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Energy Policy 36 (2008) 1802–1820


www.elsevier.com/locate/enpol

The costs of failure: A preliminary assessment of major energy


accidents, 1907–2007
Benjamin K. Sovacool
Energy Governance Program, Centre on Asia and Globalisation, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, Singapore
Received 6 October 2007; accepted 24 January 2008
Available online 14 March 2008

Abstract

A combination of technical complexity, tight coupling, speed, and human fallibility contribute to the unexpected failure of large-scale
energy technologies. This study offers a preliminary assessment of the social and economic costs of major energy accidents from 1907 to
2007. It documents 279 incidents that have been responsible for $41 billion in property damage and 182,156 deaths. Such disasters
highlight an often-ignored negative externality to energy production and use, and emphasize the need for further research.
r 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Energy accidents; Externalities; Disasters

1. Introduction Energy accidents represent a fundamentally different


type of risk: they are systemic, recurring, and cumulative in
On a quiet school day afternoon in March 1937, nature. Given the energy intensity of modern lifestyles,
hundreds of students were preparing for the final hour of major energy accidents like the New London disaster differ
class in New London, Texas. A few minutes before the last from calamitous events such as 11 September or the
bell, an undetected natural gas leak caused an explosion Challenger disaster precisely because they are common.
that completely destroyed the Consolidated High School Energy accidents are more analogous to traffic fatalities,
and killed 294 of its students. On top of the wreckage, deaths from smoking tobacco, and skydiving than large
someone had scribbled in chalk the following words on a and singular catastrophes. They have become a more
broken blackboard, written before the explosion: common theme as cultures embrace electrification, indus-
trialization, economic growth, and higher standards of
Oil and natural gas are East Texas’ greatest mineral living.
blessings. Without them, this school would not be here, This article, however, investigates one unintended
and none of us would be here learning our lessons. consequence of such development by focusing on major
(Castaneda 2004, pp. 214–215) energy accidents. It offers a more systematic assessment of
The story of such a tragedy brings into focus at least two the social and economic costs of failing energy infrastruc-
important lessons beyond its irony. For one, it reminds us ture from 1907 to 2007. The article begins with a discussion
that natural resources bring with them great social and of the study’s research methodology before highlighting
economic promise, providing financial growth for commu- why large-scale energy technologies are prone to failure.
nities and energy services for local economies. Secondly, it Then, it documents 279 major energy accidents in the coal,
also forces us to remember that the infrastructure currently oil, natural gas, hydroelectric, renewable, and nuclear
in place to deliver energy services to society can surrepti- sectors over the last century. It concludes that such
tiously breakdown, and in rare circumstances destroy the disasters have been responsible for $41 billion in damages
very communities it intends to serve. and 182,156 deaths.
A discussion of the social and economic costs of energy
E-mail address: bsovacool@nus.edu.sg accidents is important for three interconnected reasons.

0301-4215/$ - see front matter r 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2008.01.040
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B.K. Sovacool / Energy Policy 36 (2008) 1802–1820 1803

First, while analysts and scholars have crafted dozens of phase. This means it must have occurred at an oil, coal,
indices to measure strengths and weaknesses of the energy natural gas, nuclear, renewable, or hydroelectric plant,
sector—from energy intensity and dispersion of various its associated infrastructure, or within its fuel cycle
airborne pollutants to kilowatt hours sold and amounts of (mine, refinery, pipeline, enrichment facility, etc.);
imported fuel—none have yet cataloged even a rudimen-  It must have resulted in at least one death or property
tary inventory of major energy accidents that looks beyond damage above $50,000 (in constant dollars that has not
individual technologies (Brown and Sovacool, 2007). The been normalized for growth in capital stock);
Nuclear Regulatory Commission, for example, provides an  It had to be unintentional and in the civilian sector,
excellent list of nuclear reactor incidents but focuses on meaning that military accidents and events during war
nothing else, and the National Transportation Safety and conflict are not covered, nor are intentional attacks.
Board compiles extensive data on pipeline spills and The study only counted documented cases of accident
failures but not on hydroelectric facilities or coalmines. and failure;
Second, economists often talk about the ‘‘externalities’’  It had to occur between August, 1907 and August, 2007;
associated with energy production and use. Externalities  It had to be verified by a published source.
refer to costs (or benefits) not fully internalized or priced by
the existing market system. When describing such extern- The study then adjusted all damages—including destruc-
alities, however, most studies have focused on the impacts tion of property, emergency response, environmental
of smog, nutrient deposition, acid rain, and global climate remediation, evacuation, lost product, fines, and court
change on agriculture, forestry, fisheries, recreation, water claims—to 2006 US dollars using the Statistical Abstracts
resources, wildlife, and human health. Such studies some- of the United States.
times mention ‘‘energy accidents’’ as a type of externality, Despite such criteria, however, the study likely under-
but seldom explore the topic in detail. This study is an estimates the frequency and severity of energy accidents to
attempt to reflect more fully on the costs energy accidents a significant extent for six reasons.
inflict on society and the economy. First, the study assesses only major sources of energy
Third, accidents need not be an inevitable feature of the production and distribution. Excluded are smaller forms of
modern energy landscape. The frequency of major energy energy transportation (such as automobiles, trucks, trains),
accidents depends greatly on how communities and accidents at manufacturing facilities (factories and indus-
countries manage their energy resources. Thus, exploring trial buildings), and energy accidents relating to energy use
‘‘where’’ and ‘‘when’’ energy accidents have occurred offers (such as explosions from car crashes or electrical fires in the
a much-needed first step towards then asking ‘‘why?’’ and home). For example, the Centers for Disease Control
‘‘under what conditions?’’ In his work on how humans reported in 2006 that 411 Americans die every year from
experience catastrophe, Richard A. Posner (2004) remarks electrocution, fatalities that the study does not count.
that most of us express a ‘‘psychological asymmetry’’ Second, excluding intentional attacks on energy infra-
towards disaster enabling us to distance ourselves from structure discounts hundreds of instances of sabotage,
tragic events. The risks inherent with different types of terrorism, civil disturbance, warfare, military accidents,
energy systems have become slowly naturalized to the point and the damage inflicted by military weapons testing (such
that they seem normal and necessary. One of the study’s as the fallout from nuclear weapons experiments). For
aims is to make them visible again so that they will be less example, when Iraqi troops left the Sea Island Terminal in
likely to recur. Kuwait on January 22, 1991, they released 240 million
gallons of crude oil into the surrounding environment,
2. Research methodology inflicting $454 million in damages. These types of damages
were not included in the study.
The claim that humans are imperfect needs no further Third, the study searched only published sources in
citation. It is unsurprising, then, that major energy English from 200 American periodicals and 24 historical
accidents occur. But what counts as an energy ‘‘accident,’’ archives. This leaves out unpublished or nonreported
especially a ‘‘major’’ one? The study attempted to answer accounts, accounts in periodicals not searched, and
this question by searching historical archives, newspaper publications in other languages. Such omissions make the
and magazine articles, and press wire reports from 1907 to study’s estimates extremely conservative. The World Wild-
2007. The words ‘‘energy,’’ ‘‘electricity,’’ ‘‘oil,’’ ‘‘coal,’’ life Foundation (2007) reports, for instance, that more than
‘‘natural gas,’’ ‘‘nuclear,’’ ‘‘renewable,’’ and ‘‘hydroelec- 3300 accidents occurred in Chinese coalmines leading to
tric’’ were searched in the same sentence as the words 5938 deaths in 2005 alone, followed by 4746 mining deaths
‘‘accident,’’ ‘‘disaster,’’ ‘‘incident,’’ ‘‘failure,’’ ‘‘meltdown,’’ in 2006 and an additional 163 deaths per year resulting
‘‘explosion,’’ ‘‘spill,’’ and ‘‘leak.’’ The study then narrowed from coal-related pneumoconiosis. Since they could not be
results according to five criteria: verified by published sources in English, the study excludes
them.
 The accident must have involved an energy system at the Fourth, the study assesses only the loss of life and
production/generation, transmission, and distribution property damage from major energy accidents. The study
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excluded everything else, including social dislocation, produces a dessert significantly different from its individual
environmental damage extending beyond the costs of uncooked ingredients.
remediation, loss of aesthetic value, and nonfatal injury. Such complexity causes unpredictability on three levels:
Fifth, the study defines the term ‘‘accident’’ narrowly for large technological systems can fail internally from any one
oil and gas facilities. For these energy sources, a nonfatal of their components; they can fail externally from
‘‘accident’’ counted only if it involved the loss of more than unpredictable events such as severe weather and human
50 barrels or its equivalent. From 1988 to 1997, this study interference; and it is often difficult to diagnose the causes
identified just more than 50 major energy accidents of their malfunctioning, making it harder to learn from
worldwide, but the US Department of Transportation their failure (de Jouvenel, 1968; Winner, 1978, 1988). In
and General Accounting Office identified 2241 major addition, the greater complexity of energy systems can
accidents and the US Environmental Protection Agency multiply failure modes and lengthen downtime, making
an additional 16,000 more accidents involving spills with repairs harder, increasing equipment and training costs,
less than 50 barrels (US General Accounting Office, 2000). and escalating carrying charges on costly spare parts made
Sixth, when sources have disagreed about estimates of in small production runs (Lovins and Lovins, 1982).
damage or predicted a range of possible damages for a Complexity here has two additional consequences: large-
given accident, this study went with the lowest estimate. scale projects are very capital intense, meaning that when
For instance, the International Atomic Energy Agency they fail they do so magnificently; and that their failures
(2006), working with the World Health Organization, are more costly and knowledge intensive to repair.
attributed 4056 deaths to the Chernobyl nuclear accident
whereas other studies put the numbers above 200,000 and
3.2. Tight coupling
350,000. The study includes only the lowest estimates with
the assumption that underestimating is better than over-
Complexity alone would not be deleterious if not for the
estimating.
tendency for large systems to be tightly coupled (Perrow,
Thus, the energy accidents documented here are
1984). Even though energy technologies can be incredibly
significantly limited: they include only major energy
complicated, their overarching goal is simple: a nuclear
facilities, exclude intentional attacks and military acci-
power plant is merely a complicated machine for producing
dents, searched only English sources, assessed just loss of
electricity, a natural gas pipeline an engineering feat
life and property damage, defined ‘‘accident’’ conserva-
designed to distribute fuel. This makes energy systems
tively for oil and gas technologies, and utilized the most
very precise and efficient, but it also means that such
cautious estimates of loss of life and property damage.
systems have little flexibility and room for error (Tenner,
1997). Complex and tightly coupled systems are less able
3. Failed technology and technological failure to cope with rapidly changing external environments. The
interdependence of system components means that failures
The literature on technological systems, technological within one part of the system tend to cascade. Centralized
failure, and failed technology is indeed voluminous. Thus, water supply, waste disposal, and electricity systems
for purposes of brevity, the article presents only a small have become interdependent in most cities so that the
and rudimentary sampling. Generally, those analyzing failure of one individual subsystem induces system-wide
technology and risk have argued that the more complicated effects. The breakdown of telephone service can interrupt
and interdependent technological systems and subsystems air traffic control and stock exchange activity, whereas
become, the more vulnerability they exhibit. This vulner- loss of electricity will suspend urban transit systems,
ability arises from their complexity, tight coupling, speed of traffic lights, elevators, and water supply pumps (Hughes,
interaction, and fallibility of their human designers and 2004).
operators.
3.3. Speed of interaction
3.1. Complexity
Complexity and tight coupling are compounded by a
Large, centralized energy technologies are often so third problem: speed of interaction. To achieve their
complex that no human designer can know or comprehend efficiency, large-scale technologies have more time-depen-
all of the factors needed for flawless system operation. This dent processes, and in many cases operate automatically.
means that the failure of a single component (say, a fuse) Given the speed at which system components interact,
can affect the entire system, and that multiple components however, malfunctions usually occur faster than any
can fail in the same manner by a single initiating event combination of problem solvers can anticipate or overcome
(such as a lightning strike or fire). It also becomes difficult them (Tenner, 1997). The electricity blackout affecting 51
for system operators to project how the system as a whole million people throughout Ontario and the Northeastern
will react differently than its individual components did in US on August 14, 2003, for example, occurred at almost
a laboratory environment, much like baking a cake the speed of light.
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3.4. Human fallibility for the system to operate. Structural supports, cooling
towers, firewalls, radiation shields, spent fuel storage
A fourth factor, human fallibility, exacerbates each of facilities, and emergency backup generators must remain
the above tendencies. Michael Heller and Rebecca Eisen- in excellent condition. System operators must continuously
berg (1998) note that people frequently think in determi- monitor temperatures, pressures, power levels, radiation
nistic rather than probabilistic terms about their own ideas. levels, flow rates, cooling water chemistry, and equipment
They overestimate their own assets and disparage the performance.
claims of their opponents. Such cognitive and attribution The sheer complexity of the nuclear reactor, and other
biases influence multiple dimensions of the technological large-scale energy technologies similar to it, makes it
development process, from how researchers select certain difficult to understand how the system as a whole might
designs to how they perceive the profitability of their act; tight coupling spreads problems once they begin; the
technologies. Proponents of large-scale energy technologies speediness of failure will often overwhelm attempts to
are often encouraged to think that they can control the best prevent it; specialization makes the system more costly to
in nature and the worst in themselves, and they continue to repair; capital intensity means such failures have larger
think so until carried beyond the limits of their own effects; and human fallibility, catalyzed by selection bias
intelligence or stamina. Operators also tend to prefer and hubris among proponents, means that those building
systems that benefit them directly and immediately, a poor energy systems continue to select the very technologies that
choice from a design safety standpoint (Lovins and Lovins, fail. In short, policymakers, operators, and managers
1982). understandably choose first the technologies that they
A general vision of progress and modernity, as well as an know best, exhibiting a natural proclivity towards familiar
inherent belief in the immediate feasibility of large-scale systems. If they receive compensation for their selections,
and sophisticated technologies, reinforces a preference such actors are even more likely to overestimate the
towards big systems. Scientists and engineers working on benefits of a given technology and underestimate its costs.
a wide array of energy projects, from fusion reactors and
solar space stations to the hydrogen economy and electric 4. Major global energy accidents, 1907–2007
vehicles, tend to underestimate the technical challenges
related to their projects (Ford, 1982). A ‘‘bigger is better’’ Unsurprisingly, the data concerning major energy
ideology, strong belief in technical efficiency, preference for accidents is inhomogeneous. This preliminary study
hierarchical management, adherence to centralization, and identified 279 major energy accidents that occurred from
incessant search for economies of scale in gigantism have 1907 to 2007. Appendix 1 lists the details of these events,
become prevailing traditions of economic and technologi- which totaled roughly $41 billion in property damages and
cal thinking. This hubris, or overconfidence in the potency caused 182,156 deaths. Three characteristics of these
of big science and high technology, lead proponents of accidents deserve closer inspection: the nature of their
large-scale energy technologies to aggrandize the ability of fatalities, the significance of their property damage, and the
human beings to manage complex systems and master frequency with which they happened.
natural phenomena (Erikson, 1976).
Both types of thinking, faith in one’s own project and 4.1. Fatalities
hubris regarding human ingenuity, become difficult to alter
once large-scale systems enter the physical, social, and While responsible for less than 1 percent of total energy
economic landscape. David Nye (1999) explains that strong accidents, hydroelectric facilities claimed 94 percent of
appeals of tradition and familiarity shape the preferences reported fatalities. Looking at the gathered data, the total
made by energy policymakers concerning particular results on fatalities are highly dominated by one accident in
technologies. The energy systems a society adopts create which the Shimantan Dam failed in 1975 and 171,000
the structures that underlie personal expectations and people perished (see Fig. 1).
assumptions about what is normal and possible. Energy Only three of the listed 279 accidents resulted in more
policymakers live within a ‘‘historical envelope’’ of natural than 1000 deaths, and each of these varied in almost every
technological environments that appear to have been there aspect. One involved the structural failure of a dam more
since the beginning of an individual’s historical conscious- than 30 years ago in China; one involved a nuclear
ness. meltdown in the Ukraine two decades ago; and one
When ruminating on the interconnected reasons that involved the rupture of a petroleum pipeline in Nigeria
larger systems can exhibit vulnerability, consider the case about 10 years ago.
of the nuclear reactor. A modern Generation II American
nuclear plant usually contains some 50 miles of piping 4.1.1. Shimantan hydroelectric facility, Henan Province,
welded 25,000 times, 900 miles of electrical cables, and China
11,500 cubic yards of concrete. Thousands of electric The Shimantan hydroelectric facility failed catastrophi-
motors, conduits, batteries, relays, switches, operating cally on August 8, 1975, causing almost $9 billion in
boards, transformers, condensers, and fuses are needed property damage and 171,000 deaths. Shimantan was a
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Fig. 1. Energy accident fatalities by source, 1907–2007.

