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Nuclear Incidents

Occasionally, you will see people claim that no Americans have ever been killed by nuclear power. This assertion takes various forms:

  • "In the U.S. no deaths have ever been successfully attributed to nuclear energy use."
  • "There have been no deaths or serious injuries attributed to nuclear power generation in the United States since its inception."
  • "There have been no deaths directly attributed to the operation of nuclear power plants in the United States."
  • "Over the history of nuclear power in the United States, there have been no deaths associated with the generation of nuclear power due to radiation release or other aspects peculiar to nuclear power."

These claims are provably false. It is true that no commercial nuclear power plant has ever definitively killed anybody in the United States. But three Americans were killed in 1961 when a noncommercial reactor went critical in Idaho.


3 Jan 1961 The SL-1 experimental nuclear plant in Idaho goes critical, killing all three technicians.
25 Jan 1961 The radioactive corpse of Richard L. McKinley is buried in a lead-lined coffin at Arlington National Cemetery.

USS Scorpion
Karen Silkwood

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