Home > Current Events, Decision Making, Economics, Rationality > Three Cheers for Nuclear: Why the Japanese Nuclear Crisis Should be a Boon for Nuclear Energy – But Won’t

Three Cheers for Nuclear: Why the Japanese Nuclear Crisis Should be a Boon for Nuclear Energy – But Won’t

Nuclear power plant in Cattenom, France

Image via Wikipedia

 

Imagine two nuclear power plant designers chatting at lunch during the construction of the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.

“This is going to be awesome!  Lots of green, carbon-emission free energy!”

“Yeah, but what about nuclear meltdown, like Chernobyl?”

“First of all, it would take a hugely improbable event, like a huge 9.0 earthquake, followed by a tsunami, to damage this place.  And even if that happened, remember that we have a containment structure.  There was no containment structure in Chernobyl.”

Fast forward to today.

The improbable has happened.  Nature has thrown just about everything she can at this plant.  The death toll from radiation so far?

0.

That’s right.  Zero.  Zip.  Nada.

In fact in the 15 days since the earthquake in Japan, about 540 people have died in the U.S. from exposure to emissions from coal plants; that according to figures from the Clean Air Task Force.

Even if the Japanese reactor does melt down (which is not inevitable), the death toll is unlikely to be anything like Chernobyl.  And even if it was another Chernobyl, it still wouldn’t be as bad as coal.  According to the UN and IAEA, the total deaths from Chernobyl, including present and future cancers, will probably reach 9000.  That’s less than 1 year’s worth of coal deaths.

(Read more at NewScientist.com: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20928053.600-fossil-fuels-are-far-deadlier-than-nuclear-power.html, and check out this article at BBC:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-12860842)

So, what will be the legacy of Fukushima?  Well, it should be that we now have the technology to build nuclear power plants in such a way as to be highly hardened against the very worst natural disasters.  And although nothing is 100% invulnerable, the likely death toll and injuries from a compromised nuclear plant are likely to be far, far fewer than even a single year of exposure to carbon emissions.

I don’t think many people will see it that way, however, for various reasons:  lack of education about nuclear power, irrational fear, and a simple lack of awareness that fossil fuels are slowly killing us.

We are all boiling frogs in a cauldron of fossil fuels, but we seem unwilling to jump out.

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