Clean Energy with a Side of Terror: The Nuclear Disasters Quiz


By: Bambi Turner

4 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Nuclear energy promises to deliver clean power without the use of fossil fuels. It's a technology with plenty of promise, but also comes with plenty of risk when things go wrong. Take our quiz to see how much you know about the biggest blunders, failures and meltdowns in nuclear history.

What year did the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl occur?

One of the worst nuclear accidents in global history took place in Pripyat -- 65 miles north of Kiev, Ukraine -- on April 26, 1986 at the Chernobyl nuclear plant.


What triggered the problems at Chernobyl?

A simple electrical power surge at Chernobyl sent the reactors into overdrive. While the plant didn't meltdown, the reactors did experience a chemical explosion, which sent more than 50 tons of deadly radioactive material spewing through the surrounding countryside.


How many people died in the immediate aftermath of Chernobyl?

Thirty-two people died immediately following the explosion at Chernobyl, with an estimated 5,000 additional lives lost over time due to elevated radiation exposure in the area. To this day, people living close to the now-closed plant experience higher rates of cancer and pregnancy complications.


What year did the secret disaster at Kyshtym take place?

In the depths of the Cold War, the Soviet Union covered up one of the worst nuclear disasters in history at Kyshtym. After the plant's cooling system failed on September 29, 1957, the government evacuated just 11,000 of 270,000 residents from the surrounding area.


What was the nuclear plant at Kyshtym called?

To this day, Russia has yet to admit to the major nuclear disaster at the Mayak plant -- often referred to as Kyshtym after the name of the closest city to the secret plant. Today, cancer rates in the area around the plant are five times higher than other areas.


What U.S. state is home to Three Mile Island?

The worst U.S. nuclear disaster took place at Three Mile Island -- which is located in Middletown, Pennsylvania. On March 28, 1979, the plant's reactor No. 2 suffered a partial meltdown, sending people streaming from the area to escape potential radiation exposure.


How many people died due to the disaster at Three Mile Island?

As of 2016, no deaths have been blamed on the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island. More than a dozen studies conducted since the accident have found no negative health effects or increased cancer rates in the area surrounding the plant.


Where did the Windscale fire take place?

After a fire ignited at reactor No. 1 of the Windscale nuclear plant in northwest England in 1957, the plant was shut down and sealed until a cleanup plan could be put in place during the 1980s.


Windscale released more radioactive material than Chernobyl into the atmosphere.

Thanks to an advanced filtration system, the fire at Windscale released 1,000 times less radioactive material into the air than the Chernobyl disaster. Despite these filters, however, thyroid cancer rates in the area around the Windscale plant remain elevated.


What U.S. state is home to Yucca Flat?

While testing nuclear devices in a government operation known as the Baneberry Test at Yucca Flat in Nevada, a seal failed, exposing 86 site workers to high levels of radiation.


What was the Thule Accident?

After a B-52 bomber carrying nuclear weapons crashed near Thule Air Base in Greenland on January 21, 1968, the U.S. government struggled to prevent radioactive material from contaminating the pristine landscape.


What was the name of the plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima?

Pilot Col. Paul Tibbets named his B-29 bomber "Enola Gay" after his mother when he dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945.


How many people died that day in Hiroshima?

The first nuclear bomb -- nicknamed Little Boy -- contained 90,000 pounds of plutonium. It was enough to kill 90,000 people and flatten 90 percent of the city.


How long did the U.S. wait after Hiroshima to drop a nuclear bomb on Nagasaki?

Despite the utter destruction at Hiroshima, the U.S. waited just three days before dropping a second nuclear bomb on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. Nicknamed "Fat Man," the bomb was delivered by Maj. Charles Sweeney in his plane, which he named Bockscar.


How many people died from the nuclear onslaught at Nagasaki?

While "Fat Man" was a more potent bomb than "Little Boy," the mountains surrounding Nagasaki contained the damage somewhat, and only around 40,000 people were lost in the explosion. It was enough to ensure Japan's unconditional surrender on August 15th, bringing an end to World War II.


