Feeds

Nuclear accident messier than we thought

Checking Windscale's sums after 50 years

Build a business case: developing custom apps

The amount of radioactive fallout from the Windscale nuclear accident half a century ago was grossly underestimated, according to new research.

In 1957, a fire broke out at one of two nuclear reactors on the Windscale site when its graphite control rods overheated. The fire was extinguished with water, deemed necessary to limit the amount of radioactive material that escaped, despite the fact it could have caused an explosion.

John Garland, formerly of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, and Richard Wakeford, a visiting professor at the University of Manchester, suggest the accident may have generated twice as much radioactive material and caused an additional 40 cases of cancer. Their work is published in the journal Atmospheric Environment.

Garland and Wakeford have combined modern computer modelling techniques with a re-analysis of the environmental data collected at the time of the near-disaster, and since. The pair then calculated the likely spread of the radioactive cloud, based on records of the local historical weather conditions.

According to the BBC, the team confirmed that the contaminants released by the fire included radioactive iodine and caesium, as well as polonium and a small amount of plutonium. But, John Garland told the Beeb: "The reassessments showed that there was roughly twice the amount than was initially assessed."

More contaminants mean more cancers. The volume of material originally thought to have been released would have caused roughly 200 cases of cancer. The level of radioactive material the team now thinks was released probably caused more than 240 cases, the researchers said.

Most of the material has now decayed to safe levels, but some plutonium and caesium still remain. The team says the levels are not high enough anymore to pose a risk to human health.

It is unlikely that the findings will have any impact on the government's plans to build more nuclear power stations. To paraphrase Paul Howarth, director of research at the Dalton Nuclear Institute at Manchester University, they don't build 'em like that anymore. ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.