What is a Nuclear Disaster?
A nuclear and radiation accident is defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency as "an event that has led to significant consequences to people, the environment or the facility. Examples include lethal effects to individuals, large radioactivity release to the environment, or reactor core melt." The prime example of a "major nuclear accident" is one in which a reactor core is damaged and large amounts of radiation are released, such as in the Chernobyl Disaster in 1986.
The impact of nuclear accidents has been a topic of debate practically since the first nuclear reactors were constructed. It has also been a key factor in public concern about nuclear facilities. Some technical measures to reduce the risk of accidents or to minimize the amount of radioactivity released to the environment have been adopted. Despite the use of such measures, "there have been many accidents with varying impacts as well near misses and incidents".
Benjamin K. Sovacool has reported that worldwide there have been 99 accidents at nuclear power plants. Fifty-seven accidents have occurred since the Chernobyl disaster, and 57% (56 out of 99) of all nuclear-related accidents have occurred in the USA. Serious nuclear power plant accidents include the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster (2011), Chernobyl disaster (1986), Three Mile Island accident (1979), and the SL-1 accident (1961). Stuart Arm states, "apart from Chernobyl, no nuclear workers or members of the public have ever died as a result of exposure to radiation due to a commercial nuclear reactor incident."
Nuclear-powered submarine mishaps include the K-19 reactor accident (1961), the K-27 reactor accident (1968), and the K-431 reactor accident (1985). Serious radiation accidents include the Kyshtym disaster, Windscale fire, radiotherapy accident in Costa Rica, radiotherapy accident in Zaragoza, radiation accident in Morocco,Goiania accident, radiation accident in Mexico City, radiotherapy unit accident in Thailand, and the Mayapuri radiological accident in India.
The International Atomic Energy Agency maintains a website reporting recent accidents.
Nuclear power has caused far fewer accidental deaths per unit of energy generated than several other major forms of power generation. Energy production from coal, natural gas, and hydropower have caused far more deaths due to accidents. It is impossible for a commercial nuclear reactor to explode like a nuclear bomb since the fuel is never sufficiently enriched for this to occur.