Soviet-style hydroelectric facility constructed in the early cooling pump system could still function if auxiliary
1950s on the Ru River. Engineers designed it to be part of a electricity supplies malfunctioned. Close to midnight, the
flood control and electrification scheme intended to reduce operators turned off the automatic shutdown system so
the incidence of severe flooding in the Huai River Basin that the test could proceed, and then mistakenly lowered
and provide local villages with energy services. In early too many control rods into the reactor core. The control
August 1975, Typhoon Nina dumped almost 8 inches of rods displaced coolant and concentrated reactivity in the
rain into the basin in 24 h, exceeding the yearly precipita- lower core, causing fuel pellets to rupture and explode,
tion rate, collapsing buildings and destroying thousands of destroying the reactor roof and sweeping the eruption
villages. Sedimentation clogged the sluice gates on many of outwards into the surrounding atmosphere. As air raced
the adjacent reservoirs and dams, worsening the problem, into the shattered reactor, it ignited flammable carbon
and telegraphs to open nearby dams failed to reach any of monoxide gas and resulted in a radioactive fire that burned
the facilities because of the storm. for 9 days.
While Chinese policymakers were debating whether to The accident at Chernobyl released more than 100 times
open dams upstream and downstream by air strike to the radiation than the atom bombs dropped on Nagasaki
relieve the water pressure on Shimantan, shortly after and Hiroshima, and most of the fallout concentrated near
midnight on August 8 the dam failed to handle more than Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. At least 350,000 people were
twice its capacity and released 1670 million tons of water in forcibly resettled away from these areas, and cesium and
just 5 h, creating a massive tidal wave that cascaded into strontium severely contaminated agricultural products,
the failure of 61 other dams. Approximately 16 billion tons livestock, and soil. After the accident, traces of radioactive
of water were released in total, resulting in a flood wave 6 deposits unique to Chernobyl were found in nearly every
miles wide and 23 ft high that traveled at nearly 30 miles/h country in the northern hemisphere.
as it destroyed 4600 square miles of property (McCully,
2001). Seven county seats were inundated, 6 million
buildings collapsed, and 11 million people lost their homes. 4.1.3. NNPC petroleum pipeline, Niger Delta, Nigeria
The Hydrology Department of Henan Province reports The third most fatal energy accident involved the rupture
that 26,000 people died immediately and another 145,000 and explosion of a Nigerian National Petroleum Corpora-
succumbed to fatal injuries during subsequent epidemics tion (NNPC) high-pressure pipeline carrying gasoline from
and famine (Tan, 2006). the Warri Refinery in Southern Nigeria to Kaduna in
North Nigeria on October 17, 1998, which killed 1078
4.1.2. Chernobyl nuclear reactor, Kiev, Ukraine people and induced $54 million in property damages. Late
Perhaps the most well-known accident in global history, the evening of October 16, farmers near Jesse and Atiegwo,
a mishandled safety test at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Nigeria, noticed a leak at the 16-inch pipeline and quickly
Kiev, Ukraine, killed at least 4056 people and damaged notified other villagers, who traveled to the leak site to
almost $7 billion of property. On the evening of April 25, scavenge for fuel. Sometime early in the morning, before
1986, engineers on the evening shift at Chernobyl’s number maintenance crews from NNPC and Shell could arrive, the
four reactor began an experiment to see whether the pipeline exploded, devastating 12 km2 of land, completely
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burning two villages, and immediately incinerating more larvae and eggs. More than a decade after the spill,
than 1000 Nigerians. ecologists at the University of North Carolina found that
shoreline habitats near Prince William Sound may take
4.2. Property damage another 30 years to recover (Graham, 2003).

