Jan. 3, 1961: America’s first nuclear accident kills three workers at an Atomic Energy Commission research reactor in Idaho Falls, Idaho. An operator pulls a control rod out of the reactor, triggering an out-of-control power surge, partial meltdown, and an explosive release of radioactive steam. One worker is impaled on a control rod, and all three are so heavily contaminated that they are buried in lead coffins.

Jan. 3, 1975: On a barrier island near the principal spaceflight facility in the U.S., the Canaveral National Seashore is established. The seashore features a 24-mile stretch of beaches and dunes and is a major haven for nesting sea turtles.

Jan. 3, 1993: U.S. President George H.W. Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin sign the START II Treaty, pledging to cut in half the nuclear arsenals of both nations.

Jan. 3, 2002: In a deal brokered by the Humane Society of the U.S., 3,500 freshwater turtles, confiscated during an endangered species sting in Hong Kong a month earlier, are shipped to Florida as part of a rescue and rehab effort. The turtles and tortoises were headed for China for sale as food.

Photo: JamieDrakePhotos/Flickr

This feature is compiled by Peter Dykstra, an MNN contributor and publisher of Environmental Health News and The Daily Climate.