Now, 50 years after the fire at Windscale in Cumbria, UK, on 10 and 11 October 1957, it has emerged that the resulting radioactive cloud spread contamination over large parts of Europe, much further than previously admitted. 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In 1957, one of the two reactors built at Windscale was destroyed by fire, in the world's first major nuclear accident. Sometimes they’ll include recommendations for other related newsletters or services we offer. There was no smoke and no flames and most local people were oblivious to … A white paper into the incident - known as the Penney report - was published two weeks later but remained classified until 1988. "He covered it up, plain and simple", says his grandson and biographer, Lord Stockton. Only 20,000 curies of radioactive materials were released into the environment thanks to their presence - far less than at Chernobyl and Fukushima. Even so, it took over three decades for cleanup actions to take place and its real effects are still not understood. The Board of Inquiry had lauded the efforts by the workers who "displayed considerable devotion to duty on the part of all concerned". You can unsubscribe at any time. Instead of cooling the reactor down, inaccurate temperature readings showed that the process had not been successfully completed and was put into action a second time - a decision that was to prove a terrible mistake. The Windscale Fire of 1957 marked Great Britain's largest nuclear reactor disaster, ranking level 5 classification on the International Nuclear Event Scale. At Windscale, the British government subsequently admitted it had deliberately covered up the seriousness of the accidents to keep its nuclear weapons programme on track. On October 10 1957, uranium fuel at the Windscale plant in Cumbria overheated and caught fire, setting in motion a terrifying series of events. PS. Also, view the photos. Windscale (October 10, 1957) ... over the long term, radioactive fallout from the Windscale fire may have caused some 240 cases of cancer. explains more about how we use your data, and your rights. Control rods were withdrawn, allowing the nuclear fission process to restart and causing the graphite within the reactor to rise to dangerously high temperatures. The Windscale Fire Disaster is one of the worst nuclear accidents to occur in the Western world -- however, it also seems to be among the least well known. Tuohy finally made the decision to shut off all cooling and ventilation systems to stop air from entering the building. Roger Highfield meets the physicist who helped to contain the leak of radioactive gases It is 50 years since a fire broke out at Windscale – the worst nuclear accident the West has ever seen. Windscale fire is part of WikiProject Fire Service, which collaborates on fire service-related subjects on Wikipedia.If you would like to participate, you can edit the article attached to this page, or visit the project page, where you can join the project and/or contribute to the discussion. Earlier that week on October 7, Windscale workers were carrying out a procedure on the reactor’s graphite core known as annealing. It was only days later that staff became aware of the fire which had begun burning uranium. The accident occurred on October 8, 1957, when a routine heating of the No. There are quite a few available. [4] The fire took place in Unit 1 of the two-pile Windscale facility on the northwest coast of England in Cumberland (now Sellafield, Cumbria). On Friday, 11 October, the fire had reached temperatures of up to 1,300 centigrade. During the post-WWII nuclear arms race, nations worldwide amped up their nuclear energy production to use not only for power, but for weapons as well. After kissing his family goodbye and telling to keep the windows closed, the 39-year-old rushed to the plant less than a mile from his home. A fire and subsequent cover-up that sparked public anger led to a 14-year shutdown of the Monju Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui prefecture, west of Tokyo. Published: June 1, 2011. Over the next 24 hours the flames died down and eventually dwindled to nothing; the emergency was finally over. To his horror, he peered down and saw an unusual red glow, revealing that uranium was burning at astronomically high temperatures inside. The ICRP tolerance level, which was formerly 3.9 R per 13 week period, has recently been reduced to 3.0 R, and this is the standard now in force at Windscale Works. The Windscale Fire. Sign up to read our regular email newsletters. “We saw to our complete horror, four channels of fuel glowing bright cherry red”, he recounted. It had been hoped the United States was about to begin sharing its nuclear secrets with UK atomic agency scientists and it was thought that any embarrassing revelations about Windscale could put this at risk. The Windscale Fire remains the UK’s worst ever nuclear accident - but its chilling memory is mostly consigned to the history books. Tuohy and his