We have never had so much easy access to highly reliable scientific information but intentionally misleading fake news, politicians and interest groups promoting their pet agendas and outright crackpots have left the public scared and confused on so many issues. Nuclear power is one of those issues where the conventional wisdom is just plain wrong.
‘Everyone knows’ that nuclear power:
- isn’t safe and never will be
- has killed hundreds of thousands of people
- has permanently contaminated millions of square kilometers of land
These three statements are false but the fossil fuel industry and the uneducated “greens” (note that is not all ‘greens’), have used nuclear as a wedge issue for decades. The facts are that:
- Even existing nuclear plants are MUCH safer than coal power plants
- Fewer than 100 people have died from nuclear power accidents INCLUDING cancer caused by exposure within 25 years
- Contaminated areas around Chernobyl and Fukushima are tiny
“…The 2006 World Health Organization report is the objective authoritative document describing the effects of the Chernobyl disaster on human health. Acute radiation sickness was confirmed in 134 emergency workers and of this total, 28 died from the illness in 1986 and another 19 died between 1987 and 2004…
…By 2005, a clear spike in thyroid cancer (6,000 cases) in young people living in the area was documented. Thyroid cancer is among the least lethal forms of cancer with five year survival rates of 95%.150 There were 9 deaths associated with the post Chernobyl spike in thyroid cancer. Likely, consumption of milk contaminated with radioactive iodine was the cause of the elevated incidence of the disease.
…The Chernobyl disaster was classified as the first level 7 or major accident in the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale. On March 11, 2011 the second level 7 major accident occurred when a 13 metre tall tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan… The 40‑year old generation II reactors underwent a cooling systems failure, leading to partial core meltdowns of at least 2 of the 6 reactors and a number of hydrogen explosions… The WHO indicates there were 0 fatalities from exposure to radioactive materials from the Fukushima disaster, and that exposure to residents in evacuated areas was such that any health impacts are likely to be below detectable levels. There is potential for a future spike in thyroid cancer among children exposed to radioactive iodine; however, given the screening program in place and the survival rate with early diagnosis, it is unlikely that any deaths will occur from cancer attributed to exposure to radioactive material from the Fukushima disaster.”
SOURCE: The Price of Carbon 2019
Compare nuclear to coal power:
“…Since many of these disasters are exacerbated by lack of regulation and/or enforcement, some refer to these incidents not as “accidents” but as human-caused disasters. Around the world, thousands of miners die each year from coal mining accidents, with the largest number of deaths occuring in China. SOURCE
“…On April 5, 2010, an explosion at a Massey Energy’s underground Upper Big Branch Mine in southern West Virginia killed 25 miners SOURCE
“… In Chile, 34 people have died every year on average in (coal) mining accidents since 2000. SOURCE
“….Coal Mining Has Destroyed 1.5 Million Acres of Appalachian Forest” SOURCE
“…Coal sludge, also known as slurry, is the liquid coal waste produced by mining activities. After mining, coal is crushed and washed to remove the surrounding soil and rock. The washing process generates huge amounts of liquid waste, and the mining process itself produces millions of tons of solid waste. Coal sludge is filled with toxins. Each year coal preparation creates waste water containing an estimated 13 tons of mercury, 3236 tons of arsenic, 189 tons of beryllium, 251 tons of cadmium, and 2754 tons of nickel, and 1098 tons of selenium” SOURCE
“…Proposed coal mines threaten more than 29.4 million acres of forest worldwide” SOURCE as of 2015
“…(In Canada) Wetlands are destroyed in site areas as significant amounts of freshwater are used for commercial cooling and tailing leach out harmful pollutants into watersheds.” SOURCE
“…Strip mining accounts for 40% of the world’s coal mines and the practices destroys landscapes, forests and wildlife habitation. It usually requires mountain blasting and the removal of trees and plants in the mining area.” SOURCE as of 2014
Because they are hard to quantify and often subject to easy manipulation, we are not including quotes about the staggering effects of coal on air pollution. Similarly we are also not going to delve into the hundreds of mining transport truck and train accidents each year.
And contrary to what you may have heard, there is no such thing as clean coal. There is only less filthy coal:
“…And while (High Efficiency Low Emissions (HELE) technologies) is capable, in theory, of reducing emissions by around 90 per cent, HELE coal plant utilizing even the most efficient combustion technologies available will still produce emissions of around 760 kilograms a megawatt hour, or – to put that in context – twice the emissions of gas-fired generation, and roughly four times the emissions intensity that our national electricity grid must achieve by 2050. And those aren’t my numbers, by the way, but figures sourced from the Australian Treasury. Oh dear.” SOURCE
People like Bill Gates have put hundreds of millions of dollars into reactors that can not melt down.
The bottom line is that while nuclear has some issues, it is drastically safer and cleaner that coal (or natural gas for that matter).