Subversive Historian – 10/10/08

The Windscale Fire

Fifty-one years ago on this day in people’s history, The Windscale Fire took place in Cumbria, England. On October 10th, 1957, the worst nuclear accident to have occurred at the time released radioactive material over much of northern Europe. England, fearing falling behind in the race to obtain a nuclear arsenal sought to assembly its own atomic weaponry. A military site in Cumbria became home to the Windscale Piles, the country’s first two nuclear reactors. On the morning of the accident, a physicist working at Windscale took notice that radioactivity was being registered and soon discovered that a fire had broken out and had been burning for some time. A radioactive cloud had formed and fallout reached countries such as Germany and Norway by the time the fire was put out.

It was originally thought that 200 cancer cases resulted from the nuclear accident, but an assessment on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Windscale fire concluded that radioactive fallout had been twice that previously thought with the number of related cancer cases upped to 240.


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