Monday, April 04, 2011

Safety of Power Generation by Source


At least a small part of the news media is finally moving away from nuclear hysteria. The Washington Post (via Brian Wang) has decided to break away from the pack and present a more honest look at the dangers associated with the different important forms of power generation.
History suggests that nuclear power rarely kills and causes little illness. That’s also the conclusion engineers reach when they model scenarios for thousands of potential accidents.

Making electricity from nuclear power turns out to be far less damaging to human health than making it from coal, oil or even clean-burning natural gas, according to numerous analyses. That’s even more true if the predicted effects of climate change are thrown in.

Compared with nuclear power, coal is responsible for five times as many worker deaths from accidents, 470 times as many deaths due to air pollution among members of the public, and more than 1,000 times as many cases of serious illness, according to a study of the health effects of electricity generation in Europe _WaPo
Of course, Brian Wang does a better job of explaining the issue than the Washington Post, as you might expect. Brian reveals that even wind, solar, and biomass energy production have killed many more than nuclear power.

The only two deaths associated with the Fukushima reactors incident were caused by the earthquake and tsunami. Compared to 9.0 earthquakes and 50 ft. tsunamis, nuclear power is as safe as a mother's arms.

It is important to point out that the damning statistics aimed at coal are computed by Lancet authors -- a journal which has not compiled the most trustworthy public health stats over the past 10 years. And yet, even if long-term deaths from coal use are being over-estimated by a factor of 10, they are still significant when compared to nuclear.

Future use of integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) coal plants will slash pollution from coal use. And a new method of using waste fly ash from coal -- turning it into a high value, life-saving product -- will cause the informed public to look at even that ugly waste product differently.

Even with 40 year-old reactors, nuclear power is the safest source around by far. Imagine how much safer nuclear could be if Mr. Obama's NRC ever got off its fat, lazy, pompous arse, and did its job?

Cross-posted from Al Fin

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