The study found that only a small amount of accidents 4.2.2. The Prestige oil spill near Galicia, Spain
caused property damages greater than $1 billion, with most The oil tanker Prestige ruptured one of its tanks during
accidents below the $100 million mark. The second largest severe weather and spilled 20 million gallons of fuel into
source of fatalities, nuclear reactors, is also the second the sea near Galicia, Spain, on November 13, 2002, causing
most capital intense, supporting the notion that the larger a $3.3 billion in property damages. The Prestige, a single-
facility the more grave (albeit rare) the consequences of its hulled oil tanker owned and operated by a Greek family,
failure. The inverse seems true for oil, natural gas, and coal was carrying 77,000 tons of heavy fuel oil when one of its
systems: they fail far more frequently, but have compara- 12 tanks burst during a storm near Galicia. Fearing that
tively fewer deaths and damage per each instance of failure. the ship would completely sink, the captain called for help
While hydroelectric plants were responsible for the most from the Spanish coast guard and asked that the vessel be
fatalities, nuclear plants rank first in terms of their immediately brought into harbor. Under pressure from
economic cost, accounting for 41 percent of all property local authorities, the Spanish government refused, ordering
damage. Oil and hydroelectric come next at around 25 the captain to sail northwest. There, under orders from the
percent each, followed by natural gas at 9 percent and coal French government, the ship was commanded to change its
at 2 percent (see Fig. 2). course once again and head into Portuguese waters. For a
Excluding Chernobyl and the Shimantan Dam, the three third time, the Portuguese refused to assist the ship and
other most expensive accidents involved two oil spills and ordered its navy to prevent the vessel from approaching its
one nuclear accident but killed no people. coast.
Left in the open sea, the integrity of the single hull
4.2.1. Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, deteriorated and the starboard section of the vessel
Alaska completely broke off, releasing the entire cargo into the
ocean, a few days before the ship split in half and sank
On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran aground in completely. After the sinking, wreckage from the ship
Prince William Sound and spilled 250,000 barrels of crude continued to leak 125 tons of oil per day, contaminating
oil, causing more than $4.1 billion in property damage. The surrounding coral reefs and forcing a regional fishing
Valdez, a single-hulled tanker, departed for California on moratorium for 6 months (Vince, 2003).
March 23 carrying 53 million gallons of crude oil. Captain
Joseph Hazelwood failed to keep the vessel in its shipping 4.2.3. The Three Mile Island nuclear accident, Middletown,
lane and struck Bligh Reef shortly after midnight on March Pennsylvania
24, discharging one-fifth of his cargo into the Sound. Both Equipment failures and operator error contributed to the
the short-term and long-term effects of the oil spill have loss of coolant and a partial core meltdown at the Three
been studied comprehensively. Hundreds of thousands Mile Island (TMI) nuclear reactor in Pennsylvania, causing
of animals died immediately, including approximately $2.4 billion in property damages on March 28, 1979. The
500,000 seabirds, 5000 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 240 primary feed-water pumps stopped running at TMI Unit 2,
bald eagles, 22 orcas, and billions of salmon and herring preventing the large steam generators at the reactor site
from removing necessary exhaust heat. As the steam
turbines and reactor automatically shut down, contami-
nated water poured out of open valves and caused the core
of the reactor to overheat, inducing a partial core
meltdown.
Detailed studies of the radiological consequences of the
accident have been conducted by various American
regulatory agencies, and a consensus has emerged that
while the average dose of exposure from the accident was 1
millirem (or one-sixth the exposure from a full set of
chest X-rays), it brought about sweeping changes to the
industry and forced the permanent closure and decom-
missioning of TMI Unit 2. After the accident, emergency
response planning, reactor operator training, human
factors engineering, radiation protection, and many other
areas of nuclear power plant operations were radically
Fig. 2. Energy accident property damage by source, 1907–2007. reformed.
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4.3. Frequency natural gas began to compete as a cleaner burning form of


fuel, challenging coal in cities such as New York, Kansas
By energy source, the most frequent energy system to fail is City, and Pittsburgh, corresponding with the introduction
natural gas, followed by oil, nuclear, coal, and then hydro- and rise of natural gas-related accidents.
electric. The distribution of accidents over time also reveals The period 1948–1967 saw the introduction of nuclear
their shifting and dynamic nature (see Table 1 and Fig. 3). power, the Atoms for Peace project, and the start of the
Indeed, the associated risks from energy infrastructure Cold War. The Atomic Energy Act of 1954 in the US
have changed over time. Accidents at coal facilities clearly encouraged private corporations to build nuclear reactors
dominated the period from 1907 to 1927. During these two and President Dwight Eisenhower publicly pledged to
decades, industrial centers in the USA and Europe relied ‘‘strip the military casing of the atom and adapt it to the art
predominately on coal to provide energy services during of peace.’’ A significant learning phase followed with a slew
World War I. Throughout the war, energy security of early meltdowns and accidents at experimental reactors
consisted primarily of ensuring an adequate supply of and research facilities, leading to the introduction of the
efficiently distributed coal to power the wartime effort and Price-Anderson Act in 1957, an implicit admission that
maintain industrial productivity (Clark, 1982). nuclear power provided risks that producers were unwilling
From 1928 to 1947, American and European policy- to assume without federal backing. These accidents continued
makers promoted massive hydroelectric projects as an into the 1960s with a small test reactor exploding at the
essential component of modernization, needed to distribute National Reactor Testing Station in Idaho Falls in January
the modern blessings of electrification to the millions of 1961 and a partial meltdown at the Fermi Plant in Michigan
households that did not have it. In the USA, these projects in 1966. These early accidents were not enough to deter
came as part of the New Deal and other programs intended investment in atomic energy, and American utility companies
to stimulate the American economy out of the Great planned to construct 75 nuclear plants in the late 1960s and
Depression (Tobey, 1996). Near the middle of this period, early 1970s. About half of all power plant capacity ordered in
1967 was nuclear, and by the end of 1969, more than 90
Table 1 nuclear plants had been contracted, were in construction, or
Energy accidents by source, 1907–2007 were currently operating (Melosi, 1986).
A fourth and final period from 1968 to today witnessed
Technology Accidents % of total the rise of modern energy landscape, where a diverse
Natural gas 91 33 portfolio of technologies and risks confront policymakers
Oil 71 25 and consumers. This final era is marked by the rise of the
Nuclear 63 23 ‘‘portfolio approach’’ in energy policy where no single
Coal 51 18 technology and no one policy mechanism dominates the
Hydroelectric 3 1
Other renewables 0 0
agenda. In terms of technologies, the past four decades have
see the introduction of combined cycle natural gas turbines,

Fig. 3. Energy accident frequency by decade and source, 1907–2007.


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B.K. Sovacool / Energy Policy 36 (2008) 1802–1820 1809

improved alloys and turbines for conventional steam remote past, and more people have access to energy
turbines, catalytic converters for automobiles, combined heat services—and many of the life-saving functions they
and power plants, various renewable electricity generators, perform—than ever before. There are more people around
and alternative fuels (to name just a few). In an attempt to nowadays, meaning an accident is more likely to kill
transition away from oil after the energy crises of the 1970s, someone, and there is more stuff around that can be
developed and industrialized countries implemented a host of damaged. Geographically, the USA and its territories
policy mechanisms, including tax credits, government pro- consume only around two-fifths of the world’s oil and one-
curement, research and development programs, federal quarter of its coal and natural gas, and are home to only
mandates, and mandatory standards to support new energy 4.5 percent of the world population. These numbers make
technologies and refine existing ones. The result has been a it extremely unlikely that the country is actually home to
diversification of energy technologies and strategies, and a more than 70 percent of all energy accidents. It is more
consequent diversification of energy risks and accidents likely that better media coverage, and the fact that sources
across energy systems. are in English, are behind the prevalence of American
energy accidents in the study.
5. Areas for further research Second, saying that an accident occurred tells us little or
nothing about what may have caused it. Donald MacKenzie
Despite these statistical trends, two flaws are apparent (1996) surveyed major accidents related to computer
with this preliminary study. First, the data supports malfunctions from 1978 to 1992 and found that their causes
admittedly specious conclusions. One could easily be were greatly divergent. Some had physical causes, such as
tempted to conclude from Fig. 3 that the number of energy interference from microwaves accidentally reprogramming
accidents is increasing. Of the 279 incidents, for example, pacemakers, electromagnetic interference causing fighter
33 percent of them occurred from 1978 to 1987; 20 percent aircraft and helicopters to collide or crash, or faulty
from1988 to 1997; 18 percent from 1968 to 1977; and 16 capacitors to cause machinery to start unexpectedly. Others
percent from 1998 to 2007. Indeed, from 1907 to 1967, the had software issues, such as when American missile defense
study identified only 13 percent of accidents, suggesting systems in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia failed to intercept a Scud
that the economic and social costs of technological failure missile on February 25, 1991, which ended up striking a
in the energy sector are rising in absolute terms. One could barracks and killing 28 troops or fatal overdoses in radiation
also conclude, by looking closely at the locations of energy from medical equipment. Some were human caused, such as
accidents detailed in Appendix 1, that the USA is by far the the manual switching-off of audible warnings for electrified
most dangerous location for energy technology, since it is fences, autopilot systems in aircraft being set to the compass
responsible for 73 percent (203 out of 279) of reported rather than inertial navigation system, and the use of identical
energy accidents (see Fig. 4). navigational cassettes on aircraft. MacKenzie’s study suggests
Both claims, however, are suspect. Temporally, recent that the causes behind each computer accident were context
disasters are more likely to be retained in the electronic and specific, and that we can expect the same to be true for those
historical archives searched by this study than those in the involving energy systems.

