Worst Power Plant Disaster?

It’s not nuclear. Quoting Annalee Newitz, at i09:

“[W]hen accidents happen, the deadliest and costliest source of energy is water — especially when it’s held back by poorly-designed dams. The Chernobyl disaster doesn’t come close to the damage done when a dam at a hydroelectric plant bursts.”

Here’s her rundown:

1975: Shimantan/Banqiao Dam Failure
Type of power: Hydroelectric
Human lives lost: 171,000
Cost: $8,700,000,000
What happened: Shimantan Dam in China’s Henan province fails and releases 15.738 billion tons of water, causing widespread flooding that destroys 18 villages and 1500 homes and induces disease epidemics and famine

1979: Morvi Dam Failure
Type of power: Hydroelectric
Human lives lost: 1500 (estimated)
Cost: $1,024,000,000
What happened: Torrential rain and unprecidented flooding caused the Machchu-2 dam, situated on the Machhu river, to burst. This sent a wall of water through the town of Morvi in the Indian State of Gujarat.

1998: Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Jess Oil Pipeline Explosion
Type of power: Oil
Human lives lost: 1,078
Cost: $54,000,000
What happened:Petroleum pipeline ruptures and explodes, destroying two villages and hundreds of villagers scavenging gasoline.

1944: East Ohio Gas Company
Type of power: Liquified natural gas (LNG)
Human lives lost: 130
Cost: $890,000,000
What happened: Explosion at LNG facility destroys one square mile of Cleveland, OH.

1907: Monongah Coal Mine
Type of power: Coal
Human lives lost: 362
Cost: $162,000,000
What happened: Underground explosion traps workers and destroys railroad bridges leading into the mine.

Compare these to:

1986: Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant
Type of power: Nuclear
Human lives lost: 4,056 (Source for this number: United Nations Scientific Subcommittee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation)
Cost: $6,700,000,000
What happened: Mishandled reactor safety test at Chernobyl nuclear reactor causes steam explosion and meltdown, necessitating the evacuation of 300,000 people from Kiev, Ukraine and dispersing radioactive materials across Europe.

A lot of this research was based on public policy professor Andrew Sovacool’s extremely informative monograph “The Accidental Century,” which looks at power plant disasters in the twentieth century in great detail.



  • Nick

    March 25, 2011

    Muy interesante.

    And where am I now? Links tell all!

  • Ray

    March 26, 2011

    A man, a plan, a canal…

    What are you doing there?

    Are you well?

  • Nick

    March 26, 2011

    Costa Rica makes you leave the country every three months for at least 72 hours as part of their visa requirements. We headed to Bocas del Toro for our 72 hours. It was average.

    Everyone is well, though border officials are convinced my daughter is not actually my daughter. They almost wouldn’t let her in to Panama because her passport picture didn’t look enough like her.


  • Redmond

    April 1, 2011

    Chernobyl killed 4000? Are you sure on those numbers?

    Last I checked Chernobyl killed under 100 – many people were psychologically damaged however, which may ha e led to early demise.

  • Nick

    April 1, 2011

    He might be quoting this:

    “UNSCEAR has conducted 20 years of detailed scientific and epidemiological research on the effects of the Chernobyl accident. Apart from the 57 direct deaths in the accident itself, UNSCEAR originally predicted up to 4,000 additional cancer cases due to the accident.”

    It’s all on Wiki, dude. It’s ALWAYS all on Wiki.

  • Redmond

    April 2, 2011

    Predicted is the operative word.

    They also found that people had far worse effects from the PSYCHOLOGICAL trauma.

    Wiki isn’t always a trustable source – especially in contentious issues like these. There was the guy who single handedly edited almost every post on global warming – he was a key part of the hockey team

  • Nick

    April 3, 2011


  • Ray

    April 3, 2011

    William Connolly, a scientist (of sorts) and a colossal fraud who, I understand, has recently had his Wikipedia privileges stripped.

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