List of civilian radiation accidents

Last updated
2007 ISO radioactivity danger symbol intended for IAEA Category 1, 2, and 3 sources defined as dangerous sources capable of causing death or serious injury. The symbols are meant to convey the danger better than the trefoil sign Logo iso radiation.svg
2007 ISO radioactivity danger symbol intended for IAEA Category 1, 2, and 3 sources defined as dangerous sources capable of causing death or serious injury. The symbols are meant to convey the danger better than the trefoil sign

This article lists notable civilian accidents involving radioactive materials or involving ionizing radiation from artificial sources such as x-ray tubes and particle accelerators. Accidents related to nuclear power that involve fissile materials are listed at List of civilian nuclear accidents. Military accidents are listed at List of military nuclear accidents.

Radioactive decay Process by which an unstable atom emits radiation

Radioactive decay is the process by which an unstable atomic nucleus loses energy by emitting radiation, such as an alpha particle, beta particle with neutrino or only a neutrino in the case of electron capture, or a gamma ray or electron in the case of internal conversion. A material containing unstable nuclei is considered radioactive. Certain highly excited short-lived nuclear states can decay through neutron emission, or more rarely, proton emission.

Ionizing radiation Radiation that carries enough light energy to liberate electrons from atoms or molecules

Ionizing radiation is radiation that carries sufficient energy to detach electrons from atoms or molecules, thereby ionizing them. Ionizing radiation is made up of energetic subatomic particles, ions or atoms moving at high speeds, and electromagnetic waves on the high-energy end of the electromagnetic spectrum.

X-ray tube vacuum tube that converts electrical input power into X-rays

An X-ray tube is a vacuum tube that converts electrical input power into X-rays. The availability of this controllable source of X-rays created the field of radiography, the imaging of partly opaque objects with penetrating radiation. In contrast to other sources of ionizing radiation, X-rays are only produced as long as the X-ray tube is energized. X-ray tubes are also used in CT scanners, airport luggage scanners, X-ray crystallography, material and structure analysis, and for industrial inspection.


Scope of this article

In listing civilian radiation accidents, the following criteria have been followed:

  1. There must be well-attested and substantial health damage, property damage or contamination.
  2. The damage must be related directly to radioactive materials or ionizing radiation from a man-made source, not merely taking place at a facility where such are being used.
  3. To qualify as "civilian", the operation/material must be principally for non-military purposes.
  4. The event is not an event involving fissile material or a nuclear reactor.

Before 1950s

Clarence Madison Dally was an American glassblower, noted as an assistant to Thomas Edison in his work on X-rays and as an early victim of radiation dermatitis and its complications.

New Jersey U.S. state in the United States

New Jersey is a state in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It is a peninsula, bordered on the north and east by the state of New York; on the east, southeast, and south by the Atlantic Ocean; on the west by the Delaware River and Pennsylvania; and on the southwest by the Delaware Bay and Delaware. New Jersey is the fourth-smallest state by area but the 11th-most populous, with 9 million residents as of 2017, making it the most densely populated of the 50 U.S. states with its biggest city being Newark. New Jersey lies completely within the combined statistical areas of New York City and Philadelphia. New Jersey was the second-wealthiest U.S. state by median household income as of 2017.

France Republic with majority of territory in Europe and numerous oversea territories around the world

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.02 million. France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.



  • An earth/clay dike of a United Nuclear Corporation uranium mill settling/evaporating pond failed. The broken dam released 100 million U.S. gallons (380,000 m3) of radioactive liquids and 1,100 short tons (1,000 metric tonnes) of solid wastes, which settled out up to 70 miles (100 km) down the Puerco River [7] and also near a Navajo farming community that uses surface waters. As a result, the Navajo community suffered serious health implications. [8] The pond was past its planned and licensed life and had been filled two feet (60 cm) deeper than design, despite evident cracking.





See also

Related Research Articles

Background radiation is a measure of the level of ionizing radiation present in the environment at a particular location which is not due to deliberate introduction of radiation sources.

Nuclear fallout residual radioactive material following a nuclear blast

Nuclear fallout, or fallout, is the residual radioactive material propelled into the upper atmosphere following a nuclear blast, so called because it "falls out" of the sky after the explosion and the shock wave have passed. It commonly refers to the radioactive dust and ash created when a nuclear weapon explodes. The amount and spread of fallout is a product of the size of the weapon and the altitude at which it is detonated. Fallout may get entrained with the products of a pyrocumulus cloud and fall as black rain. This radioactive dust, usually consisting of fission products mixed with bystanding atoms that are neutron-activated by exposure, is a form of radioactive contamination.

Acute radiation syndrome Health problems caused by exposure to very high levels of ionizing radiation

Acute radiation syndrome (ARS), also known as radiation sickness or radiation poisoning, is a collection of health effects due to exposure to high amounts of ionizing radiation over a short period of time. Within the first days symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. This may then be followed by a few hours or weeks with little symptoms. After this, depending on the total dose of radiation, people may develop infections, bleeding, dehydration, and confusion, or there may be a period with few symptoms. This is finally followed by either recovery or death. The symptoms can begin within one hour and may last for several months.

Sievert SI derived unit of equivalent dose of ionizing radiation

The sievert is a derived unit of ionizing radiation dose in the International System of Units (SI) and is a measure of the health effect of low levels of ionizing radiation on the human body. The sievert is of importance in dosimetry and radiation protection, and is named after Rolf Maximilian Sievert, a Swedish medical physicist renowned for work on radiation dose measurement and research into the biological effects of radiation.

