Great Nuclear Scare

From Roses, Tulips, & Liberty

The Great Nuclear Scare refers to a period of heightened global apprehension and concern surrounding the potential hazards of nuclear energy and its applications, occuring in the 1960s to 1970s. This period was marked by the emergence of anti-nuclear movements worldwide, advocating for a shift away from nuclear technology towards conventional energy sources like oil and natural gas.


The development of nuclear technology played a pivotal role in shaping the geopolitical landscape of the Silent War, with both Britain and Russia racing to harness the potential of atomic energy for civilian and military purposes. This period witnessed the dual nature of nuclear advancements, as they held the promise of both clean energy generation and devastating weaponry. The 1940s saw efforts to utilize nuclear energy for commercial electricity generation, with the first nuclear-powered commercial plant opening in England in 1946.

Rise of Anti-Nuclear Movements

Several incidents during the late 1950s and 1960s added to the growing apprehensions about nuclear energy's potential hazards. Notable incidents include:

  • Krasnoyarsk Meltdown (1958): A nuclear power plant in Krasnoyarsk, Russia experienced a partial meltdown, resulting in the release of radioactive material and contamination of nearby areas. The incident was initially concealed by the Russian National Republican government.
  • Miami Bay Accident (1963): A nuclear submarine owned by New Netherland suffered a reactor failure while stationed in Miami Bay, leading to an explosion and the release of radiation.
  • Bradwell-on-Sea Meltdown (1967) A nuclear reactor at a power plant in Bradwell-on-Sea, England experienced a partial meltdown, releasing radioactive materials and prompting the evacuation of nearby residents.

Kemo Nuclear Disaster (1971)

The culmination of the Great Nuclear Scare was the Kemo Nuclear Disaster in 1971. This catastrophic event involved a nuclear power plant in Kemo, Corea (formerly known as Mukden), leading to widespread radiation release and health concerns. The disaster prompted governments around the world to temporarily shut down nuclear plants for safety reviews, igniting a spike in demand for conventional energy sources such as oil.

Global Response and Impact

Governments and international organizations responded to the Great Nuclear Scare by reevaluating nuclear policies and safety standards. Many countries reexamined their reliance on nuclear energy and initiated efforts to transition to safer energy alternatives. The nuclear power industry faced public backlash, increased regulation, and a decline in investment.

The Great Nuclear Scare also triggered the 1970s Global Oil Crisis, resulting in record-high oil prices, especially in Great Britain and in nations affiliated with the Organization of Democratic Nations.

See also