Fig. 4. Energy accidents by geographic location, 1907–2007.


ARTICLE IN PRESS
1810 B.K. Sovacool / Energy Policy 36 (2008) 1802–1820

Because of these admitted shortcomings, a more fine- are ‘‘worth it,’’ or how they compare to other hidden and
tuned analysis of major energy accidents from 1907 to 2007 cumulative events such as drunk driving, heart disease,
is called for. Currently, this study focuses on only the automobile accidents, and other ‘‘ordinary’’ risks. Perhaps
temporal and technological dimensions of energy acci- one striking difference between energy accidents and other
dents, telling us when they occurred and the technologies ‘‘normal’’ risks facing society concerns the involuntary
or fuel chains associated with them. A far better and aspects of energy accidents. Alcoholics, rock climbers,
comprehensive approach, outside the scope of this study, construction workers, soldiers, and gigolos all take a
would be to combine temporal and descriptive components somewhat active and voluntary role in their risky behavior.
with institutional and spatial analysis. This more nuanced Those suffering from nuclear meltdowns, exploding gas
approach, for example, could adjust the results of this clouds, and petroleum-contaminated water do not.
study for increased accessibility of news over time and As it is probably already apparent to readers, one
during peacetime, or assess the energy accident-related fundamental, underlying question that this study has not
deaths per population, property damage per gross domestic attempted to answer is whether better governance
product, or the regional distribution of impacts across can really improve energy systems, or if the current
different communities or countries. Once that type of ‘‘failings’’ of energy technologies an inevitable and
deeper analysis is conducted, more accurate comparisons natural byproduct of the energy landscape. Here, addi-
between energy accidents and other types of daily, tional work is needed that expands beyond this study’s
systemic, and recurring risks can occur. temporal and technological focus into a broader analysis
that includes spatial, institutional, economic, and social
dimensions, as well as more fine-tuned statistical analysis
6. Conclusion that adjusts the occurrence of energy accidents to other
factors such as population growth and improved media
What this study does conclusively demonstrate is that coverage.
energy accidents exact a significant toll on human health Regardless, this study has shown that the death and
and welfare, the natural environment, and society. Such destruction associated with large-scale energy technologies
accidents are now part of our daily routines, a somewhat is significant. The fact that it is systemic means that it can
intractable feature of our energy-intensive lifestyles. They be predicted to occur, with certainty, well into the future.
are an often-ignored negative externality associated with Therein also lies hope, for recurring events can be
energy conversion and use. This conclusion may seem quite anticipated and responded to. Their ‘‘high probability’’
banal to some, given how fully integrated energy technol- means that they can be more easily predicted, planned for,
ogies are into modern society. Yet energy systems continue and minimized than unforeseen events.
to fail despite drastic improvements in design, construc-
tion, operation, and maintenance, as well as the best of
intentions among policymakers and operators. Appendix 1
This preliminary study has merely calculated the
absolute costs of energy accidents in terms of death and A detailed list of major global energy accidents occurred
property damage. It says nothing about whether these costs between 1907 and 2007 are listed in Table A1.

Table A1
List of major global energy accidents 1907–2007

Facility Date Location Description Fatalities Cost


(in millions $)

Coal mine December 6, 1907 Monongah, West Underground explosion traps workers and destroys railroad 362 162
Virginia, USA bridges leading into the mine
Coal mine February 27, 1908 San Juan de Mine shaft completely collapses 201 12
Sabinas, Coahuila,
Mexico
Coal mine September 30, 1908 Palau Coal Mine, Explosion and fire collapse multiple shafts 100 8
Coahuila, Mexico
Coal mine February 16, 1909 Stanley, England Explosion and fire destroys entire mine 168 11
Coal mine November 13, 1909 Cherry, Illinois, Fire and explosion collapse multiple shafts 259 42
USA
Coal mine October 22, 1913 Dawson, New Fire induces explosion that buries workers 263 5
Mexico, USA
Coal mine October 14, 1913 Cardiff, Wales Mine shaft completely collapses 439 12
Coal mine June 19, 1914 Hillcrest, Alberta, Fire and explosion collapse multiple shafts 189 7
Canada
Coal mine June 5, 1919 Wilkes-Barre, Underground explosion collapses facility 92 3
Pennsylvania, USA
ARTICLE IN PRESS
B.K. Sovacool / Energy Policy 36 (2008) 1802–1820 1811

Table A1 (continued )

Facility Date Location Description Fatalities Cost


(in millions $)

Hydroelectric December 1, 1923 Valle di Scalve, Italy Gleno’s Dam complete fails, flooding the local countryside 202 34
Coal mine March 8, 1924 Castle Gate, Utah, Three explosions destroy entire mine 172 23
USA
Coal mine November 5, 1930 Millfield, Ohio, USA Two explosions bury workers and destroy five shafts 82 18
Coal mine December 24, 1932 Moweaqua, Illinois, Methane gas explosion destroys entire mine 54 19
USA
Coal mine September 22, 1934 Gresford, Wrexham, Fire and explosion destroy entire mine 266 22
Wales
Natural gas pipeline March 18, 1937 New London, Texas, Natural gas explosion destroys entire high school 309 41
USA
Coal mine April 22, 1938 Keen Mountain, Explosion at coal mine destroys two shafts 54 3
Virginia, USA
Coal mine January 10, 1940 Bartley, West Explosion at mine destroys four shafts and buries workers 91 15
Virginia, USA
LNG Plant October 20, 1944 Cleveland, Ohio, Explosion at LNG Facility destroys 1 square mile of 130 890
USA Cleveland
Coal mine June 19, 1945 Rancagua, Chile Smoke from fire suffocates miners 355 0
Coal mine March 25, 1947 Centralia, Illinois, Fire and explosion destroy entire mine 111 24
USA
Coal mine December 21, 1951 West Frankfort, Main shaft caves in, trapping workers 119 9
Illinois, USA
Nuclear December 12, 1952 Chalk River, Hydrogen explosion damage reactor interior, releasing 0 45
Ontario, Canada 30 kg of uranium
Coal mine August 8, 1956 Marcinelle, Belgium Fire and explosion destroy facility 262 11
Coal mine November 1, 1956 Springhill, Nova Faulty mine train ignites coal dust and explodes 39 8
Scotia, Canada
Nuclear October 8, 1957 Windscale, UK Fire ignites plutonium piles, destroys surrounding dairy 33 78
farms
Nuclear May 24, 1958 Chalk River, Fuel rod catches fire and contaminates half of facility 0 67
Ontario, Canada
Coal mine October 23, 1958 Springhill, Nova Mining induces small earthquake that destroys facility and 74 27
Scotia, Canada surrounding town
Coal mine January 12, 1959 Jenkins, Flash flood destroys the entire Knox mine 12 21
Pennsylvania, USA
Nuclear July 26, 1959 Simi Valley, Partial core meltdown takes place at Santa Susana Field 0 32
California, USA Laboratory’s sodium reactor experiment
Nuclear January 3, 1961 Idaho Falls, Idaho Explosion at national reactor testing station 3 22
Coal mine February 7, 1962 Volkingen, Simultaneous methane and coal dust explosion destroys 299 14
Germany half of the facility
Natural gas pipeline March 4, 1965 Natchitoches, Corrosion cracking causes explosion of natural gas 17 10
Louisiana, USA transmission pipeline
LNG facility May 3, 1965 Canvey Island, UK Explosion during LNG transfer operation 1 2
Nuclear October 5, 1966 Monroe, Michigan, Sodium cooling system malfunctions at Enrico Fermi 0 19
USA demonstration breeder reactor causing partial core
meltdown
Oil tanker March 18, 1967 Seven Stones Reef, The Torrey Canyon supertanker strikes Pollard’s Rock and 1 56
English Channel discharges 120,000 tons of oil into the English Channel
Nuclear May 2, 1967 Dumfries and Fuel rod catches fire and causes partial meltdown at the 0 76
Galloway, Scotland Chaplecross Magnox nuclear power station
Oil tanker June 13, 1968 Economic Exclusive The World Glory oil tanker experiences full failure, spilling 0 110
Zone, South Africa 11 million gallons of fuel
Coal mine November 20, 1968 Mannington, West Explosion destroys entire facility 78 24
Virginia, USA
Natural gas pipeline December 5, 1968 Yutan, Nebraska, Pipeline rupture induces vapor cloud that ignites, killing 5 2
USA repair crew
Nuclear January 21, 1969 Lucens, Canton of Coolant system malfunctions at underground experimental 0 22
Vaud, Switzerland reactor
Oil platform February 7, 1969 Santa Barbara, Offshore oil platform experiences blowout and spills 0 56
California, USA 100,000 barrels of fuel into the beach water
Coal mine March 31, 1969 Coahuila, Mexico Flooding causes avalanche at Mina de Barroterán Coal 176 4
mine
Nuclear May 1, 1969 Stockholm, Sweden Malfunctioning valve causes flooding in Agesta pressurized 0 14
heavy water nuclear reactor, short circuiting control
functions
Natural gas pipeline June 3, 1969 Gary, Indiana, USA Explosion at low pressure national gas distribution system 0 11
Natural gas pipeline November 6, 1969 Burlington, Iowa, Fire at low pressure national gas distribution system 0 10
USA
ARTICLE IN PRESS
1812 B.K. Sovacool / Energy Policy 36 (2008) 1802–1820

Table A1 (continued )

Facility Date Location Description Fatalities Cost


(in millions $)

