The Windscale Fire - 55 Years On

The Windscale fire was a fire in a nuclear reactor in Cumbria, England in 1957. Although the radiation release was less than Chernobyl, the pollution fell over nearby towns and also travelled across the Irish sea. Before Chernobyl, the Windscale fire was the worlds worst nuclear accident. The Windscale fire Wikipedia page is here

The enquiry into the Windscale fire searched for the casualties. It arrived at the conclusion that "statistically" 33 fatalies had resulted from the fire, although nobody could actually place names on the dead.

If you use the anti-nuclear scale that reckons around one million have died so far from Chernobyl, and one million will die from Fukishima (14,000 in the USA already), It would seem reasonable to give a conservative estimate to  the Windscale death toll over the last 55 years at  somewhere between 500,000 and 750,000.

Look at the scale of this thing.

It has been 55 years since the Windscale fire. So on average, using figures estimated from the anti-nuclear lobby's figures for Chernobyl and Fukushima, there should have been on average, about 10,000 radiation induced deaths a year.

There would have been peaks where a certain mortality took hold. So perhaps we should have seen, over this period,  a series of peaks of  20,000 - 40,000 deaths in particular years.

This would be a scale of additional mortality similar to that caused by medium size war.

Yet no medic or even anti-nuclear lobby has flagged up or protested about these tens of thousands of additional annual deaths. Nobody noticed.

Is that plausible?

Why is Cumbria (in particular) not an area of radioactive desolation? Why are the fields around Seascale not packed with mass graves? Why was the Irish population not decimated?

Unless you are one of the totally paranoid who believe in some magical international conspiracy designed to hide these deaths, you must admit, Cumbria is much as it was.

There have been no massive death peaks due to radiation induced illnesses. No mass graves, no huge health consequences. In fact a recent study into the health of the emergency responders found no long term health consequences at all, and they were the people who took the brunt of the radiation.

There was a localised rise in Thyroid cancer that was treated. This rise though was nothing like that at Chernobyl. At Windscale  iodine tablets were rapidly deployed and milk was discarded for a period of time.

Remember Windscale is still the third worst nuclear accident the world has ever seen.

Could it be a dark worldwide conspiracy and cover-up? Or is the truth that the anti-nuclear lobby's figures for Chernobyl and now Fukushima, are hopelessly over-stated.

In fact is it also possible that even the "official" figures are overstated?

Have we been frightening ourselves silly by allotting a far fetched and fanciful toxicity to nuclear material?

Professor Wade Allison of Oxford University (See this Post) believes in the second option.

And I tend to go along with him.


Rob Williamson said...

Where do the numbers come from?
The reports on mortality of workers at Windscale at the time of the accident show no0 increased mortality (actually a decreased mortality but within statistical limits zero).
I can't find any credible references claiming any significant mortality from the low level release.

BilloTheWisp said...

I'm completely with you!

The 33 "deaths" were actually a statistical excercise carried out by the UK government based on the largely discredited LNT model. (see wikipedia) As far as I know no known deaths have been directly or indirectly linked to the Winscale radiation release (or for that matter Three Mile island or Fukushima).

The ludicrously high figures I quote are based on preposterous figures bandied about by the anti-nuclear movement regarding Chernobyl. I have merely scaled these for Winscale. I finally point out that the total implausibility of these figures. I hoped to show the hysterical medieval fear mongering that the anti nukes indulge are in have no possible basis in reality.

I hope you read all of my post! I'm a little worried you think I actually believe these nonsense figures!