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June 5, 1967


JAMA. 1967;200(10):885. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03120230137025

To date there have been 12 radiation accidents affecting 48 persons and resulting in death in 6. These accidents have occurred in diverse locations: Los Alamos, NM; Argonne, Ill; Russia; Oak Ridge, Tenn; Vinca, Yugoslavia; Idaho Falls, Idaho; Wisconsin; and Rhode Island.

The importance of careful control of radioactive material is emphasized by the nature of the accidents at Los Alamos in 19581 and in Rhode Island in 1964.2 Both accidents occurred during the recovery and purification of235U derived from nuclear reactors and related activities. Uranium 235, a fissionable substance, may produce dangerous neutron fluxes if its concentration and geometric configuration are appropriate. In both accidents, a nuclear chain reaction was produced by altering the spatial relationship of the radioactive material. In Rhode Island, the victim was close to an open tank containing the extracting fluid. A propeller was stirring the contents, and criticality occurred (nuclear