Natural gas pipeline September 9, 1969 Houston, Texas, Explosion at high pressure natural gas pipeline 0 18
USA
Oil tanker March 20, 1970 Tralhavet Bay, The oil tanker Othello collides with a smaller vessel, spilling 0 22
Sweden 438,000 barrels of fuel
Petroleum pipeline September 3, 1970 Jacksonville, 30,000 gal of gasoline leak out of petroleum pipeline owned 0 12
Maryland, USA by Colonial Pipeline Company and catch fire, burning 5
repair persons
Natural gas pipeline December 9, 1970 Franklin County, Propane gas pipeline ruptures, explodes, and destroying 5 0 45
Missouri, USA blocks of Port Hudson and injuring 11
Coal mine December 30, 1970 Hyden, Kentucky, Simultaneously explosions at two Finley Coal Company 38 23
USA mines collapse entire facility
LNG facility March 18, 1971 La Spezia LNG The LNG vessel Esso Brega leaks 2000 tons of fuel 0 1
Import Terminal,
Italy
Natural gas pipeline October 4, 1971 North Richland Accident and fire at Lone Star Gas Company pipeline 2 3
Hills, Texas, USA injures firefighters
Natural gas pipeline November 17, 1971 Pittsburg, Equitable Gas Company pipeline leaks and contaminates 0 11
Pennsylvania, USA local water supply
Coal mine February 26, 1972 Logan County, West Coal slurry impoundment damn fails and releases 132 125 72
Virginia, USA million gallons of black wastewater into the surrounding
communities
Natural gas pipeline March 24, 1972 Annandale, Washington Gas Light Company pipeline leaks and 3 7
Virginia, USA explodes, igniting three houses
Natural gas pipeline June 2, 1972 Butler, Alabama, Propane pipeline ruptures and spilled gas is ignited by 4 12
USA passing automobiles
Coal mine July 22, 1972 Blacksville, West Fire at Consolidation Coal Company Number 1 mine 9 2
Virginia, USA
Natural gas pipeline October 30, 1972 Lake City, Gas service pipeline leaks and ignites nearby department 6 17
Minnesota, USA store
Oil pipeline May 14, 1972 Hearne, Texas, USA Crude oil pipeline explodes and injures workers 1 5
Natural gas pipeline August 31, 1972 Atlanta, Georgia, Atlanta Gas and Light Company service pipeline leaks and 0 4
USA causes explosion, destroying two homes and a restaurant
Natural gas pipeline December 9, 1972 Clinton, Missouri, Missouri Public Service Company service pipeline leaks and 8 34
USA causes explosion in downtown Clinton
Coal mine December 16, 1972 Itmann, West Explosion and fire at Itmann Coal Company mine 5 2
Virginia, USA
Oil tanker December 19, 1972 Gulf of Oman The oil tanker Sea Star collides with another vessel, spilling 0 45
31 million gallons of fuel
LNG facility February 10, 1973 Staten Island, New LNG pipeline leaks at industrial facility causing fire and 40 15
York, USA explosion
Natural gas pipeline February 21, 1973 Coopersburg, Accumulated gas ignites UGI Corporation service pipeline 5 1
Pennsylvania, USA and destroys two buildings
Natural gas pipeline February 22, 1973 Austin, Texas, USA Natural gas pipeline ruptures due to improper weld and 6 2
causes explosion
Natural gas pipeline April 22, 1973 El Paso, Texas, USA Southern Union Gas Company pipeline leaks and causes 7 4
explosion destroying half an apartment complex
Natural gas pipeline June 23, 1973 Bowie, Maryland, Washington Gas Light Company pipeline lead causes 3 2
USA explosion and fire destroying 2 homes
Nuclear August 11, 1973 Palisades, Michigan, Steam generator leak causes manual shutdown of 0 10
USA pressurized water reactor operated by the Consumers Power
Company
Natural gas pipeline December 2, 1973 Charleston, West Columbus Gas of West Virginia pipeline leak causes fire 3 4
Virginia, USA and destroys home
Oil tanker December 30, 1973 Port San Luis, The tanker Joseph Merrell crippled in collision at sea and 0 5
California, USA leaks 30,000 gal of fuel that wash ashore Pismo Pier beach
Natural gas pipeline March 2, 1974 Monroe, Louisiana, Michigan Wisconsin Pipeline Company leak causes fire that 0 1
USA burns 10 acres of forest
Natural gas pipeline March 15, 1974 Farmington, New Southern Union Gas Company pipeline fails and spills 0 1
Mexico, USA 20,000 tons of fuel
Natural gas pipeline June 9, 1974 Bealeton, Virginia, Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Company pipeline leaks and 0 1
USA causes fire that destroys 30 acres of forest
Natural gas pipeline April 22, 1974 New York, New Consolidated Edison Company pipeline causes explosion at 2 3
York, USA 305 East 45th Street
Nuclear March 22, 1975 Browns Ferry, Fire burns for 7 h and damages more than 1600 control 0 240
Alabama, USA cables for three nuclear reactors, disabling core cooling
systems
ARTICLE IN PRESS
B.K. Sovacool / Energy Policy 36 (2008) 1802–1820 1813

Table A1 (continued )

Facility Date Location Description Fatalities Cost


(in millions $)

Natural gas pipeline May 12, 1975 Devers, Texas, USA Pipeline rupture causes vapor cloud fire 4 3
Oil pipeline August 2, 1975 Romulus, Michigan, Operator error causes petroleum pipeline to spill and ignite, 0 2
USA injuring 9
Hydroelectric August 8, 1975 Henan Province, Shimantan Dam fails and releases 15,738 billion tons of 171,000 8700
China water causing widespread flooding that destroys 18 villages,
1500 homes, and induces disease epidemics and famine
Nuclear November 24, 1989 Greifswald, East Electrical error causes fire in the main trough that destroys 0 443
Germany control lines and 5 main coolant pumps and almost induces
meltdown
Natural gas pipeline January 10, 1976 Fremont, Nebraska, Nebraska Natural Gas Company pipeline fails and causes 20 14
USA fire at Pathfinder Hotel, destroying half of facility
Coal mine March 9, 1976 Oven Fork, Explosion at Scotia mine operated by Blue Diamond Coal 26 8
Kentucky, USA Company
Oil tanker May 22, 1976 La Coruna, Spain The supertanker Urquiola grounds itself and spills 21
million gallons of fuel
Hydroelectric June 5, 1976 Idaho Falls, Idaho, Teton dam fails and releases 300,000 acre feet of water that 14 990
USA floods farmland and towns surrounding Idaho Falls
Oil pipeline June 16, 1976 Los Angeles, Petroleum pipeline operated by Standard Oil Company of 9 13
California, USA California leaks and causes a fire that destroys 7 buildings
and 14 cars
Natural gas pipeline August 8, 1976 Allentown, Leak at natural gas pipeline operated by UGI Corporation 1 2
Pennsylvania, USA causes explosion and fire
Natural gas pipeline August 9, 1976 Cartwright, Rupture and fire at pipeline operated by United Gas 2 4
Louisiana, USA Pipeline Company
Natural gas pipeline December 7, 1976 Robstown, Texas, Explosion at fire at exxon gas system pipeline 3 5
USA
Oil tanker December 15, 1976 Nantucket, The oil tanker Argo Merchant runs aground and spills 7.5 0 267
Massachusetts, USA million gallons of fuel and causing an oil slick 100 miles
long and 70 miles wide
Natural gas pipeline January 25, 1977 Wiliamsport, Explosion at pipeline operated by Pennsylvania Gas and 0 4
Pennsylvania, USA Water Company
Nuclear February 22, 1977 Jaslovske Bohunice, Mechanical failure during fuel loading causes severe 0 1700
Czechoslovakia corrosion of reactor and release of radioactivity into the
plant area, necessitating total decommission
Oil tanker February 25, 1977 Northern Pacific The oil tanker Hawaiian Patriot catches fire and spills 0 54
Ocean 723,000 barrels of oil
Coal mine March 1, 1977 Tower City, Mining induces flood at Porter tunnel 9 2
Pennsylvania, USA
LNG facility April 18, 1977 Arzew, Algeria LNG releases from storage facility, causing fire and 1 1
explosion
Oil pipeline July 8, 1977 Fairbanks, Alaska, Explosion and fire at Alyseka Pipeline Service Company 0 1
USA Station 8
Oil pipeline July 20, 1977 Ruff Creek, Petroleum pipeline ruptures and causes fire when passing 0 1
Pennsylvania, USA truck ignites vapor cloud
Oil well October 19, 1977 North Sea, UK An oil well in the Ekofisk oil field experiences blowout, 0 54
spilling 81 million gallons of fuel
Natural gas pipeline December 1, 1977 Atlanta, Georgia, High pressure gas main operated by Atlanta Gas Light 1 1
USA Company ruptures at local high school
Natural gas pipeline December 15, 1977 Lawrence, Kansas, Kansas Public Service Company pipeline ruptures and 0 1
USA explodes
Oil tanker March 16, 1978 Porstall, Brittany, The oil tanker Amoco Cadiz experiences steering failure and 0 111
France runs aground, spilling 68 million gallons of fuel
Coal mine April 4, 1978 Duty, Virginia, USA Clinchfield Coal Company mine collapses, suffocating 5 0
miners
Oil tanker June 3, 1979 Gulf of Mexico An oil well in the Ixtoc 1 oil field fails, spilling 180 million 0 89
gallons of fuel
Natural gas pipeline June 12, 1978 Kansas City, The Gas Service Company pipeline ruptures and explodes 2 3
Missouri, USA
Oil tanker July 19, 1979 Tobago, Caribbean Two very large crude carriers, the Atlantic Empress and 5 120
Sea Aegean Captain, collide at sea, spilling 111 million gallons
of fuel
Oil pipeline August 4, 1978 Donnellson, Iowa, Petroleum pipeline ruptures and causes explosion and fire 3 1
USA
Natural gas pipeline January 16, 1979 London, Kentucky, The Gas Service Company pipeline ruptures and explodes 0 2
USA
ARTICLE IN PRESS
1814 B.K. Sovacool / Energy Policy 36 (2008) 1802–1820

Table A1 (continued )

Facility Date Location Description Fatalities Cost


(in millions $)

