accidentally discharges radioactive coolant water into the harbor. Geiger-counter measurements at two of the harbor's public beaches show levels of 100 mRem/hour, fifty times the allowable rate.
The USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) and the USS Belknap (CG-26) collide in rough seas during air exercises about 70 miles east of Sicily. The overhanging flight deck of the carrier cuts into the superstructure of the cruiser, setting off fires which because of frequent flarebacks are not controlled for two and one-half hours. Six people aboard the Belknap are killed, as is one aboard the carrier.
The commander of "Carrier Striking Forces" for the Sixth Fleet, reporting to higher headquarters shortly after the collision, prudently issues a Broken Arrow message. He refers to the possibility of W45 warheads for the Belknap's Terrier missiles being involved in the fires. An hour later, however, the USS Claude V. Ricketts (DDG-5) has tied up alongside the Belknap to fight the fires. Its commander reports no radiation hazard exists. This is some good news for the Belknap, which has to be towed back to the U.S for repairs lasting four years.
Note: The USS Bordelon, which also aids the Belknap in this episode, is reported by one source to collide with the Kennedy a year later.
The USS Haddock (SSN-621) develops a leak and floods at least one compartment during a deep dive while on a trial run near Hawaii. The Navy confirms the incident, but denies charges made by crew members before the voyage. Reportedly, a number of enlisted men have charged that there are cracks in main cooling pipes, leaks, and deficiencies in other systems including the steering mechanism. The Navy asserts that all such problems are corrected before the ship puts out to sea.
Incorrect fluoroscopy procedures cause skin injuries to two patients in the USA. One receives an estimated 2,200 rads during an angiogram; the other gets 5,800 rads estimated during placement of a pacemaker.
The USS Albany (CG-10) experiences a Dull Sword nuclear weapons incident when a topside hoist fails during handling of TALOS nuclear warhead trainers. On 4 May a TALOS working group convenes aboard the Albany to observe and evaluate corrective changes made to the hoist mechanism.
Note: This account seems overblown. Would a real Dull Sword be declared for an accident involving "TALOS nuclear warhead trainers"? I think the best way to sum it up is, "This is only a test."
During a fire at the Isomedix Company in Parsippany, New Jersey, chemicals enter the cobalt-60 storage pool. These chemicals corrode the plating on the cobalt rods, releasing the radioisotope to contaminate the water and then the concrete walls of the pool. Workers report that radioactive water is being flushed down toilets, contaminating local sewer pipes. Eventually the pool walls, along with the toilet and bathroom pipes, are taken to a nuclear waste dump. The amount of radiation dumped into city sewers is never determined.
A fire erupts in the launch compartment of the Soviet Echo-II class nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine K-47. Aboard the submarine, operating in the Atlantic, eight crewmen including three officers are reported killed. The vessel is able to return to port under its own power.
At the Radiation Technology, Inc. facility in Rockaway, New Jersey, Michael Pierson is exposed to 150-300 rems when a safety interlock system designed to protect workers from a cobalt-60 source fails.
In 1986, the NRC cites company executives for intentionally disabling the system. In 1988, after more than 30 NRC violations, company president Martin Welt and nuclear engineer William Jouris are charged in federal court with 11 counts of conspiracy to defraud the NRC, making false statements and violating the Atomic Energy Act. Welt, who threatened to fire workers who didn't lie to NRC investigators, is also charged with obstruction of justice. Both men are convicted. Joris is sentenced to probation; Welt is sentenced to two years in prison, placed on three years probation, and fined $50,000.
A worker not wearing gloves at a nuclear power plant in Atucha, Argentina cuts his hand on a plug and gets 0.1 microCurie of radioactive material in the cut. The contamination causes progressive damage over several years and is removed surgically in 1985.
One person in Rockaway, New Jersey is briefly exposed to a cobalt-60 source. He realizes the source is unshielded and exits the irradiation chamber but receives a dose of about 200 rem which causes acute radiation sickness.
Note: This may be a duplicate entry for Incident #293.
The Czechoslovak nuclear power plant A1 in Jaslovske Bohunice experiences a major problem during fuel loading. This incident, rated INES 4, results in damaged fuel integrity, corrosion damage to fuel cladding, and release of radioactivity into the plant area. As a result, the A1 plant is shut down and decommissioned.
