Statistical summary of radiological accidents and other incidents causing radiation casualties

compiled by Wm. Robert Johnston
last updated 20 November 2011

These tables summarize data on radiation accidents and other incidents (i.e. intentional) that have caused acute radiation injury. They are based on the events listed at the Database of radiological incidents and related events. While this includes the major accidents/incidents, it is not a complete listing, nor is it a uniform sampling. In particular, it is known to be incomplete with regard to medical and industrial accidents involving minor injuries.

Table 1: Summary of listed radiological accidents/incidents by type

type of eventcodeincidentsfatalitiesinjuries
accident involving nuclear reactor A-R 11 0 31
accident involving naval reactor A-NR 8 33 179
accident involving power reactor A-PR 2 31 255
criticality accident AC 27 17 51
criticality accident involving research reactorAC-RR 2 4 5
accelerator accident A-a 14 0 16
accidental dispersal of radioactive material A-d 1 0 0
accidental internal exposure to radioisotope A-i 10 12 79
irradiator accident A-ir 24 8 33
medical radiotherapy accident A-mr 31 70 228
medical x-ray accident A-mx 7 0 19
orphaned source accident A-os 28 31 104
accidental dispersal of orphaned source A-osd 2 6 24
radiography accident A-rg 64 1 79
accidental exposure to source A-s 42 5 65
x-ray accident A-x 51 0 62
radiation accident (unspecified or other) A 44 3 93
intentional exposure of individual (assault) I-a 9 4 81
criminal act (unspecified) I-c 5 0 12
intentional self-exposure I-s 5 3 2
exposures resulting from theft of source I-t 8 7 17
nuclear weapon test NT 4 1 193
TOTAL 399 236 1628
combat use of nuclear weapon NW 2195000161000

Note: Casualty figures include fatalities from effects other than ionizing radiation in several cases (for some reactor accidents and the combat nuclear weapon uses). Nuclear weapon tests are only listed if acute radiation casualties resulted; an additional 4 nuclear tests resulted in casualties from thermal flash or blast only (total of 3 fatalities and 64 injuries). The 1961 SL-1 reactor incident is counted as a reactor accident, although it appears to have been intentional, not accidental.

Figures in the remaining tables do not include the combat use of nuclear weapons by the United States in Japan in 1945. Figures for the United States include a nuclear test at Bikini Atoll; figures for the U.S.S.R. include several nuclear submarine incidents at sea.

Table 2: Summary of listed radiological accidents/incidents by country

countryincidentsfatalitiesinjuries
Algeria 1 2 6
Argentina 11 1 13
Australia 1 0 2
Bangladesh 1 0 1
Belarus 1 1 0
Belgium 2 0 2
Brazil 2 5 23
Bulgaria 1 1 0
Canada 1 0 1
Chile 1 0 4
China (ROC) 1 0 1
China (PRC) 19 8115
Costa Rica 1 7 81
Czechoslovakia 4 0 4
Ecuador 1 0 1
Egypt 1 2 5
El Salvador 1 1 2
Estonia 1 1 4
France 9 2 24
Germany (FRG) 11 1 14
Germany (GDR) 10 0 11
Georgia 3 1 14
Hungary 3 0 3
India 9 1 16
Indonesia 2 0 2
Iran 1 0 1
Iraq 1 0 1
Israel 1 1 0
Italy 2 1 1
Ivory Coast/Senegal 1 0 4
Japan 4 2 22
Kazakhstan 1 0 1
Korea (ROK) 1 0 1
Mexico 2 5 5
Morocco 1 8 3
Netherlands 1 0 1
Nigeria 1 0 26
Norway 1 1 0
Panama 117 11
Peru 3 0 10
Poland 1 0 5
Russia (post-Soviet) 2810 37
South Africa 3 0 6
Spain 218 10
Sweden 1 0 1
Switzerland 2 1 3
Thailand 1 3 7
Tunisia 1 0 1
Turkey 1 0 10
United Kingdom 12 3 22
United States 5642312
U.S.S.R. 16889771
Venezuela 1 0 1
Vietnam 1 0 1
Yugoslavia 1 1 5
TOTAL 3992361,628

Table 3: Summary of listed radiological accidents/incidents by region

regionincidentsfatalitiesinjuriestotal casualties
U.S.S.R./former Soviet Union202102 827 929
United States 56 42 312 354
Asia 43 15 178 193
Latin America and Canada 25 36 152 188
Europe 63 29 106 135
Africa 9 12 51 63
Australia and Oceania 1 0 2 2
TOTAL 3992361,6281,864

Table 4: Summary of listed radiological accidents/incidents by 5-year period

periodincidentsfatalitiesinjuries
pre- 1945 3 9 72
1945-1949 2 2 2
1950-195427 5151
1955-195911 6 29
1960-19642622 80
1965-19693913132
1970-19744016238
1975-197956 7 74
1980-19844628 85
1985-19894851391
1990-19943229 55
1995-19993120131
2000-20042125142
2005-200913 2 20
2010-2011 4 1 26
TOTAL 3992361,628

Table 5: Summary of listed radiological accidents/incidents by isotope involved

isotope/otherincidentsfatalitiesinjuries
Am-241 1 0 1
Au-197 1 1 1
Au-198 1 1 0
Cf-252 1 0 1
Co-60 56 44277
Cs-137 26 17 70
H-3 4 4 7
I-125 1 0 1
I-131 6 2 5
I-131, I-123 1 0 1
I-131, Tc-99m 1 0 1
Ir-192 84 16200
P-32 2 0 2
Po-210 3 2 5
Ra 1 1 0
Ra-226 2 9 81
Rh-106 1 0 1
Sb-124 2 0 2
Sc-46 1 0 1
Sr-90 2 0 4
Sr-90, Y-90 1 0 3
Y-90 1 7 0
accelerator 14 0 16
x-ray 53 0 75
criticality--Pu 8 1 11
criticality--U 15 4 32
criticality--unknown 6 17 13
nuclear test 4 1193
unknown 100110624
TOTAL 3992361,628

Table 6: Summary of outcomes for cases with various whole body doses, cases with reported radiation doses

whole body dose (rad)number exposedfatalities (percent)survival time for fatal cases,
median (range)
4,100-12,000 1616 (100%)6 d (1.5-38 d)
1,610-4,000 1515 (100%)14 d (2-207 d)
610-1,600 4835 (73%)24 d (10-750 d)
410-600 5015 (30%)34 d (16-48 d)
110-400 142 5 (4%)49 d (37-96 d)
10-100 84 0 (0%)N/A

Note that the cases represented by the data in this table encompass a range of situations, for example: doses incurred in short periods or over periods of days to months; medical care ranging from intensive treatments to treatments proceeding without having recognized radiation exposure as the issue involved; some cases where the most serious medical issue is from localized radiation exposure, not from whole body dose.

Table 7: (under construction)


© 2004-2008, 2011 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 20 November 2011.
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