Nuclear February 4, 1979 Surry, Virginia, Virginia Electric Power Company manually shuts down 0 12
USA Surry Unit 2 in response to replace failed tube bundles in
steam generators
Oil tanker March 8, 1979 Estero Bay, Florida, The oil tanker Ogden Challenger ruptures fuel tank, spilling 0 1
USA fuel
Nuclear March 28, 1979 Middletown, Equipment failures and operator error contribute to loss of 0 2400
Pennsylvania, USA coolant and partial core meltdown at Three Mile Island
nuclear reactor
Natural gas pipeline May 11, 1979 Philadelphia, Philadelphia Gas Works natural gas pipeline rupture, 2 5
Pennsylvania, USA explosion, and fire
Natural gas pipeline July 15, 1979 New Orleans, Southern Natural Gas Company pipeline ruptures and 0 1
Louisiana, USA catches fire, burning 10 acres of marshland
LNG facility October 6, 1979 Covepoint, Fire and explosion at Covepoint LNG facility 1 9
Maryland, USA
Natural gas pipeline October 14, 1979 Standardsville, Fire and explosion at Columbia Gas of Virginia pipeline 0 18
Virginia, USA destroys three buildings and injures 13
Natural gas pipeline October 30, 1979 Washington, DC, Washington Gas and Light Company leak causes explosion 3 11
USA on 3rd Street SW
Oil pipeline January 30, 1980 Bayamon, Puerto Petroleum pipeline ruptures and causes fire 2 3
Rico
Natural gas pipeline February 21, 1980 Cordele, Georgia, Municipal Gas Department pipeline ruptures and leaks, 3 23
USA causing explosion that destroys shopping center, restaurant,
and 8 cars
Oil pipeline March 6, 1980 Locust Grove, Petroleum pipeline fails and spills 200,000 tons of oil 0 3
Virginia, USA
Oil platform March 27, 1980 Ekofisk oil field, The oil rig Alexander Keilland breaks apart under fatigue 123 55
North Sea, UK and capsizes, killing entire crew
Natural gas pipeline April 16, 1980 Roseville, Williams Pipeline Company distribution pipeline ruptures 0 2
Minnesota, USA and causes explosion
Natural gas pipeline October 9, 1980 Independence, Union Light, Heat, and Power Company natural gas 0 8
Kentucky, USA distribution pipeline causes fire that destroys Simon High
School during the night
Coal mine November 7, 1980 Uneeda, West Underground explosion at Westmorland Coal Company’s 5 1
Virginia, USA Ferrell Mine
Natural gas pipeline December 1, 1980 Long Beach, Four Corners Pipeline Company distribution pipeline 0 4
California, USA rupture causes fire
Nuclear February 11, 1981 Florida City, Florida Light & Power manually shut down Turkey Point 0 2
Florida, USA Unit 3 after steam generator tubes degrade and fail
Coal mine March 15, 1981 Redstone, Colorado, Explosion at Mid-Continent Resources Dutch Creek coal 15 3
USA mine traps miners
Nuclear March 8, 1981 Tsuruga, Japan 278 workers exposed to excessive levels of radiation during 0 3
repairs of Tsuruga nuclear plant
Natural gas pipeline August 25, 1981 San Francisco, Pacific Gas & Electric Company natural gas pipeline leaks 0 19
California, USA 13 million cubic feet of fuel into an 8 block area,
necessitating hazardous waste cleaning crews to cleanse the
city
Natural gas pipeline September 27, 1981 Ackerly, Texas, Explosion and fire occur at Chaparral distribution pipeline 0 2
USA
Coal mine December 7, 1981 Kite, Kentucky, Explosion and fire at Adkins Coal Company Mine no. 11 8 3
USA
Coal mine December 8, 1981 Whitwell, Tennessee, Explosion at Grundy Mining Company underground coal 13 4
USA mine
Coal mine January 20, 1982 Craynor, Kentucky, Explosion and fire at RFH Coal Company underground 7 2
USA mine
Natural gas pipeline January 28, 1982 Centralia, Missouri, Missouri Power and Light Company pipeline ruptures and 0 5
USA causes fire
Nuclear February 26, 1982 San Clemente, Southern California Company shut down San Onofre Unit 0 1
California, USA 1 out of concerns for earthquake
Oil tanker March 1, 1982 North Atlantic The oil tanker Ocean Ranger breaks apart, killing her crew 84 19
Ocean
Nuclear March 20, 1982 Lycoming, New Recirculation system piping fails at Nine Mile Point Unit 1, 0 45
York, USA forcing 2 year shutdown
Nuclear March 25, 1982 Buchanan, New Multiple water and coolant leaks cause damage to steam 0 56
York, USA generator tubes and main generator, forcing the New York
Power Authority to shut down Indian Point Unit 3 for more
than one year
ARTICLE IN PRESS
B.K. Sovacool / Energy Policy 36 (2008) 1802–1820 1815

Table A1 (continued )

Facility Date Location Description Fatalities Cost


(in millions $)

Natural gas pipeline June 28, 1982 Portales, New Gas Company of New Mexico pipeline ruptures and causes 0 4
Mexico, USA fire
Natural gas pipeline July 8, 1982 San Andreas, Natural gas explosion and fire destroys one store and two 4 8
California, USA residences
Natural gas pipeline October 1, 1982 Pine Bluff, Mississippi River Transmission Corporation natural gas 0 2
Arkansas, USA pipeline ruptures and causes flash fire
Oil well February 4, 1983 Persian Gulf An oil well in the Nowruz oil field malfunctions, spilling 180 0 34
million gallons of fuel
Nuclear February 12, 1983 Fork River, New Oyster Creek nuclear plant fails safety inspection, forced to 0 32
Jersey, USA shut down for repairs
Nuclear February 26, 1983 Pierce, Florida, Workers discover damaged thermal shield and core barrel 0 54
USA support at St. Lucie Unit 1, necessitating 13 months
shutdown
Natural gas pipeline March 15, 1983 West Odessa, Texas, Mid-America pipeline fails, spilling 5 million cubic feet of 0 4
USA natural gas
Natural gas pipeline May 26, 1983 Bloomfield, New El Paso Natural Gas Company compressor station leaks 1 5
Mexico, USA and causes fire and explosion
Coal mine June 6, 1983 McClure, Virginia, Explosion at Clinchfield Coal Company McClure mine 7 1
USA
Natural gas pipeline July 12, 1983 Clear Lake, Iowa, Interstate Power Company distribution pipeline ruptures 0 5
USA and causes explosion
Oil tanker August 6, 1983 Cape Town, South The oil tanker Castillo de Bellver catches fire, spilling 75 3 143
Africa million gallons
Nuclear September 7, 1983 Athens, Alabama, Tennessee Valley Authority discovers extensive damage to 0 34
USA recirculation system pipeline, requiring extended shutdown
Nuclear September 23, 1983 Buenos Aires, Operator error during fuel plate reconfiguration cause 1 65
Argentina meltdown in an experimental test reactor
Natural gas pipeline September 23, 1983 East Boston, Overpressurization causes explosion and fire at Boston Gas 0 5
Massachusetts, USA Company distribution pipeline
Natural gas pipeline October 13, 1983 Fairfax, Virginia, Washington Gas Light Company pipeline ruptures and 0 5
USA causes explosion
Natural gas pipeline October 17, 1983 South Charleston, Columbia Gas of West Virginia pipeline ruptures and 0 4
West Virginia, USA causes explosion
Oil tanker October 28, 1983 South China Sea The American oil drilling ship Glomar Java Sea runs 81 9
aground and sinks, killing all on board and spilling her fuel
Nuclear December 10, 1983 Plymouth, Recirculation system piping cracks and forces Pilgrim 0 4
Massachusetts, USA nuclear reactor to shutdown
Nuclear April 18, 1984 Delta, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Electric Company shuts down Peach Bottom 0 18
USA Unit 2 due to extensive recirculation system and equipment
damage
Nuclear June 13, 1984 Platteville, Moisture intrusion causes 6 fuel rods to fail at Fort St. 0 22
Colorado, USA Vrain nuclear plant, requiring emergency shutdown from
Public Service Company of Colorado
Nuclear September 15, 1984 Athens, Alabama, Safety violations, operator error, and design problems force 0 110
USA 6 years outage at Browns Ferry Unit 2
Natural gas pipeline September 25, 1984 Phoenix, Arizona, Arizona Public Service Company pipeline ruptures, causing 0 4
USA explosion and fire
Oil storage tank November 19, 1984 Mexico City, A leak at the PEMEX LPG Terminal in San Juan 514 120
Mexico Ixhuatepec causes a flammable gas cloud to ignite,
destroying 5 city blocks and forcing the evacuation of more
than 200,000 residents
Natural gas pipeline February 22, 1985 Sharpsville, National Fuel Gas Company pipeline leaks and causes 1 6
Pennsylvania, USA explosion and fire
Nuclear March 9, 1985 Athens, Alabama, Instrumentation systems malfunction during startup, 0 1830
USA convincing the Tennessee Valley Authority to suspend
operations at all three Browns Ferry Units
Natural gas pipeline April 27, 1985 Beaumont, Texas Eastern Gas Pipeline ruptures and causes explosion 2 3
Kentucky, USA
Nuclear June 9, 1985 Oak Harbor, Ohio, Loss of feedwater provokes Toledo Edison Company to 0 23
USA inspect Davis-Besse facility, where inspectors discover
corroded reactor coolant pumps and shafts
Natural gas pipeline July 23, 1985 Kaycee, Wyoming, Continental Pipeline Company distribution pumps fail and 0 2
USA leak, causing fire
Nuclear August 22, 1985 Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee Valley Authority Sequoyah Units 1 and 2 fail 0 35
Tennessee, USA NRC inspection due to failed silicon rubber insulation,
forcing 3 years shutdown, followed by water circulation
problems that expose workers to excessive levels of radiation
ARTICLE IN PRESS
1816 B.K. Sovacool / Energy Policy 36 (2008) 1802–1820

Table A1 (continued )

Facility Date Location Description Fatalities Cost


(in millions $)