While off the coast of Kamchatka, the Soviet ballistic missile submarine K-171 accidentally releases a nuclear warhead. A "frantic" search involving dozens of ships and aircraft ensues. The warhead is recovered.
Travelling submerged in the Mediterranean, the USS Ray (SSN-653) strikes the seabed south of Sardinia, Italy. The grounding is due to a combination of equipment failure and crew inexperience. Three crew members are injured. Although its bow area is damaged and the sonar equipment destroyed, the Ray surfaces and proceeds to La Maddalena naval base on Sardinia for emergency repairs, escorted by the USS Grayling (SSN-646). It then travels to Charleston Naval Shipyard, SC for a year of work.
"According to raw CIA intelligence reports", twelve officers serving aboard a Soviet nuclear submarine operating in the Atlantic are taken off the submarine by a Soviet trawler and conveyed to Canada, from where they return to Leningrad via an Aeroflot flight. The report suggests that radiation exposure is the reason for this unusual travel.
"According to raw CIA intelligence reports", a Soviet nuclear submarine suffers an internal fire while operating in the Indian Ocean. The submarine is forced to surface to fight the fire, which takes several days to extinguish. Subsequently, a trawler tows the submarine to a port near Vladivostok.
The malfunctioning Soviet RORSAT (radar ocean reconnaisance satellite) Kosmos 954 reenters and burns up in the atmosphere. Bits of it are scattered across Canada's Northwest Territories. The debris footprint extends from Great Slave Lake south into Alberta and Saskatchewan, and covers 124,000 square kilometers.
Because the satellite is powered by a nuclear reactor using about 50kg of uranium-235, an international cleanup is mounted. This effort is dubbed Operation Morning Light. It involves aircraft using sensitive radiation monitors and ground teams traversing the impact area on foot. Morning Light continues into December 1978. Twelve relatively large pieces of the reactor are found. These emit gamma rays at 100 to 200 R/hr, levels that would be lethal after 2 hours of close exposure. Most of Kosmos 954, however, has disintegrated into tiny flakes, In the end, only 1 percent is recovered; the rest remains in place. Canada bills the USSR for cleanup costs of $6,041,174.70. About half that is eventually paid.
A 25-Curie iridium-192 industrial radiography source falls off a truck in Setif, Algeria. Two children aged 3 and 7 find it and keep it for several days before giving it to their grandmother. She puts it in her kitchen where it exposes her and four other women of the family for a protracted period. The grandmother dies of radiation burns and aplasia. The localized doses require the children to undergo amputation of fingers and skin grafts on their hands; they have also received 100-140 rem whole-body doses. The four women develop radiation-induced diseases: one suffers a miscarriage; another develops thyroid cancer in 1994 and breast cancer later. All six survivors remain alive in 2000.
While workers are draining a piping system aboard the USS Puffer (SSN-562), radioactive water spills on the drydock surface at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, WA. A Navy spokesman says that "less than 5 gallons" of slightly radioactive water from the ship's secondary cooling system were lost, and that it spilled as the workers were draining the water into two 5-gallon containers, a routine procedure. According to the Navy, no workers were contaminated and the drydock drain was closed before any spillage escaped into the sea.
Shipyard employees reportedly dispute the Navy's account, saying that the spill was much bigger, about 100 gallons, that response to the spill was slow, and that several workers suffered skin contamination. A 15- by 20-foot section of drydock is jackhammered up, sealed in drums and shipped to a nuclear waste site in Hanford, WA.
When a workere fails to close a valve tightly, about two cups of radioactive water leak from a pipe fitting aboard the USS Aspro (SSN-648) while the submarine is at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, WA. According to the Navy, no one suffers skin exposure, but the worker detects a small spot of radioactivity on his pants. This spot is removed and disposed of as radioactive waste. No contamination escapes to the outside environment.
The propeller shaft of the USS Tullibee (SSN-597) snaps just outside the hull, causing loss of propulsion and engine-room flooding as the submarine runs submerged in the Mediterranean. The flooding is limited by quick action by the crew in tightening down the emergency sealing on the propeller shaft. It surfaces quickly and is assisted by other U.S. naval vessels. Subsequently it is towed to the U.S. base at Rota, Spain for repairs.
