The first successful detonation of a nuclear catalyst was performed by the United States of America , on July 16, 1945 . The weapon, code named “Trinity,” was detonated at the U.S. nuclear testing grounds in New Mexico . Since then, thousands of nuclear tests have been carried out around the world, with the vast majority involving the five superpowers of the United States , the former Soviet Union , the United Kingdom , China and France .
Due to the tragic events currently unfolding in Japan , largely ignited by the massive earthquake and tsunami of March 11th, 2011 , recalled are the lingering testimonies of many major incidents involving the most destructive weapon ever conceived.
The Manhattan Project: Demon Core Incidents
Demon Core #1 – The man who first developed the concept of nuclear dispersal was a Hungarian physicist, named Leó Szilárd. In 1934, he patented the process of the atomic bomb. Through correspondence with Albert Einstein, the resulting “Manhattan Project” was used in the creation of the first atomic bomb. The project assembled the most talented scientists in the world, in order to counteract the atomic bomb developments of Hitler’s Germany .
Demon Core #2 – On August 21, 1945, American scientist, Harry Daghlian, made a critical error, performing experiments on a sub-critical mass of core plutonium. Accidentally dropping one of the tungsten bricks, the core became critical, producing a blast of neutron radiation, that eventually killed Daghlian.
Demon Core #3 – On May 21, 1946, scientists at Los Alamos Laboratory conducted an experiment, involving fission reactions caused by placing beryllium around a plutonium core. In the experiment, separating the hemispheres was interrupted, when the hemispheres of the beryllium reflector closed, causing the plutonium core to release an extremely high dose of radiation. The scientists assisting in the experiment received massive radiation doses, which caused serious injuries and death.
Disaster at Chernobyl
In April of 1986, disaster at the Ukrainian Chernobyl nuclear power facility was deemed the product of a flawed Soviet Union reactor design, combined with serious mistakes made by operations staff members. The accident destroyed the reactor, killing dozens of operators and safety personnel The resulting fallout and radiation is believed responsible for numerous illnesses, childhood mutations and deaths in the past two decades.
Three Mile Island
The accident at Three Mile Island began with the failure of one of the valves controlling coolant flow. The amount of coolant decreased, raising the core temperature. Several cooling fail-safes failed, as well as designed operator procedures that had gone unnoticed. Days later, still not having resolved cooling issues, the faulty valves which were considered the cause were discovered.
It is still unknown what ramifications the Three Mile island event had on the surrounding Pennsylvania communities. Gas and liquids were released into the surrounding air and river systems, which are speculated to be root causes of large quantities of illnesses in the immediate areas.
The Windscale Fire
After WWII, Great Britain launched a program to build an atomic weapon in rapid time. At Windscale, Cumberland , the project hit a massive snag as the core of a nuclear reactor caught fire. Operators feared extinguishing the blaze would cause an explosion, but attempted to put out the fire. Britian feared worldwide ridicule and covered up the incident. A recent study estimated that the radiation led to over 200 cases of cancer.
Tokaimura , Japan
A batch of uranium was prepared for a rarely used nuclear reactor, but the operators had not been trained in how to handle uranium that highly enriched. Excessive amounts of uranium was dumped the precipitation tank than was allowed. The tank design was not equipped for this type of uranium.
The critical reaction that followed could not be stopped. By the time it was contained, it was too late for two of the three operators, as radiation amounts proved fatal. Approximately a hundred workers and nearby citizens were hospitalized for exposure.
Mayak, Soviet Union
Mayak #1 – In 1957, a storage tank of highly radioactive liquid waste exploded. Over half the amount of radioactive waste that was released by the Chernobyl incident was released into the atmosphere. At least 272,000 people were exposed to chronic levels of radiation.
Mayak #2 – Between 1948 and 1956, millions of tons of radioactive material was drained into the Techa River . The Techa is the source of drinking water for many villages in the region. Over 124,000 people were exposed to high levels of radiation. Nuclear material was also released into the lakes of Western Siberia , where storms scattered nuclear dust across a vast area.
Goiania , Brazil (1987)
One of the worst nuclear disasters took place in Goiania , Brazil , in September of 1987. A research institute had relocated, leaving behind a teletherapy unit that still contained cesium chloride. Two scavengers carted the unit away in a wheelbarrow, selling it to a scrapyard. The owner invited friends and family to view the material inside and its glowing blue hue. Inadvertently, he exposed them to dangerous levels of radiation. In all, 245 people were exposed to radiation and four died.
In retrospect, one lesson can be learned, above all others. As advancements in science progress, the dangers to, and responsibilities of, those involved are not to be taken lightly. As the world revolves around technological advances, the risks involved may be catastrophic for every living soul. Proceed with caution.
Ten Devastating Nuclear Events and Accidents, http://www.toptenz.net/10-devastating-nuclear-events-and-accidents.php
World Nuclear Association, http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/chernobyl/inf07.html
Nuclear Disasters and Accidents, http://library.thinkquest.org/17940/texts/nuclear_disasters/nuclear_disasters.html
Nuclear Accidents, http://www.thedailybeast.com