People frequently talk about the dangers of nuclear power. The three big and famous nuclear plant accidents have caused less than 100 direct deaths in total. These deaths are bad but this is still much safer than any other energy based on deaths per terawatt hour. Fossil fuel energy shortens everyones lifespan because burned fuel creates particulates that increase cancer and other diseases. The billions of tons of coal China burns every year decreases lifespan in China by about 3-4 years. People freak about nuclear waste that is all contained and stored. Yes, nuclear waste would be dangerous if you were right beside it and it was out of its container, but they never are. The fossil fuel waste is in your air and thus in your lungs. The waste in the water lasts forever. Mercury has no halflife. It is why you are told not to eat too much tuna. Here we will go over the nuclear accidents and some major hydroelectric dam accidents and some coal and metal mining water waste tailing dam accidents.
The Three-mile island nuclear plant accident in 1979 led to no deaths or injuries. The nuclear plant was lost for $1 billion in damage.
The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster caused 50-100 direct deaths. The reactor explosion killed two of the reactor operating staff. A massive emergency operation to put out the fire, stabilize the reactor, and clean up the ejected nuclear core began. In the disaster and immediate response, 134 station staff and firemen were hospitalized with acute radiation syndrome due to absorbing high doses of ionizing radiation. Of these 134 people, 28 died in the days to months afterward and approximately 14 suspected radiation-induced cancer deaths followed within the next 10 years. Among the wider population, an excess of 15 childhood thyroid cancer deaths were documented as of 2011. The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) has, at multiple times, reviewed all the published research on the incident and found that at present, fewer than 100 documented deaths are likely to be attributable to increased exposure to radiation.
Higher estimates of expected eventual deaths are based upon a linear no-threshold model. This model indicates that ANY increased exposure to radiation causes increased cancer and death. If this model were true then commercial aviation pilots and staff would show far higher rates of cancer and death but they do not. This model also predicts more cancer and deaths for higher altitude cities like Colorado, which again is not the case. It is clear that the linear no-threshhold model of radiation risk is bunch of crap.
It should be noted that Chernobyl was a terrible nuclear reactor design created by the Soviet Union.
Soviet engineers were also involved in making the Banqiao dam. This was part of the worst hydroelectric dam failure in history.
In 1975, Banqiao and Shimantam Dam failures (171,000-240,000 deaths). Extreme rainfall, beyond the planned design capability of the dam, dumped on China by Typhoon Nina. 11 million people lost their homes. Dam would later be rebuilt between 1986 and 1993.
The dam was originally created in 1952. The project was signed off by Mao. It was a politically motivated dam. China at the time did not have dam building experience. The dam was originally made of clay. Soviet engineers were brought in to help. The dam was reinforced. However, it was built in a bad geological location and did not have enough runoff gates.
On August 8, at 01:00, water at the Banqiao crested at the 117.94 m level above sea level, or 0.3 meter higher than the wave protection wall on the dam. It failed. The same storm caused the failure of 62 dams in total. The runoff of Banqiao Dam was 13,000 m3 per second in vs. 78,800 m3 per second out, and as a result 701 million m3 of water was released in 6 hours, while 1.67 billion m3 of water was released in 5.5 hours at an upriver Shimantan Dam, and 15.738 billion m3 of water was released in total.
The resulting flood waters caused a wave 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) wide and 3–7 meters (9.8–23.0 ft) high in Suiping (遂平) that rushed onto the plains below at nearly 50 kilometers per hour (31 mph), almost wiping out an area 55 kilometers (34 mi) long and 15 kilometers (9.3 mi) wide, and creating temporary lakes as large as 12,000 square kilometers (4,600 sq mi). Seven county seats, Suiping, Xiping (西平), Ru’nan (汝南), Pingyu (平舆), Xincai (新蔡), Luohe (漯河), and Linquan (临泉) were inundated, as were thousands of square kilometers of countryside and countless communities. Evacuation orders had not been fully delivered due to weather conditions and poor communications. Telegraphs failed, signal flares fired by Unit 34450 were misunderstood, telephones were rare, and some messengers were caught by the flood.
To protect other dams from failure, several flood diversion areas were evacuated and inundated, and several dams were deliberately destroyed by air strikes to release water in desired directions. The Nihewa and Laowangpo flood diversion areas downstream of the dams soon exceeded their capacity and gave up part of their storage on August 8, forcing more flood diversion areas to begin to evacuate.
In 2011, the 2011 Tohoku tsunami washed away the above-ground diesel fuel tanks which prevented systems and cooling from controlling the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. This caused one radiation death in 2018. A worker at the Fukushima nuclear power plant died after suffering radiation exposure. The man, who was in his 50s, died from lung cancer that was diagnosed in 2016.
In 2011, the Fujinuma dam failed after 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. 7 dead and 1 unknown. Japanese authorities state that the dam failure was caused by the earthquake, making these the first earthquake-caused dam failure fatalities since 1930, worldwide. Nearby dams damaged by same earthquake.
1979, Machchu-2 Dam failure in India killed 5000. The actual observed flow following the intense rainfall reached 16307 m³/s, thrice what the dam was designed for, resulting in its collapse. The 762 meters (2,500 ft) of left and 365 metres (1,198 ft) of right embankment of dam were collapsed. Within 20 minutes the floods of 12 to 30 ft (3.7 to 9.1 m) height inundated the low-lying areas of Morbi industrial town located 5 km below the dam.
1962, Residents of the valley of Vajont in Italy had reservations about a new hydroelectric dam–especially when cracks began to appear in the nearby mountain. A landslide with 20 billion tons of rock hit the reservoir which caused a tsunami flood and destroyed a town and 2000 people were killed. Strictly not a dam failure, since the dam structure did not collapse and is still standing. Filling the reservoir caused geological failure in valley wall, leading to 110 km/h landslide into the lake; water escaped in a wave over the top of dam. Valley had been incorrectly assessed as stable. Several villages completely wiped out.
The Val di Stava Dam collapse occurred on 19 July 1985, when two tailings dams (dams holding mining waste – usually coal mining) above the village of Stava, near Tesero, Italy, failed. It resulted in one of Italy’s worst disasters, killing 268 people, destroying 63 buildings and demolishing eight bridges.
The Kyzyl-Agash Dam failure occurred in a dam located outside the village of Kyzyl-Agash, Almaty Province, Kazakhstan. On 11 March 2010, the dam burst, flooding the village. At least 43 people were killed, 211 people were injured, and over 1000 evacuated from the village. Opposition sources report a much higher figure for the death toll. An opposition newspaper Svoboda Slova reports that at least 200 have died, mostly children and old people, but an exact, official count is prohibited by the administration
In 2019, a Brazilian mine tailings dam suffered a catastrophic failure releasing 12 million cubic meters of tailings slurry. There are nearly 800 mining dams in Brazil. They are supposed to be inspected every year. 3% were inspected by 35 inspectors in 2019. This dam failure killed 270 people and destroyed a village. In 2015, a Mariana tailings dam collapsed. This was also in Brazil. One village destroyed, 600 people evacuated. 60 million cubic meters of iron waste slurry polluted Doce River, and the sea near the river’s mouth. 17 people killed in Mariana.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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