Where did the Goiania Accident take place?

The theft of a radioactive teletherapy unit from an abandoned hospital near Goiana, Brazil in 1987 led to four immediate deaths, mostly those of the thieves, their family members and accomplices.


How many people were exposed to radiation thanks to the Goania Accident?

More than 250 were exposed to elevated radiation levels because they couldn't resist the mysterious blue glow of the stolen teletherapy unit. Twenty of those exposed suffered varying levels of radiation sickness as the thieves brought the device home, showed it to friends and family and ultimately sold it to a scrapyard.


Where did the Palomares incident take place?

When a U.S. B-52 bomber collided with a fuel tanker over Palomares on January 17, 1966, nuclear bombs were sent raining down over the sleepy Spanish town.


How many nuclear bombs fell from the B-52 over Palomares?

Four hydrogen bombs -- each 70 times as powerful as the one dropped on Hiroshima -- fell over Palomares in 1966. Two detonated immediately, but no nuclear explosion occurred.


What did the U.S. government call the lost Palomares bombs?

The U.S. recovered one bomb immediately after the crash, leaving three broken areas -- missing bombs -- somewhere in Palomares. Two were recovered right away, but a third ended up in the sea. It wasn't until April 1966 that the missing bomb was finally pulled from the water.


John Wayne was reportedly exposed to high levels of radiation on the set of this film.

It may not be a nuclear disaster on the scale of Chernobyl, but the filming of "The Conqueror" in the Utah desert in 1955 exposed the cast and crew to radiation from U.S. government test bombs. By the early '80s, 91 of the 220 cast members had developed cancer and 46 of those died from the disease, including John Wayne himself.


How long did the Lucens Nuclear Station produce electricity before it was shut down?

Lucens became Switzerland's first nuclear plant when it was built in 1962. It first produced electricity in 1968, but was shut down just a year later after a January 1969 nuclear accident.


How many plant workers died at Tokaimura in 1999?

Just two plant workers died after a 1999 accident at the plant in Tokaimura, Japan, though more than a hundred others were exposed to high levels of radiation. It was the worst nuclear accident in Japan's history until Fukushima.


What kind of structure suffered a nuclear explosion at Chazhma Bay in 1985?

A nuclear-powered Russian K-431 submarine exploded while refueling at Chazhma Bay on August 10, 1985. Ten people died right away, and 49 more suffered from severe radiation sickness.


Where did the Tomsk incident occur?

On April 6, 1993, a tank at the Tomsk-7 plant near Seversk in Siberia exploded, spewing radiation over a 5,400-square-foot area. It was one of the worst nuclear disasters in Soviet history but paled in comparison to the events at Chernobyl.


What natural disaster triggered a nuclear nightmare at Fukushima?

The Daiichi Plant at Fukushima shut down as planned after Japan was rocked by a powerful earthquake on March 11, 2011. Unfortunately, the earthquake then triggered a massive tsunami, which led to the worst nuclear disaster in Japanese history to that point.


What critical piece of equipment was damaged by the 2011 tsunami?

Fukushima would have arguably been fine after the massive 2011 earthquake. The reactors shut down immediately as the earthquake took place, and backup diesel generators kicked in to keep the cooling tanks operating. The saltwater from the tsunami made contact with the generators shortly after, causing them to malfunction and sending the reactors in meltdown mode.


How many people died from the nuclear disaster at Fukushima?

Just three employees died after an earthquake and tsunami disrupted activity at the Fukushima Plant, and none were actually exposed to nuclear material. To be safe, local authorities evacuated people within 12 miles, or 20 kilometers, of the plant.


Fukushima released more radiation than Chernobyl.

Fukushima may have made headlines, but it released just 15 percent of the radioactive material released at Chernobyl in 1986. In fact, as of 2016, there have been no deaths related to radiation released at Fukushima.


Chernobyl released more radiation than the bombing of Hiroshima.

While Hiroshima was a planned attack, it paled in comparison to Chernobyl, which released 400 times more radioactive material than the bombing 40 years earlier.


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