Oil tanker September 29, 1985 Delaware River, The oil tanker Grand Eagle looses steering and becomes 0 14
USA grounded, spilling 500,000 gal
Natural gas pipeline December 6, 1985 Derby, Connecticut, Northeast Utilities Service Company pipeline ruptures and 0 4
USA explodes
Nuclear December 26, 1985 Clay Station, Safety and control systems unexpectedly fail at Rancho 0 672
California, USA Seco nuclear reactor, ultimately leading to the premature
closure of the plant
Coal mine February 2, 1986 Fairview, West Underground collapse traps and suffocates miners trapped 5 0
Virginia, USA at Consolidation Coal Mine
Natural gas pipeline February 21, 1986 Lancaster, Distribution gas pipeline ruptures and causes fire 0 2
Kentucky, USA
Natural gas pipeline March 12, 1986 Fort Worth, Texas, Lone Star Gas Company pipeline ruptures and causes fire 3 5
USA that destroys three buildings
Oil platform March 30, 1986 Guadalupe Oil Unocal employees discover that their offshore oil facility 0 11
Field, Pacific Ocean leaked 8.5 million gallons of fuel over a 37 years period
Nuclear April 11, 1986 Plymouth, Recurring equipment problems with instrumentation, 0 1001
Massachusetts, USA vacuum breakers, instrument air system, and main
transformer force emergency shutdown of Boston Edison’s
Pilgrim nuclear facility
Nuclear April 26, 1986 Kiev, Ukraine Mishandled reactor safety test at Chernobyl nuclear reactor 4056 6700
causes steam explosion and meltdown, necessitating the
evacuation of 300,000 people from Kiev and dispersing
radioactive material across Europe
Nuclear May 4, 1986 Hamm-Uentrop, Operator actions to dislodge damaged fuel rod at 0 267
Germany Experimental High Temperature Gas Reactor release
excessive radiation to 4 square kilometers surrounding the
facility
Oil pipeline July 8, 1986 Mounds Views, Petroleum pipeline leaks and causes fire 0 2
Minnesota, USA
Nuclear March 31, 1987 Delta, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Electric Company shuts down Peach Bottom 0 400
USA units 2 and 3 due to cooling malfunctions and unexplained
equipment problems
Nuclear December 17, 1987 Hesse, Germany Stop valve fails at Biblis Nuclear Power plant and 0 13
contaminates local area
Nuclear December 19, 1987 Lycoming, New Fuel rod, waste storage, and water pumping malfunctions 0 150
York, USA force Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation to shut down
Nine Mile Point Unit 1
Oil tanker September 21, 1987 Point Conception, Panamanian freighter Atlantic Wing collides with Liberian 0 11
California, USA tanker Pac Baroness, spills 40,000 gal of fuel around San
Miguel Island
Oil storage tank January 2, 1988 Floreffe, Ashland Oil Company storage tank collapses, spilling 0 19
Pennsylvania, USA 800,000 gal of oil
Natural gas pipeline January 18, 1988 Winston-Salem, Piedmont Natural Gas Company pipeline explodes and 2 4
North Carolina, causes fire
USA
LNG facility May 10, 1988 Boston, LNG facility spills 30,000 gal 0 12
Massachusetts, USA
Oil platform July 6, 1988 North Sea, UK A natural gas leak causes explosion on Occidental 167 190
Petroleum’s Piper Alpha oil rig
Nuclear September 10, 1988 Surry, Virginia, Refueling cavity seal fails and destroys internal pipe system 0 9
USA at Virginia Electric Power Company’s Surry Unit 2, forcing
12 months outage
Natural gas pipeline September 16, 1988 Kansas City, Multiple pump failures cause a series of accidents and 0 5
Kansas, USA natural gas spills
Nuclear March 5, 1989 Tonopah, Arizona, Atmospheric dump valves fail at Arizona Public Service 0 14
USA Company’s Palo Verde Unit 1, leading to main transformer
fire and emergency shut down
Nuclear March 17, 1989 Lusby, Maryland, Inspections at Baltimore Gas & Electric’s Calvert Cliff 0 120
USA Units 1 and 2 reveal cracks at pressurized heater sleeves,
forcing extended shutdowns
Oil tanker March 24, 1989 Prince William The Exxon oil tanker Valdez runs aground and spills 0 4100
Sound, Alaska, USA 250,000 barrels into Prince William Sound
Oil pipeline May 25, 1989 San Bernardino, Calney petroleum pipeline ruptures and spills 40,000 gal of 0 3
California, USA fuel
Oil pipeline June 4, 1989 Ufa, Russia Sparks from passing trains ignite gas leaking from 643 16
petroleum pipeline, causing multiple explosions that derail
both trains
ARTICLE IN PRESS
B.K. Sovacool / Energy Policy 36 (2008) 1802–1820 1817

Table A1 (continued )

Facility Date Location Description Fatalities Cost


(in millions $)

Oil tanker June 5, 1989 Canary Islands, The oil tanker Kharg 5 catches fire and spills 19,500,000 gal 0 165
Spain of oil
Coal mine September 13, 1989 Wheatcroft, Fire and explosion occur at Pyro Mining Company’s 10 2
Kentucky, USA William Station no. 9
Natural gas pipeline October 3, 1989 Sabine Pass, Texas, Gas transmission pipeline ruptures and spills 30,000 tons of 0 45
USA fuel into the Gulf of Mexico
Oil tanker February 7, 1990 Bosca Chica, The oil tanker American Trader runs aground and spills 0 39
California, USA 300,000 gal of oil around a nature reserve
Natural gas pipeline March 13, 1990 North Blenheim, Propane pipeline ruptures and causes fire 0 1
New York, USA
Natural gas pipeline December 9, 1990 Indianapolis, Natural gas leak causes explosion at fire at Fort Benjamin 0 3
Indiana, USA Harrison, injuring 11
Nuclear November 17, 1991 Scriba, New York, Safety and fire problems force New York Power Authority 0 5
USA to shut down the FitzPatrick nuclear reactor for 13 months
Natural gas storage April 7, 1992 Brenham, Texas, Overfilling of Mapco Natural Gas Liquids underground 9 26
USA storage cavern causes highly volatile release of fuel and
explosion
Nuclear April 21, 1992 Southport, North NRC forces Carolina Power & Light Company to shut 0 2
Carolina, USA down Brunswick Units 1 and 2 after emergency diesel
generators fail
Coal mine May 9, 1992 Plymouth, Nova Explosion completely destroys Westray Mine 26 4
Scotia, Canada
Oil pipeline August 3, 1992 Avila Beach, Pipeline ruptures at Avila Beach marine terminal and spills 0 22
California, USA 150 barrels of heated heavy crude oil
Oil tanker September 19, 1992 Straits of Malacca, The Liberian tanker Nagasaki Spirit collides with the Ocean 2 41
Indonesia Blessing, spilling 12,000 tons of crude oil
Coal mine December 7, 1992 Norton, Virginia, Explosion traps workers at South Mountain Coal Company 8 4
USA mine
Oil tanker January 5, 1993 Shetland Islands, The oil tanker Braer grounds itself and spills 39 million 0 83
Scotland, UK gallons
Oil tanker January 21, 1993 Andamen Sea The oil tanker Maersk Navigator collides with the Sanko 1 169
Honour, spilling 2 million barrels of oil
Nuclear February 3, 1993 Bay City, Texas, Auxiliary feedwater pumps fail at South Texas Project 0 3
USA Units 1 and 2, prompting rapid shutdown of both reactors
Nuclear February 27, 1993 Buchanan, New New York Power Authority shut down Indian Point Unit 3 0 2
York, USA after AMSAC system fails
Nuclear March 2, 1993 Soddy-Daisy, Equipment failures and broken pipes cause Tennessee 0 3
Tennessee, USA Valley Authority to shut down Sequoyah Unit 1
Oil tanker August 10, 1993 Tampa Bay, Florida, Two barges and a freighter collide, causing 300,000 gal of 0 14
USA oil to spill
LNG facility December 20, 1993 Bontang, Indonesia LNG facility leaks fuel into underground sewer system 0 15
Nuclear December 25, 1993 Newport, Michigan, Detroit Edison Company prompted to shut down Fermi 0 67
USA Unit 2 after main turbine experienced catastrophic failure
due to improper maintenance
Oil tanker January 7, 1994 Conado Beach, The oil tanker Morris J. Furhman runs aground and spills 0 87
Puerto Rico 750,000 gal of heavy crude oil
Oil tanker March 6, 1994 Gulf of Thailand The oil tanker Visahakit 5 collides with an unidentified 0 14
cargo ship, spilling 106,000 gal of diesel fuel
Natural gas pipeline March 23, 1994 Edison, New Jersey, Texas Eastern Transmission Corporation pipeline ruptures 3 23
USA and explodes, destroying 8 buildings and sending flames
500 ft upward
Nuclear April 6, 1994 Tomsk, Russia Pressure buildup causes mechanical failure at Tomsk-7 0 44
Siberian Chemical Enterprise plutonium reprocessing
facility, exploding a concrete bunker and exposing 160
onsite workers to excessive radiation
Natural gas pipeline June 9, 1994 Allentown, Natural gas distribution pipeline explodes and causes a fire 1 7
Pennsylvania, USA that injures 67
Natural gas pipeline October 17, 1994 Waterloo, Iowa, Midwest Gas Company pipeline explodes and causes fire 6 1
USA injuring 13
Nuclear January 14, 1995 Wiscasset, Maine, Steam generator tubes unexpectedly crack at Maine Yankee 0 62
USA nuclear reactor, forcing Maine Yankee Atomic Power
Company to shutdown the facility for 1 year
Nuclear May 16, 1995 Salem, New Jersey, Ventilation systems fail at Public Service Electric & Gas 0 34
USA Company’s Salem Units 1 and 2
Oil tanker January 19, 1996 Rhode Island, USA The tugboat Scandia grounds the oil tanker North Cape 0 22
which spills 300,000 gal of oil
ARTICLE IN PRESS
1818 B.K. Sovacool / Energy Policy 36 (2008) 1802–1820

Table A1 (continued )

Facility Date Location Description Fatalities Cost


(in millions $)

