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Nuclear survivor: Clark recalls 1958 accident at Y-12 and up-and-down life that followed via Insurancenews.net

June 15–Asked what he remembers most about June 16, 1958, Bill Clark said simply, “Everything.”

That was the date of the worst nuclear accident in Oak Ridge history, and it changed his life. Clark is the only remaining survivor of the eight men who received severe doses of radiation in the criticality accident — an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction — at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. Now 81 years old, he still thinks about that day and his frightening encounter with radiation.

“It’s not like getting hit with a bullet,” he said. “You don’t feel nothing.”

A smell worse than rotten eggs

Clark remembers the flashes of blue light in the C-1 Wing of Building 9212, an area of the plant where scraps of bomb-grade uranium were chemically processed for recovery. At first he thought the light show was a welding arc. But he quickly realized nobody was welding, and workers were starting to run. Sirens were sounding, and there was an awful, awful smell.

“It was the worst thing I ever smelled in my life,” he said. “It was a lot worse than rotten eggs.”

He knew he was supposed to evacuate, but first the 25-year-old chemical operator took a moment to turn off his equipment — an evaporator behind him, and three centrifuges in front of him.

“I should have just left,” he said.
[...]
June 15–Asked what he remembers most about June 16, 1958, Bill Clark said simply, “Everything.”

That was the date of the worst nuclear accident in Oak Ridge history, and it changed his life. Clark is the only remaining survivor of the eight men who received severe doses of radiation in the criticality accident — an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction — at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. Now 81 years old, he still thinks about that day and his frightening encounter with radiation.

“It’s not like getting hit with a bullet,” he said. “You don’t feel nothing.”

A smell worse than rotten eggs

Clark remembers the flashes of blue light in the C-1 Wing of Building 9212, an area of the plant where scraps of bomb-grade uranium were chemically processed for recovery. At first he thought the light show was a welding arc. But he quickly realized nobody was welding, and workers were starting to run. Sirens were sounding, and there was an awful, awful smell.

“It was the worst thing I ever smelled in my life,” he said. “It was a lot worse than rotten eggs.”

He knew he was supposed to evacuate, but first the 25-year-old chemical operator took a moment to turn off his equipment — an evaporator behind him, and three centrifuges in front of him.

“I should have just left,” he said.

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