K-116, a Soviet Echo-II class nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine, is spotted dead in the water near Rockall Bank 140 miles northwest of Scotland. On 20 August, a U.S. P-3 Orion patrol aircraft spots the vessel under tow south of the Faroe Islands. The exact cause of the problem is unknown, and nothing is learned about possible personnel exposures or injuries.
A shielded facility at the Idaho Chemical Processing Plant recovers enriched uranium from solutions of spent fuel rods by interacting aqueous and organic solutions in columns. The operation is highly automated and rather complex, with various kinds of solutions interacting in several columns and connecting tubes in order to separate uranium from fission products while conserving resources and preventing high concentrations of radioactives to build up in any solution.
The accident has multiple causes. A leaky valve causes unnoticed dilution of a buffer solution, so that it takes up more uranium than expected. The tank density alarm that should indicate this is inoperative, and another tank has not had its density alarm installed. A chart recorder shows the departure from constant liquid level, but the leak is so slow that this would not be noticed unless specifically looked for. (In any case, the chart paper runs out weeks before the accident and is not replaced until afterward.) Finally, procedures requiring sample analysis are not being followed.
The effect of all these factors is to allow a gradual closed-loop concentration of uranium nitrate in two of the process columns. When radiation alarms begin sounding, the supervisor goes outside the plant and measures dose rates of 100 mRem/hour. He orders the building evacuated. This is accomplished in three minutes. No significant exposures result, and the estimated yield of 2.7x1018 fissions does not damage any equipment or contaminate the facility. The incident leads to an extensive review of procedures, better training and documentation, and installation of more instrumentation.
Soviet Whiskey class S-178 suffers an explosion and fire following a collision with a Soviet trawler (RFS-13). The submarine sinks in less than 10 seconds, coming to rest 115 feet down in the Pacific off Vladivostok. 32 die, but 22 others are saved through the heroic efforts of divers and two rescue submarines.
This facility at the Siberian Chemical Combine is where plutonium metal ingots are checked for purity and packaged for shipment onward. The administrative procedure calls for only two ingots per container. (The containers are lined with cadmium, so that placing multiple containers in close proximity is not a problem.)
On this occasion, production pressure apparently causes two workers to violate procedures by assisting each other. The end result is that one attempts to place a fourth ingot into a container already holding three. This fourth ingot is either violently ejected by the prompt heat of the criticality, or withdrawn by the operator when he sees the flash. In any case, the reaction is ended after triggering radiation alarms to cause evacuation of two buildings.
Later analysis of the ingots involved leads to a yield estimate of 3x1015 fissions. The equipment is not damaged and no contamination results. However, the operator who held the fourth ingot gets a whole-body dose of 250 rad and more than 2,000 rad on his hands. His arms are amputated up to the elbows, and he later has eye trouble as well. Seven others receive doses of 5 to 60 rad, mostly from fast neutrons.
Decontamination of the state-run Hawaiian Developmental irradiator at Fort Armstrong in Honolulu begins. Years earlier, radioactive water leaked onto the roof and the front lawn. The building is ultimately demolished; 100,000 pounds of steel, 250 cubic yards of concrete, and 1,100 cubic feet of soil are transported to the nuclear waste dump at Hanford Engineer Works.
A diagnostic fluoroscope in Parana, Argentina is wired incorrectly, causing it to emit x-rays while the covers are open. The fault exposes an auxiliary nurse to a whole-body dose of 94 rem, slightly depressing her bone-marrow activity.
Poor equipment design, component failures, and worker mistakes contribute to a partial meltdown of the core of reactor #2 at the Three Mile Island power plant near Middletown, Pennsylvania. Contaminated cooling water escapes into a nearby building, releasing radioactive gases that spread over the region. Over 200,000 people flee the immediate area, and what's known at "White-knuckle week at Three Mile Island" ensues as the event becomes a media circus, and the nuclear industry tries to regroup as protesters call for its abolition.
Metropolitan Edison, the operator of the plant, is indicted in 1983 for falsifying leak rate data at TMI-2 and for destroying documents before the accident. In 1984, it pleads guilty to one count and no contest to six counts of the 11-count indictment.
