Nuclear mishaps

U.S. Nuclear Accidents
Compiled by allen lutins (
Last updated 20 December 2009
Copyright © 2009. Click here for information about reproducing this article.


nuke 8

nuke 8


The following is a compilation of some known events involving nuclear devices and facilities under U.S. jurisdiction, many involving fatalities. Note that this work is NOT an anti-nuclear diatribe, but rather an encyclopedic listing of facts pertaining to a particular topic; I am well aware of the dangers and negative ecological consequences of alternate energy forms (especially coal and petroleum-based fuels), but a discussion of those is beyond the subject matter of this page.
Please DO NOT mail me with requests for additional information; all that i know about this subject is presented on this page, and i regret that i am unable to assist the internet community with additional information on this topic. More information along these lines is available at the following:
Criticality Accidents (Trinity Atomic Web Site):
Government Accountability Project’s Nuclear Oversight page:
Radioactive America:
Nuclear Information and Resource Service:
U.S. Nuclear Weapons Accidents:
If you can document items which i’ve yet to include, or have corrections or comments regarding this page, please send them to me.
Research Facilities
Power Plants
Bombs and Bombers
Submarines and Ships
Nuclear Bomb Tests and Testing Facilities
Processing, Storage, Shipping, and Disposal
Research Facilities
29 November 1955
Experimental breeder reactor EBR-1 experienced a core meltdown due to operator error.
26 July 1959
A clogged coolant channel resulted in a 30% reactor core meltdown at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (now known as the Boeing-Rocketdyne Nuclear Facility) in the Simi Hills area of Ventura County, California. Later discovery of the incident prompted a class-action suit by local residents, who successfully sued for $30 million over cancer and thyroid abnormalities contracted due to their proximity to the facility.

2 September 1944
Peter Bragg and Douglas Paul Meigs, two Manhattan Project chemists, were killed when their attempt to unclog a tube in a uranium enrichment device led to an explosion of radioactive uranium hexafluoride gas exploded at the Naval Research Laboratory in Philadelphia, PA. The explosion ruptured nearby steam pipes, leading to a gas and steam combination that bathed the men in a scalding, radioactive, acidic cloud of gas which killed them a short while later.

21 August 1945
Harry K. Daghlian Jr. was killed during the final stages of the Manhattan Project (undertaken at Los Alamos, New Mexico to develop the first atomic bomb) from a radiation burst released when a critical assembly of fissile material was accidentally brought together by hand. This incident pre-dated remote-control assembly of such components, but the hazards of manual assembly were known at the time (the accident occurred during a procedure known as “tickling the dragon’s tail”). A similar incident, involving another fatality, occurred the following year (see next entry), after which hand-maniuplations of critical assemblies was abandoned.
21 May 1946

A nuclear criticality accident occured at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in New Mexico. Eight people were exposed to radiation, and one, Louis Slotin, died nine days later later of acute radiation sickness.

2 July 1956
Nine persons were injured when two explosions destroyed a portion of Sylvania Electric Products’ Metallurgy Atomic Research Center in Bayside, Queens, New York.

A radiation release at the the Keleket company resulted in a five-month decontamination at a cost of $250,000. A capsule of radium salt (used for calibrating the radiation-measuring devices produced there) burst, contaminating the building for a full five months.

30 December 1958
A chemical operator was exposed to a lethal dose of radiation following an incident involving the mixing of plutonium solutions, dying 35 hours later of severe radiation exposure.

A partial sodium reactor meltdown occurred at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory in Simi Valley Hills, California.

2 April 1962
An “unplanned nuclear excursion” occurred in a plutonium processing facility in Richland, Washington. Several employees were hospitalized for observation following exposure to the resultant radiation, and radiation was detected in the surrounding atmosphere for sevearl days following the incident.

26 March 1963
A mechanical failure led to a nuclear leak and subsequent fire at an experimental facility in Livermore, California, resulting in serious damage to the shielded vault where the experiment was conducted.

5 October 1966
A sodium cooling system malfunction caused a partial core meltdown at Detroit Edison’s Enrico Fermi I demonstration breeder reactor near Detroit, Michigan. Radioactive gases leaked into the containment structures, but radiation was reportedly contained.

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