The Windscale Fire

The Windscale nuclear facility was the location of the worst nuclear disaster in the United Kingdom to date. A regular heating accident initiated a meltdown, setting ablaze 10 tons of nuclear material in the reactor and releasing radioactive iodine into the atmosphere. The aftermath caused a ban on milk distribution within a 500 square kilometer radius. This disaster is estimated to have caused around 200 cases of cancer in Britain and led to prioritizing the implementation of safety procedures in nuclear facilities. The final cost of cleanup of the Windscale plant is estimated at 30 million dollars, and is expected to be completed in 2018.

Contributed by Aaron Felhofer
Course: Modern Global Environmental History
Instructor: Dr. Wilko Graf von Hardenberg
University of Wisconsin–Madison, US

Further Readings: 
  • Arnold, Lorna. Windscale 1957: Anatomy of a Nuclear Accident. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992.
  • Davies, Hunter. Sellafield Stories. Edinburgh: Constable and Robinson, 2012.