Investigation of the wreckage is done by remote control, and very cautiously. By 1985, robotic cameras show much greater damage to the core than expected. Temperatures reached 5,000 degrees; half the fuel elements melted and slumped down to the bottom of the containment, leaving a great void. The cleanup takes ten years and costs over a billion dollars. Based on this cost, and the amount of radiation released, TMI is the worst commercial nuclear reactor accident in the United States. It brings about wrenching changes in the way nuclear plants are built and operated, and it essentially stops any such plants being built in the U.S.
Still, health impacts of the radiation release remain controversial. The Rogovin Report is quoted as stating that "approximately 2.5 million curies of radioactive noble gases and 15 curies of radioiodines were released. These releases resulted in an average dose of 1.4 mrem to the approximately two million people in the site area." The majority of epidemiological studies performed since the accident show no correlation between this release and cancer or other adverse health impacts in the Susquehanna Valley. A study by Dr. Ernest J. Sternglass, professor of radiation physics at the University of Pittsburgh, claims that the accident leads to a minimum of 430 infant deaths. There is considerable justification for the industry's position that "no one died at Three Mile Island". In a lawsuit by 2,000 neighbors of the plant alleging radiation-induced injuries, a court finds no substantial proof of any damages. A 1994 survey by the Union of Concerned Scientists notes a paucity of investigation of this question, and predicts that solid answers may never be known.
Primary coolant water leaks from one of the two reactors aboard the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) while the carrier is operating off the Virginia coast. A Navy spokesman says there is no release of radioactivity, no danger to the core, and no danger to the ship's crew.
A radiographer is working at a temporary job site in Los Angeles, California. When leaving the site, he fails to secure his camera with its 28-Curie Ir-192 source. The source falls from the camera and is pocketed by a worker who does not know its purpose. He carries it for 45 minutes before giving it to the plant manager. The worker suffers a 1.5-Megarem surface dose (60,000 rem at 1 cm depth), requiring skin grafts on his buttocks, and a whole-body dose of about 68 rem. Four other workers receive radiation injuries to their hands; eleven workers in toto are exposed.
A chain breaks in a hoist loading a Mk-48 conventional torpedo aboard the USS Memphis (SSN-691) at Norfolk Naval Station. The torpdeo falls several feet and jams between loading equipment and a bulkhead. The torpedo is removed two days later. It does not have a triggering device, but the Navy says if it had exploded it could easily have sunk the submarine.
The USS Hawksbill (SSN-666) is on maneuvers in Hawaiian waters when its reactor develops a primary coolant leak. Originally the leak is about two gallons per hour, but has been reduced to three quarts an hour by the time the submarine docks at Pearl Harbor on 23 June. By 24 June it is stopped. The Navy says the leak was due to normal valve wear, and the leaked coolant was captured in bottles designed for that purpose. Supplemental water was pumped in to keep the reactor temperature under control, and none of the crew was in danger.
In Church Rock, New Mexico, the clay/earth dike holding a uranium mill's "temporary" settling pond gives way. The pond is past its planned and licensed lifetime and is filled two feet deeper than design, despite evident cracking. An estimated 100 million gallons of radioactive liquids and 1,100 short tons of solid wastes drain into the Rio Puerco, settling out up to 70 miles downstream.
Highly enriched uranium is released from a top-secret nuclear fuel plant near Erwin, Tennessee. About 1,000 people are contaminated with up to 5 times as much radiation as would normally be received in a year. Between 1968 and 1983 the plant "loses" 234 pounds of highly enriched uranium, forcing the plant to be closed six times during that period.
The USS Truxton (CGN-35) spills some 13 gallons of radioactive "high-purity" water into San Diego Bay, California. A Navy spokesman says the spill is too small to affect the environment. Initial reports put the volume of the spill at 80 to 100 gallons.
Governor Bruce Babbitt of Arizona orders the National Guard to clean up Amarican Atomics' Tucson plant, which he believes has been leaking. (Reports of problems by the Arizona Atomic Energy Commission had been stalled by a commissioner who was a vice-president of American Atomics.) At the kitchen of the public school across the street from the plant, $300,000 worht of food is found to be contaminated by tritium; chocolate cake has more than twice the safe level. A nuclear official accuses Babbitt of "greed for publicity".