Nuclear Power Timeline

  • Discovery

    It was discovered that radioactive elements, such as radium, released immense amounts of energy. However, means of harnessing such energy was impractical, as intensly radioactive elements were short-lived.
  • Nuclear Fission

    Nuclear Fission
    Chemists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann, along with physicist Lise Meitner conduct experiments with the products of neutron-bombarded uranium. They found that the relatively tiny neuron split the nucleus of the massive uranium atom into two relatively equal pieces. This was a surprising result, as all other forms of nuclear decay involved only small changes to the mass of the nucleus. This process, though, created a complete split of the nucleus. It was called 'Nuclear Fission.'
  • First Reactor--Chicago Pile-1

    First Reactor--Chicago Pile-1
    After its discovery and conformation, scientist in countries around the globe (the U.S., UK, France, Germany, and the USSR being the most prominent) petitioned their governments for support of nuclear fission research. In the United States, this support resulted in the creation of the first man-made reactor, Chicago Pile-1, which achieved criticality on December 2, 1942. This work became part of the Manhattan Project.
  • Bombing of Hiroshima

    Bombing of Hiroshima
    The culmination of 50 years of nuclear research results in the "Little Boy," the world's first nuclear bomb, dropped on Hiroshima. Within the first two to four months of the bombing, the acute effects resulted in 90,000-166,000 deaths, with roughly half of them occuring on the first day. During the following months, large numbers also died from the effect of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries, compounded by illness.
  • Bombing of Nagasaki

    Bombing of Nagasaki
    The second nuclear bomb dropped on Japan was the "Fat Man," dropped on Nagasaki. This bomb resulted in 60,000–80,000 deaths in the first two to four months, and, like the earlier bomb in Hiroshima, it caused many more deaths in the months to come. This bomb, coupled with the "Little Boy," served to end World War II in the Pacific.
  • Electricty

    Electricity was generated for the first time by a nuclear reactor at the EBR-I experimental station near Arco, Idaho, which initially produced about 100 kW.
  • Atoms For Peace

    Atoms For Peace
    Dwight Eisenhower gives his speech "Atoms for Peace" to the United Nations, calling for a more peaceful use of atomic power than bombs. Some think that in this speech Eisenhower was trying to sooth the fears of a frightened world, promising that the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would not be experienced again. This lead to the US enacting the Atoms for Peace program, suppling equipment and information to schools, hospitals, and research institutions within the U.S. and throughout the world.
  • Power Grid

    Power Grid
    The USSR's Obninsk Nuclear Power Plant became the world's first nuclear power plant to generate electricity for a power grid, and produced around 5 megawatts of electric power.
  • Submarine

    The world's first operational nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, is completed. Because her nuclear propulsion allowed her to remain submerged far longer than diesel-electric submarines, she broke many records in her first years of operation, and traveled to locations previously beyond the limits of submarines.
  • Commercial

    The world's first commercial nuclear power station, Calder Hall, is opened in Windscale, England.
  • IAEA

    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is formed. This is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons.
  • Shippingport

    The world’s first full-scale atomic electric power plant devoted exclusively to peacetime uses, and the US's first commercial reactor, Shippingport Atomic Power Station, opens.
  • 1973 Oil Crisis

    1973 Oil Crisis
    The OPEC oil ministers agree to use oil as a weapon to influence the West's support of Israel in the Yom Kippur war. They create an embargo against non-compliant states and mandate a cut in exports. Industrialized economies relied on crude oil, and OPEC was their main supplier. This affected France and Japan heavily, as both relied on oil greatly to power their countries. this caused both to turn to nuclear power. Today they run on 80 and 30% nuclear power, respectively.
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    Protests in France

    Between 1975 and 1977 some 175,000 protest against nuclear power in France, in 10 demonstrations.
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    German Protests

    Between February 1975 and April 1979, some 280,000 people were involved in seven demonstrations at nuclear sites in Germany
  • Superphénix

    A march by 60,000 protestors in July 1977 is violently broken up by the CRS, resulting in over a hundred serious injuries and a death.
  • Three Mile Island

    Three Mile Island
    The worst accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant history occurs at Three Mile Island in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. It results in the release of small amounts of radioactive gases and radioactive iodine into the environment, but directly caused no deaths. It results in widespread discreditation of nuclear power, with protests and a decline in the number of power plants under construction in the following years. It did not, however, result in the death of the US nuclear power industry.
  • New York City

    New York City
    A protest in New York City draws in almost 200,000 demonstrators against nuclear power, a result of the Three Mile Island incident.
  • Bonn

    120,000 people attend a demonstration against nuclear power in Bonn in the aftermath of Three Mile Island.
  • Chernobyl

    A catastrophic nuclear accident occurs at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, then under USSR control. An explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive contamination into the atmosphere, which spread over much of Western USSR and Europe. It is considered to have been the worst nuclear power plant accident in history, and is classified as a level 7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale. This accident resulted in 31 direct deaths.
  • Chernobly Effects

    Chernobly Effects
    The Chernobyl disaster has, according to some sources, resulted in almost a million premature cancer deaths between 1986 and 2004. The required cleanup also crippled the Soviet economy, and the disaster is considered by some to be the catalyst for glasnost, which paved the way for reforms leading to the Soviet collapse. Even today, between 5-7% of goverment spending in Ukraine is still related to Chernobly. In Belarus, the total cost over thirty years is estimated at US $265 billion.
  • German Response to Chernobyl

    German Response to Chernobyl
    Following the Chernobyl disaster, clashes between anti-nuclear protesters and West German police became common.More than 400 people were injured in mid-May at the site of a nuclear-waste reprocessing plant being built near Wackersdorf. Police used water cannons and dropped tear-gas grenades from helicopters to subdue protesters armed with slingshots, crowbars and Molotov cocktails.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster

    Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster
    The worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl occurs after the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Japanese authorities have admitted that lax standards and poor oversight contributed to the nuclear disaster.There were no immediate deaths due to direct radiation exposures, but at least six workers have exceeded lifetime legal limits for radiation and more than 300 have received significant radiation doses.On 16 December 2011 Japanese authorities declared the plant to be stable.
  • Reaction to Disaster

    Reaction to Disaster
    Reactions to this disaster have been diverse and widespread. Many countries have advised their nationals to leave Tokyo, citing the risk associated with the nuclear plants' ongoing accident. Stock prices of many energy companies reliant on nuclear sources have dropped. There has been a significant re-evaluation of existing nuclear power programs in many countries. The disaster has also resulted in many protests, around the world, but especially in Japan, against nuclear power.