team failed in their initial efforts to put out the conflagration as carbon dioxide did little to fan the flames. During World War II, the Manhattan Project as a defense against Germany ignited the United Kingdom's involvement in nuclear fission as a military weapon. Iodine-131 and other harmful radioactive particles contaminated farms in the surrounding countryside and cow’s milk was taken from a massive 500km area next to Sellafield. Akasha Purohit and Kelly Meehan HISTORY The Windscale Fire took place at the Windscale nuclear processing plant in Cumberland, which is known as Cumbria today. Science with Sam explains. In October of 1957, the UK faced its worst nuclear power accident in history. Windscale was home to the UK's atomic bomb project and secrecy shrouded the facility in the years of Cold War paranoia. Climate impact on childhood diet may undermine food security efforts, Remote Control review: Fusing Ghanaian stories with a sci-fi thriller. The first was at Windscale in north-west England in 1957, when a plutonium-producing reactor caught fire. A fire and subsequent cover-up that sparked public anger led to a 14-year shutdown of the Monju Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui prefecture, west of Tokyo. Windscale Fire Disaster: A Brief History By. Existing subscribers, please log in with your email address to link your account access. In October, the graphite core of Pile 1 caught fire, initially without its operators realizing there was a problem. When World War I… Does the coronavirus spread more through the air than on surfaces? The fire at Windscale - now Sellafield - resulted in a major rethink of nuclear power safety in the UK, When you subscribe we will use the information you provide to send you these newsletters. The Windscale plant consisted of two gas-cooled nuclear reactors. The search for the origin of life: From panspermia to primordial soup. While you read this book have an internet connection available & do searches on: Windscale; Graphite Reactor Design; and Reactor Fire. A catastrophic meltdown was averted by the heroic actions of a few people but a subsequent 'cover up' by authorities meant they were not properly recognised for … Researchers in the UK and Norway …. Like the later fire, this incident was also covered up by the British government. The Windscale Nuclear Disaster. It says something for how Britain's nuclear establishment worked from the start that when Windscale No1 Pile caught fire in October 1957, it was hushed up … On 10th October 1957, Pile 1 at Windscale in West Cumbria was on fire. Carly Gillis. The Windscale Fire seems like it had the potential to become a much more serious incident due to actions taken in trying to get the reactor under control. The terrifying 1957 incident at the Windscale nuclear plant spewed radioactive dust into the surrounding Cumbria countryside and was subsequently hushed up by paranoid authorities, Our free email newsletter sends you the biggest headlines from news, sport and showbiz. The immune system: can you improve your immune age? At Windscale, the British government subsequently admitted it had deliberately covered up the seriousness of the accidents to keep its nuclear weapons program on track. Tom Hughes and another control room operator went to the charge face of the reactor wearing protective equipment and were astonished with their findings. Once the Penney Report was finally published, some thirty years after the accident, the public were made aware of the full extent of the crisis. In an act of incredible bravery, Tuohy donned protective gear before climbing 80ft to the concrete shaft that sat atop of the Number 1 nuclear pile to get a better understanding of the situation. The British government officially estimates that up to 30 people developed thyroid cancer after hazardous radioactive waste polluted the surrounding countryside. Puzzling signal on Saturn’s moon Rhea may finally be explained, The scientific guide to a better Christmas dinner, How do mRNA coronavirus vaccines work? A catastrophic meltdown was averted by the heroic actions of a few people but a subsequent 'cover up' by authorities meant they were not properly recognised for their efforts. It was later suggested by Lord Stockton, the grandson of Harold Macmillan, who was prime minister at the time of the fire, that the US Congress might have blocked the 1958 US–UK Mutual Defence Agreement between Macmillan and the President of the United States Dwight Eisenhower for joint nuclear weapons development if they had known that it was due to reckless decisions by the UK government, and that Macmillan had covered up … Extent of Windscale contamination was covered up. They were installed at great expense and with long delays to the project and the towers were later dubbed “Cockcroft’s Folly”. The move was deemed highly risky which as it had the potential to cause an explosive reaction with molten metal. Windscale deputy general manager Tom Tuohy led the efforts that day and was tasked