Radiation dosimetry in the fields of health physics and radiation protection is the measurement, calculation and assessment of the ionizing radiation dose absorbed by an object, usually the human body. This applies both internally, due to ingested or inhaled radioactive substances, or externally due to irradiation by sources of radiation.

Radiation protection, also known as radiological protection, is defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as "The protection of people from harmful effects of exposure to ionizing radiation, and the means for achieving this". Exposure can be from a source of radiation external to the human body or due to internal irradiation caused by the ingestion of radioactive contamination.

Nuclear and radiation accidents and incidents event that has led to significant consequences to people, the environment or the facility

A nuclear and radiation accident is defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as "an event that has led to significant consequences to people, the environment or the facility." Examples include lethal effects to individuals, radioactive isotope to the environment, or reactor core melt." The prime example of a "major nuclear accident" is one in which a reactor core is damaged and significant amounts of radioactive isotopes are released, such as in the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

Radioactive contamination US safety regulations for nuclear power and weapons

Radioactive contamination, also called radiological contamination, is the deposition of, or presence of radioactive substances on surfaces or within solids, liquids or gases, where their presence is unintended or undesirable.

Goiânia accident radioactive contamination accident in Brazil

The Goiânia accident[ɡojˈjɐniɐ] was a radioactive contamination accident that occurred on September 13, 1987, in Goiânia, in the Brazilian state of Goiás, after a forgotten radiotherapy source was taken from an abandoned hospital site in the city. It was subsequently handled by many people, resulting in four deaths. About 112,000 people were examined for radioactive contamination and 249 were found to have significant levels of radioactive material in or on their bodies.

Radiation burn damage to the skin or other biological tissue caused by exposure to radiation

A radiation burn is damage to the skin or other biological tissue as an effect of radiation. The radiation types of greatest concern are thermal radiation, radio frequency energy, ultraviolet light and ionizing radiation.

Cobalt-60 isotope of cobalt

Cobalt-60 (60Co), is a synthetic radioactive isotope of cobalt with a half-life of 5.2713 years. It is produced artificially in nuclear reactors. Deliberate industrial production depends on neutron activation of bulk samples of the monoisotopic and mononuclidic cobalt isotope 59
. Measurable quantities are also produced as a by-product of typical nuclear power plant operation and may be detected externally when leaks occur. In the latter case the incidentally produced 60
is largely the result of multiple stages of neutron activation of iron isotopes in the reactor's steel structures via the creation of 59
precursor. The simplest case of the latter would result from the activation of 58
. 60
decays by beta decay to the stable isotope nickel-60. The activated nickel nucleus emits two gamma rays with energies of 1.17 and 1.33 MeV, hence the overall nuclear equation of the reaction is 59
+ n → 60
+ e +
+ gamma rays.

The 1986 Chernobyl disaster triggered the release of substantial amounts of radioactive contamination into the atmosphere in the form of both particulate and gaseous radioisotopes. As of 2019 it is the most significant unintentional release of radioactivity into the environment.

The National Oncologic Institute or ION is a specialized hospital for cancer treatment, located in Panama City, Panama. Between August 2000 and March 2001, patients receiving radiation treatment for prostate cancer and cancer of the cervix received lethal doses of radiation, resulting in eight fatalities.

Radioactive scrap metal is created when radioactive material enters the metal recycling process and contaminates scrap metal.

Radiobiology is a field of clinical and basic medical sciences that involves the study of the action of ionizing radiation on living things, especially health effects of radiation. Ionizing radiation is generally harmful and potentially lethal to living things but can have health benefits in radiation therapy for the treatment of cancer and thyrotoxicosis. Its most common impact is the induction of cancer with a latent period of years or decades after exposure. High doses can cause visually dramatic radiation burns, and/or rapid fatality through acute radiation syndrome. Controlled doses are used for medical imaging and radiotherapy.

Samut Prakan radiation accident 2000 radiation accident in Thailand

A radiation accident occurred in Samut Prakan Province, Thailand in January–February 2000. The accident happened when an insecurely stored unlicensed cobalt-60 radiation source was recovered by scrap metal collectors who, together with a scrapyard worker, subsequently dismantled the container, unknowingly exposing themselves and others nearby to ionizing radiation. Over the following weeks, those exposed developed symptoms of radiation sickness and eventually sought medical attention. The Office of Atomic Energy for Peace (OAEP), Thailand's nuclear regulatory agency, was notified when doctors came to suspect radiation injury, some seventeen days after the initial exposure. The OAEP sent an emergency response team to locate and contain the radiation source, which was estimated to have an activity of 15.7 terabecquerels (420 Ci), and was eventually traced to its owner. Investigations found failure to ensure secure storage of the radiation source to be the root cause of the accident, which resulted in ten people being hospitalized for radiation injury, three of whom died, as well as the potentially significant exposure of 1,872 people.

Up to 10% of invasive cancers are related to radiation exposure, specifically ionizing radiation. Additionally, the vast majority of non-invasive cancers are non-melanoma skin cancers caused by ultraviolet radiation. Ultraviolet's position on the electromagnetic spectrum is on the boundary between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. Non-ionizing radio frequency radiation from mobile phones, electric power transmission, and other similar sources have been described as a possible carcinogen by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer, but the link remains unproven.


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