When did we first get electricity from a nuclear power plant?

During World War II, scientists raced to develop nuclear weapons for mass destruction. After the war, they began to focus on the peaceful purposes of nuclear power.

During World War II, scientists raced to develop nuclear weapons for mass destruction. After the war, they began to focus on the peaceful purposes of nuclear power.

Four light bulbs. That’s how much electricity was produced in the American nuclear reactor, EBR, on December 20, 1951.

At first, the electricity production turned out to be extremely scarce, but soon scientists were able to produce so much electricity that they could light up the entire nuclear power plant in the Idaho desert in the United States.

The idea of generating electricity with nuclear power dates back to 1932 when physicist Ernest Rutherford discovered that enormous amounts of energy are released when lithium atoms split apart.

Renowned physicists such as Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, however, had doubts that it would be possible to harness so much energy and use it in, for example, electricity production. Nevertheless, in the 1930s, an entire army of physicists was working on harnessing nuclear power.

One of these men was the German Otto Hahn who discovered in 1938 that the fission of uranium releases so much energy that it is a million times greater than what happens in conventional combustion. In the United States, this new discovery led to the construction of several nuclear reactors that primarily produced plutonium for the country’s nuclear weapons production.

The four worst nuclear accidents

Very few serious nuclear accidents have had a catastrophic impact on human life and the economy. The extent of nuclear accidents is measured on the so-called INES scale, which is determined by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The scale is divided into eight levels between 0 and 7, and 7 is considered the most serious accident.

4. The Windscale disaster

The year: 1957

Country: Great Britain


On October 10, 1957, a fire broke out that burned for three days in a nuclear power plant in the city of Windscale in Northern England, where plutonium was produced for British nuclear weapons. The accident resulted in radioactive clouds that spread over continental Europe and may have caused hundreds of cancer cases. It wasn’t until 30 years later that the authorities admitted that safety issues had been neglected.

3. The Kysjtym accident

The year: 1957

Country: Soviet Union

INES : 6

One of the worst nuclear accidents occurred at the Mayak plant near the city of Kystym, where the Soviets produced plutonium for nuclear weapons. The reason could be attributed to a leak in the cooling system, which had not been repaired for a whole year. The result was a huge explosion that sent radioactive material flying in all directions for a 300 km radius. The 10,000 inhabitants who lived in the area were not evacuated until a full week later.

2. The Fukushima I accident

The year: 2011

Country: Japan

INES : 7

On March 11, 2011, a particularly sharp earthquake in Japan caused a 15 m high tsunami to form, resulting in a power outage. Three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant exploded and mostly melted down. It is not known how many people died, but up to 200,000 Japanese had to be moved to emergency camps.

1. The Chernobyl disaster

The year: 1986

Country: Soviet Union

INES : 7

The nuclear accident in Chernobyl is the most terrible nuclear accident in history, but it happened on April 26, 1986 when an explosion occurred in one of the reactors. Since the furnace was not encased in concrete or steel, a cloud of radioactive material was created that spread over Europe. Terrible pollution occurred in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus (Belarus) and a total of 336,000 residents had to be evacuated.

After World War II, researchers in the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union increasingly focused on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

The President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, in a well-known speech drew attention to the need for the peaceful use of nuclear energy, including in the production of electricity.

The EBR nuclear reactor was the first of its kind when it was put into operation in 1951, but Russia was credited with having opened the first nuclear power plant that provided actual electricity. This was in 1954 when the Obninsk nuclear power plant started producing electricity, which supplied the city of Obninsk with electricity.

Related Posts