with trying to extinguish the unprecedented fire. [3] It all started with a routine annealing process that was carried out to regulate the levels of Wigner energy stored in the graphite moderators. The on-site Calder Hall nuclear power station did generate power, but the two air-cooled reactors at Windscale commissioned back in 1950 (Piles 1 and 2) had only one purpose – producing plutonium-239 for Britain’s H-bombs. Unlike Cheronbyl, the site was used purely for military purposes and produced enriched uranium to be used for Britain’s nuclear warheads. Windscale fire, accident in 1957 at the Windscale nuclear reactor facility and plutonium-production plant in the county of Cumberland (now part of Cumbria), in northwestern England, that was the United Kingdom’s most serious nuclear power accident. On the morning of Friday, October 11, 1957, workers at the nuclear reactor Windscale Pile 1 near Seascale, Cumberland, England, faced a terrible choice: allow a raging fire to burn itself out while it released dangerously high levels of ionizing radiation into the surrounding countryside; or, attempt to extinguish the conflagration with water, an option that could … Sellafield plant alongside the decommissioned Number 1 nuclear pile, Tom Tuohy led the efforts to extinguish the fire at the nuclear reactor, Windscale workers with protective overalls attempt to make the reactor safe, Nuclear plant workers beside uranium fuel cartridges, Harold Macmillan was accused of covering up the fire, Sellafield is now in the process of being decommissioned, Subscribe to Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror newspapers, The secrets behind Britain's first atomic bomb - and the heartbreaking aftermath, Sellafield nuclear plant fined £380k after worker exposed to cancerous radiation, Sellafield power station worker contaminated inside facility for handling nuclear chemicals, Terror fears as Tories cut 200 police guarding Britain’s nuclear power plants, Furloughed hairdresser, 20, on brink of becoming millionaire selling gym equipment, When Ben Gulliver was furloughed he followed his lifelong dream of becoming an entrepreneur, selling gym equipment and teeth whitening sets out of his parent's garage, Police break up massive illegal rave under railway arches attended by 300 people, Police had to force entry into the event where they found about 300 people packed into a small space in Hackney, East London, Mum spent just £1,000 transforming spider-infested garage into trendy home pub, Emily Barratt, 36, says she had no use for the garage so decided to use lockdown to transform it into a cosy pub that her family can use, Beautician wins dad's £300k fortune over twin sister as court rejects 'DIY will', Terri Tibbles, from Tilbury, Essex, had been close to her car dealer dad William and expected to inherit his entire estate, but her twin Kelly and other siblings produced a second will seemingly written on paper "torn from a notebook", a court heard, Moment carers drag terrified elderly woman across the room caught on camera, Michael Lanera planted a camera inside his mother's care home to discover the scale of her mistreatment and caught footage of her being dragged across the room to bed, Boris Johnson must introduce 'effective' border testing and quarantine, Labour demand, The shadow home secretary said the country needed a 'comprehensive system and plan from the Government and stop moving from one chaotic situation to another', Heavy snow falls across UK as hundreds pack out beauty spots during lockdown, The Met Office has put a yellow weather warning in place stretching from coast to coast in southern England and ending just below Manchester, Oxford student, 21, died after accidentally walking off cliff on night out with pals, Simone Norowzian, 21, had been staying with friends in Margate, Kent, and had enjoyed a night out before tragically falling to her death when she climbed over railings, thinking it would lead to the beach, Spain may be open to Brits 'by summer' and hopes for return of tourists 'in weeks', Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said Spain hoped international travel would resume by the end of spring - but the Prime Minister said it will take longer than that, Mum orders daughter a doll's house but gets the measurements hilariously wrong, Michelle Jones admits she didn't pay much attention to the measurements when she ordered a doll's house for her daughter - and joked she will have to start paying council tax on the property, Grand Design viewers slam £600,000 barn conversion that 'looks like a crematorium', Grand Design fans rushed to Twitter after seeing Lincolnshire-based Nathan and Amye's finished Dutch-style barn house with some saying it looks like a "crematorium", Rafa Benitez to be appointed new Celtic manager after quitting job in China, Benitez would be going head-to-head with his former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard for supremacy in Glasgow, 'I accidentally gave my son the wrong name and my family say it will ruin his life', A mum has divided opinion after saying she mistakenly gave her baby the wrong name, and some people have warned her she is "setting her son up to be bullied and teased", The Masked Singer signs Alan Carr to be guest judge next weekend, Now all eyes are on next weekend's huge show as Alan Carr joins The Masked Singer panel with two stars set to say goodbye when the programme returns on Saturday, 'We're flat broke...' 