Once you’ve selected a site and wind direction, click on the place marker for information on resettlement and radiological control zones.

This interactive map is designed to illustrate two key points about nuclear power plant accidents.

  1. Nuclear accidents can spread radioactive fallout over a very large area.
  2. The radioactive fallout pattern can be very random − it depends on prevailing weather patterns and topology. You might be reasonably close to a nuclear accident and be largely unaffected … or you might live a long way away but suffer much greater impacts because of local weather patterns.

The sites listed in the map are potential nuclear power sites in Australia, as discussed in a 2007 report by The Australia Institute: Andrew Macintosh, 2007, “Siting Nuclear Power Plants in Australia Where would they go?”, Web Paper No. 40.

The map makes no allowance for local weather conditions, topology etc. at the Australian sites. The fallout map is taken directly from the Chernobyl disaster. We would like to be able to produce an interactive map which takes account of local weather conditions and topology, but do not have the resources to carry out that work.

For modern reactors, the likelihood of an accident resulting in radioactive fallout dispersion as widespread as Chernobyl is small. However, risk assessment needs to consider both the frequency and the impacts of accidents – and for nuclear power plants, the frequency of catastrophic accidents is low but the impacts of accidents such as Chernobyl and Fukushima is extremely high. A 2003 MIT study, The Future of Nuclear Power, assessed the probability of serious reactor accidents in a scenario where the number of nuclear power reactors worldwide tripled by 2055. The MIT report found that “both the historical and the [risk assessment] data show an unacceptable accident frequency.”

In addition to accidents, we need to consider the potential for attacks on nuclear plants. A 2004 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists concluded that a major terrorist attack on the Indian Point reactor in the US could result in as many as 44,000 near-term deaths from acute radiation syndrome and as many as 518,000 long-term deaths from cancer among individuals within 50 miles of the plant.

There is a long history of conventional military strikes on ostensibly peaceful nuclear plants in the Middle East, driven by proliferation fears. Examples include the destruction of reactors in Iraq by Israel and the US and Israel’s bombing of a suspected nuclear reactor site in Syria in 2007. If we extend that line of thought, what happens when two nuclear-powered nations go to war? Will they shut down their power reactors and go without electricity, or take the risk of a catastrophe initiated by missile strikes?

In addition to the accidents at Fukushima, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, there have been partial core meltdowns in the reactors powering a number of Soviet/Russian submarines and at the following experimental / research reactors:

  • NRX (military), Ontario, Canada, in 1952
  • EBR-I (military), Idaho, USA, in 1955
  • Windscale (military), Sellafield, England, in 1957
  • Santa Susana Field Laboratory (military), Simi Hills, California, in 1959
  • SL-1, Idaho, USA in 1961. (US military)
  • Enrico Fermi Nuclear Generating Station (civil), Newport, Michigan, USA, in 1966
  • Chapelcross, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, in 1967
  • Lucens reactor, Switzerland, in 1969
  • A1 plant at Jaslovské Bohunice, Czechoslovakia in 1977. 25% of the fuel elements in a heavy water moderated carbon dioxide cooled 100 MW power reactor were damaged due to operator error.


Thanks to Carlos Mali for his work on the interactive map.