[Marxism] Nuclear accident impact underestimated

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Oct 7 09:06:58 MDT 2007

> http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7030536.stm
> Windscale fallout underestimated
>    Rebecca Morelle
> Science reporter, BBC News
>  * The radioactive fallout from a nuclear accident that rocked Britain 50
> years ago was underestimated, scientists say. *
> In 1957, a fire at the Windscale nuclear reactor in Cumbria led to a release
> of radioactive material that spread across the UK and Europe.
> But new research claims the incident generated twice as much radioactive
> material and caused dozens more cancers than was previously thought.
> The research was published in the journal Atmospheric Environment.
> * Risky act *
> The Windscale site was home to Britain's first two nuclear reactors - the
> Windscale Piles - which were constructed to produce plutonium and other
> materials for the UK's nuclear weapons programme.
> But the rush to build them at a time when little was known about nuclear
> reactors led to disaster.
>    On 10 October 1957, a failure to properly control the temperature of
> graphite control rods within the reactor sparked a devastating fire, which
> caused radioactive contamination to spew into the atmosphere.
> The fire was eventually put out with water - a risky act which could have
> caused an explosion - but a radioactive cloud was already spreading far and
> wide.
> At the time of the accident the levels and spread of the radioactive
> materials was estimated, and measures were put in place to limit radioactive
> contamination.
> But a new study carried out by John Garland, formerly of the UK Atomic
> Energy Authority, and Richard Wakeford, a visiting professor at the
> University of Manchester, suggests the contamination of the environment may
> have been much higher.
> The team carried out a re-analysis of data taken from environmental
> monitoring of air, grass and vegetation and combined this with computer
> models that revealed how the radioactive cloud would have spread from the
> reactor with the meteorological conditions at that time.
>   They confirmed radioactive iodine and caesium were released, as well as
> polonium and a very small amount of plutonium, but found that the levels
> would have been higher than previously thought.
> John Garland said: "The reassessments showed that there was roughly twice
> the amount than was initially assessed."
> This would have also impacted the numbers of cancers that the accident would
> have caused, said the authors.
> Previously, it was thought that the radiation would have eventually led to
> about 200 cases of cancer, but the new contamination figures suggest it
> could have caused about 240.
> The researchers said most of the radioactive materials released had now
> decayed and posed no ongoing risk, but small quantities of caesium and
> plutonium remained.
> Paul Howarth, director of research at the Dalton Nuclear Institute at
> Manchester University, said a repeat of the Windscale incident would not
> happen today because the design of modern nuclear reactors was completely
> different.
>  Story from BBC NEWS:
> http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/science/nature/7030536.stm
> Published: 2007/10/06 23:02:10 GMT

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