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The fire took place in Unit 1 of the two-pile Windscale facility on the northwest coast of England in Cumberland (now Sellafield, Cumbria).The two piles had been built as part of the British atomic bomb project. The project was started to compete with America and the Soviet Union in the arms race. However, analysis revealed that a further 240 people may have died from cancers related to Windscale. In Chernobyl's case it was the sky-high radiation readings from as far away as Scandinavia and Germany that led the Soviets to admit what had happened. It throws a revealing new light on an important event of fifty years ago and on questions of secrecy and responsibility. Water was hosed onto the reactor core, again without success. Covid-19 news: UK variant may be 30 per cent more deadly, Covid-19 outbreak in Manaus suggests herd immunity may not be possible, A quarter of all known bee species haven't been seen since the 1990s, People buying SUVs are cancelling out climate gains from electric cars. This book describes the fire and what followed, and considers its causes, effects and political importance. The Manhattan Project was a collaborative effort from United States, United Kingdom, and Canada. During Windscale's construction, physicist Sir John Cockcroft insisted that the plant be fitted with massive ugly, chimney stacks which would help filter out leaks. Eleven tons of uranium were ablaze and the plant’s workers were increasingly desperate. “The radioactive cloud spread much further than previously admitted, over Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany”, The fire raged in the bomb-making reactor for 17 hours, dumping contamination over a large swathe of England. It ranked a severity of 5 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (Chernobyl ranked at 7). First the operators ran the air fans at high speed to try to cool the reactor, but that only made the fire even more intense. Don't Miss: Jane Goodall on why we should care about climate change, Videos of over 200 science talks plus weekly crosswords available exclusively to subscribers, Exclusive access to subscriber-only events. It may have taken decades, but the record had finally been put straight. Built in 1950 with the prior approval of Winston Churchill, it was hoped that the Windscale project could eventually help develop a chillingly destructive hydrogen bomb. To their delight, this plan was enough to stave the fire of the oxygen that it needed and water was hosed through holes into the reactor. B This article has been rated as B-Class on the project's quality scale. The cover-up that followed, in which an official inquiry failed to reveal the true extent of contamination, is now part of history. Our. The Windscale fire of 10 October 1957 was the worst nuclear accident in Great Britain's history, and one of the worst in the world, ranked in severity at level 5 out of a possible 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale. Governments tried hard to cover up what happened. Tweet. It was diluted a thousand fold and dumped into the Irish Sea leaving it partially contaminated. The health benefits of sunlight: Can vitamin D help beat covid-19? At the time it was the world’s worst nuclear accident. THE WINDSCALE FIRE. “It was white hot, it was just white hot. Over the 13 week period up to the 24th October, 1957 (i.e. [1] The accident ranked a high level of 5 on the International Nuclear Event Scale. At the time it was the world’s worst nuclear accident. Over 60 years ago, Britain flirted with a nuclear catastrophe that could have resulted in a tragedy worse than Chernobyl. Across the north-west of the country radioactive milk was poured away for several weeks. Macmillan realised that if the American Congress knew that the fire had been the result of reckless decisions taken to try to produce the-H bomb, they … The Windscale fire of 10 October 1957 was the worst nuclear accident in Great Britain's history, ranked in severity at level 5/7-point International Nuclear Event Scale. Electricity production was a convenient cover for producing nuclear bomb grade plutonium. Later studies on the release of radioactive material as a result of the Windscale fire revealed that much of the contamination had resulted from such radiation leaks before the fire. The report blamed "an error of judgement" by the Windscale workers for the crisis and Prime Minister Harold Macmillan ordered that it not be released to the public. 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