Oil tanker February 15, 1996 Pembrokeshire, The oil tanker Sea Empress runs aground and spills 19 0 114
Wales, UK million gallons of fuel
Nuclear February 20, 1996 Waterford, Leaking valve forces Northeast Utilities Company to shut 0 254
Connecticut, USA down Millstone Units 1 and 2, further inspection reveals
multiple equipment failures
Oil pipeline May 23, 1996 Gramercy, Petroleum pipeline fails and spills 11,300 barrels of fuel into 0 11
Louisiana, USA the surrounding area
Oil pipeline June 26, 1996 Fork Shoals, South Ruptured petroleum pipeline releases 957,600 gal of fuel 0 28
Carolina, USA into the Reedy River
Natural gas pipeline August 24, 1996 Lively, Texas, USA Ruptured pipeline releases butane vapor cloud ignited by 2 1
automobile, damaging several buildings and adjacent
woodlands
Nuclear September 2, 1996 Crystal River, Balance-of-plant equipment malfunction forces Florida 0 384
Florida, USA Power Corporation to shut down Crystal River Unit 3 and
make extensive repairs
Nuclear September 5, 1996 Clinton, Illinois, Reactor recirculation pump fails, prompting Illinois Power 0 38
USA Company to shut down Clinton boiling water reactor
Nuclear September 20, 1996 Senaca, Illinois, Service water system fails and prompts Commonwealth 0 71
USA Edison to close LaSalle Units 1 and 2 for more than 2 years
Natural gas pipeline October 23, 1996 Tiger Pass, Pressurized natural gas released from pipeline ignites tug 0 34
Louisiana, USA and destroys tug and attached dredge
Oil pipeline November 5, 1996 Murfreesboro, Overpressurized petroleum pipeline spills 84,700 gal of 0 8
Tennessee, USA diesel
Natural gas pipeline November 21, 1996 San Juan, Puerto Enron Corporation gas pipeline leaks into commercial 33 12
Rico building and causes explosion, injuring more than 100
Oil tanker January 2, 1997 Sea of Japan The Russian oil tanker Nakhodka breaks apart in rough 1 78
weather, spilling 1.3 million gallons of fuel
Natural gas pipeline July 21, 1997 Indianapolis, Citizens Gas & Coke Utility pipeline ruptures and causes 1 3
Indiana, USA fire
Nuclear September 9, 1997 Bridgman, Ice condenser containment systems fail at Indiana Michigan 0 11
Michigan, USA Power Company’s D.C. Cook Units 1 and 2
Oil pipeline March 30, 1998 Sandy Springs, Petroleum pipeline ruptures and leaks 300,000 gal of 0 4
Georgia, USA gasoline
Natural gas pipeline July 7, 1998 South Riding, Natural gas pipeline ruptures and explodes, killing a woman 1 4
Virginia, USA camping with her family, injuring 3 others, and destroying
five homes
Oil pipeline October 17, 1998 Niger Delta, Nigeria Petroleum pipeline ruptures and explodes, destroying two 1078 54
villages and hundreds of villagers scavenging gasoline
Natural gas pipeline December 11, 1998 St. Cloud, Natural gas pipeline ruptures and explodes, destroying six 4 1
Minnesota, USA buildings and injuring 13
Natural gas pipeline January 3, 1999 Wytheville, Virginia, Natural gas pipeline ruptures and explodes, destroying a 0 3
USA home and a motorcycle store at night
Natural gas pipeline January 22, 1999 Bridgeport, Natural gas service line ruptures and causes explosion, 3 2
Alabama, USA destroying six buildings
Oil pipeline February 10, 1999 Knoxville, Petroleum pipeline ruptures and spills 54,000 gal of diesel 0 9
Tennessee, USA fuel
Nuclear June 18, 1999 Prefecture, Japan Control rod malfunction set off uncontrolled nuclear 0 34
reaction
Oil pipeline June 10, 1999 Bellingham, Oil pipeline spills 237,000 gal of gasoline into a creek, 3 51
Washington, USA causing massive explosions and fires killing three children
and damaging local homes and a water treatment plant
Nuclear September 30, 1999 Ibaraki Prefecture, Workers at the Tokaimura uranium-processing facility try 2 54
Japan to save time by mixing uranium in buckets, killing 2 and
injuring 1200
Oil tanker December 11, 1999 French Atlantic Maltese tanker Erika breaks apart and sinks, spilling 3 0 48
Coast, France million gallons of fuel
Oil pipeline January 18, 2000 Guanabara Bay, A Petrobas oil distribution pipeline ruptures, spilling 0 12
Brazil 300,000 gal of fuel
Oil pipeline January 27, 2000 Winchester, Marathon Ashland Pipeline leaks 489,000 gal of crude oil 0 8
Kentucky, USA
Oil pipeline March 9, 2000 Greenville, Texas, Explorer Pipeline Company petroleum pipeline spills 0 20
USA 564,000 gal of gasoline
Natural gas pipeline August 19, 2000 Carlsbad, New Natural gas pipeline rupture causes explosion that kills 12 12 1
Mexico, USA members of the same family camping nearby
Oil tanker November 28, 2000 New Orleans, The oil tanker Westchester runs aground and sinks, spilling 0 54
Louisiana, USA 600,000 gal of fuel
ARTICLE IN PRESS
B.K. Sovacool / Energy Policy 36 (2008) 1802–1820 1819

Table A1 (continued )

Facility Date Location Description Fatalities Cost


(in millions $)

Natural gas field January 17, 2001 Hutchinson, Multiple wells leak natural gas into the surrounding area, 0 12
Kansas, USA causing massive explosions that demolish buildings and
ignite a 7-day long fire
Oil Pipeline April 7, 2001 Chalk Point, 140,000 gal of fuel oil spill out of Piney Point Oil Pipeline 0 78
Maryland, USA and into the Patuxent River
Coal mine September 23, 2001 Brookwood, Underground explosion at Jim Walter Resources 13 3
Alabama, USA Incorporated mine
Oil tanker October 4, 2001 Port of Paraguana, Oil tanker Cuzamon runs aground and spills 1.3 million 0 19
Brazil gallons of fuel
Nuclear February 16, 2002 Oak Harbor, Ohio, Severe corrosion of control rod forces 24 months outage of 0 143
USA Davis-Besse reactor
Oil pipeline July 4, 2002 Cohasset, Enbridge pipeline ruptures and releases 252,000 gal of crude 0 7
Minnesota, USA oil
Oil tanker November 13, 2002 Galicia, Spain The oil tanker Prestige ruptures one of its tanks during 0 3300
severe weather and spills 20 million gallons of oil into the
sea and along French, Spanish, and Portuguese beaches
Oil pipeline April 7, 2003 Glenpool, Oil pipeline spills 7600 barrels of diesel and causes fire that 0 3
Oklahoma, USA burned for 21 h, igniting diesel storage tanks
Nuclear April 10, 2003 Paks, Hungary Damaged fuel rods hemorrhage spent fuel pellets, damaging 0 37
heaver water reactor
Natural gas pipeline July 2, 2003 Wilmington, Natural gas distribution pipeline ruptures and explodes, 0 1
Delaware, USA injuring 14
LNG facility January 19, 2004 Skikda, Algeria Explosion and fire occur at Skikda LNG facility 27 54
Coal mine June 14, 2004 Rio Turbio, Santa Coal mine collapses trapping workers 14 2
Cruz, Argentina
Natural gas pipeline July 30, 2004 Ghislenghien, Natural gas transmission pipeline explodes and wounds 23 14
Belgium more than 140
Nuclear August 9, 2004 Fukui Prefecture, Steam explosion at Mihama Nuclear Power Plant kills 5 5 9
Japan workers and injures dozens more
Natural gas pipeline August 21, 2004 DuBois, Natural gas distribution pipeline explodes 2 1
Pennsylvania, USA
Coal mine February 14, 2005 Fuxin, China Gas explosion destroys Liaoning Coal Mine, trapping 210 12
workers inside
Nuclear April 19, 2005 Sellafield, UK 20 metric tons of uranium and 160 kg of plutonium leak 0 65
from a cracked pipe at the Thorp nuclear fuel-reprocessing
plant
Nuclear June 16, 2005 Braidwood, Illinois, Exelon’s Braidwood nuclear station leaks tritium and 0 41
USA contaminates local water supplies
Natural gas pipeline December 13, 2005 Bergenfield, New Natural gas distribution pipeline breaks and causes 3 1
Jersey, USA numerous explosions, destroying two homes and three
vehicles
Coal mine January 2, 2006 Tallmansville, West Explosion at Sago mine traps workers for 2 days 12 2
Virginia, USA
Coal mine February 19, 2006 San Juan de Huge gas concentration leads to an explosion within the 65 5
Sabinas, Coahuila, Pasta de Conchos Coal Mine
Mexico
Nuclear March 6, 2006 Erwin, Tennessee, Nuclear fuel services plant spills 35 l of highly enriched 0 98
USA uranium, necessitating 7 months shutdown
Oil pipeline May 12, 2006 Lagos, Nigeria An oil pipeline ruptures and spills dirty diesel fuel, causing a 143 23
fire that destroys three villages
Coal mine May 20, 2006 Middlesboro, Underground explosion at Darby Mine traps workers 5 1
Kentucky, USA
Coal mine November 21, 2006 Ruda Slaska, Poland Methane gas causes explosion at underground mine 23 32
Oil pipeline December 26, 2006 Lagos, Nigeria Oil pipeline explodes, causing widespread fires that destroy 466 76
more than 300 homes
Coal mine March 19, 2007 Novokuznetsk, Methane gas causes explosion at Ilyanovskaya mine 110 41
Russia
Coal mine August 6, 2007 Emery County, Collapse of mine traps miners and rescue workers 9 2
Utah, USA

Source: Melosi (1986), US General Accounting Office (2000), World Commission on Dams (2000), Parfomak (2003), Cleveland (2004), Parfomak (2004),
Munson (2005), Union of Concerned Scientists (2006), National Transportation Safety Board (2007), Cooper and Sovacool (2007) and US Department of
Energy (2007), as well as press wire reports and newspaper articles. The term ‘‘cost’’ includes property damage, emergency response, environmental
remediation, evacuation, lost product, fines and court claims. Such expenses have been adjusted to 2006 US$. Damage amounts between 500,000 and
999,999 have been rounded to 1 million.
ARTICLE IN PRESS
1820 B.K. Sovacool / Energy Policy 36 (2008) 1802–1820

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