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This article is pretty terrible. The bias is just ridiculous. When discussing wind and solar the author constantly makes assumptions that favor worst cases, and makes questionable comparisons. For example; stating that "more Americans" died from installing rooftop solar than have died from construction or use of nuclear power, cherry picking the most dangerous possible activity related to solar power (some guy up on his roof, which is a dangerous activity with or without solar panels) to the least dangerous thing about nuclear energy (professional contractors constructing the plants and the plants running normally.)

He cites figures when they will be favorable for nuclear or impressive for the point he's making, and leaves them out when they would undermine it. He cherry picks American nuclear experience in the examples above because we have so far avoided truly terrible disaster here with regards to nuclear energy. (Three Mile Island wasn't good but it wasn't Chernobyl or Fukushima.)

He also cites figures for the amount of space needed for solar and wind to replace all current forms of power without sources. Never mind the fact that actually replacing all of our power with renewables is something that will take a century or more, nobody's talking about completely replacing our entire power generation system in the next few decades with renewables or nuclear.

The real question is not "what can replace our whole system today." because the answer to that is nothing. The real question is, as we expand and replace generators that are being decommissioned, what should they be replaced with?

The concerns there people have about nuclear are not about whether it's more cost effective than renewables (if all we cared about was cost we'd keep burning coal, we know we can't do that), or whether it's safer to build, but what is the long term effect and what are the long term dangers. The long term dangers of a solar farm are basically nothing. You cannot get a Fukushima like disaster out of a solar plant.

The pro-nuclear side will tell you "Oh the new reactors are totally safe, you could never have a problem like that." But they've always said that about nuclear plants. "Oh this new design is safe." Then a disaster happens and they say "Oh well that was the old design, the new design is safe."




The total number of people who have died in all nuclear radiation incidents (excluding the use of atomic weapons) is perhaps 20,000, with all but 100 coming from a single incident (Chernobyl). That number is less than the number of people who will have died from pollution from coal power points, alone, last year, let alone the effects of coal mining.

Nuclear power has a big image problem: people overestimate the expected risk of very rare but high damage events and horribly underestimate common, low-intensity risks. If you scale deaths per TWh, nuclear is by far the safest form of energy--solar is about 5 times as deadly.


Yes but how does it compare with the number of people who have died due to solar or wind power?

And while Fukushima may have had a "low" number of fatalities (so far), the mortality statistics don't even begin to paint a full picture of the negative impact of these disasters.

Nuclear power has an "image problem" for a reason; when a disaster happens it's a truly major disaster.

> If you scale deaths per TWh, nuclear is by far the safest form of energy--solar is about 5 times as deadly.

This is totally ridiculous and arbitrary, and only true because so many average people fall off of their roof while installing solar panels.


The current estimate of the number of excess cancer deaths that will ever be caused by Fukushima is between 0 and 100. Radiation actually isn't all that dangerous, especially after a few months when the fission byproducts that have a tendency to bioaccumulate disappear.

Deaths per TWh is not ridiculous and arbitrary. It's comparing energy sources by how much death they will cause for the amount of energy they produce. Any other comparison would be unfair.

The problem with wind and solar is that they produce so little energy, you need to build a lot of infrastructure to match the energy you'd get from even a single coal plant, let alone a nuclear plant (note that nuclear power plants produce very high amounts of power for the space they take up). You can't ignore the fact that more people are going to die from construction accidents with solar power, even if you assume that the construction accident rate is the same (in deaths per man-hour) for both nuclear and solar plant operation.


> Radiation actually isn't all that dangerous, especially after a few months when the fission byproducts that have a tendency to bioaccumulate disappear.

This is a really absurd statement and shows a failure to understand how radiation affects the body. You're missing two key things in that statement; amount of radiation and exposure time. A lot of radiation is deadly over a short amount of time, and a lower amount can be deadly (or at least detrimental) over a longer period of time.

It is said that there is no "safe" level of radiation, radiation is never good. It's just that under certain levels it's unlikely to be dangerous in a human lifetime. But that's the thing, it's unlikely, it still can be.

While you can now walk around the area around Fukushima for ad day and not die, there's a reason nobody's allowed to live there. Because if you did for many years, then you would suffer ill effects. And children and pregnant women in that area would be especially prone to problems.

> Deaths per TWh is not ridiculous and arbitrary. It's comparing energy sources by how much death they will cause for the amount of energy they produce. Any other comparison would be unfair.

It is ridiculous and arbitrary because it's ONLY counting deaths, and only against one specific metric. It doesn't contextualize those deaths, first of all (dying because you chose to try to install a solar panel on your roof when you're not an experienced roofer and dying because the nuclear plant outside of town had a meltdown are two very different things.)

It also doesn't count the fact that thousands of people lost their homes and businesses and had their lives totally upended by Fukushima. There's impacts of nuclear that solar and wind don't have that are not captured by simply looking at deaths per TWh.


>It also doesn't count the fact that thousands of people lost their homes and businesses and had their lives totally upended by Fukushima. There's impacts of nuclear that solar and wind don't have that are not captured by simply looking at deaths per TWh.

I would also add that until now we have been lucky because nuclear accidents happened in areas with a relatively low population density. Japan has high coastal population density but at Fukushima, half the exclusion zone is on the sea with no one living there.

Now imagine a similar nuclear accident in Belgium or Netherlands requiring a 80 km exclusion zone. That would be a substantial part of the country impacted. For example, check the location of : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tihange_Nuclear_Power_Station


I think ""more Americans" died from installing rooftop solar than have died from construction or use of nuclear power" includes all aspects of nuclear power. The "or use" would seemingly include operating nuclear plants. And given the incredibly low number of deaths in the US associated with nuclear power production, it seems fair.


It isn't the same thing though. Workers have consented to the risk and can work to make themselves safer. The general public have not. it is basic professional responsibility to minimise risk to the public. With wind and solar power this is trivial to do. You can make a wind turbine fail safe by not building it within a certain distance of places with people. Making a nuclear plant fail safe is hugely complex and expensive. Ignoring that fact is intellectually dishonest.


It's not everything, though. Because as I mentioned it purposely focuses on America, excluding the two biggest nuclear disasters (Chernobyl and Fukushima.)

Also fatalities hardly tell the whole story. Far more people have had their lives totally upended by Fukushima than have died from it, and then there's all the people born with defects from Chernobyl, or left unable to reproduce, and we have yet to see the long term effects of Fukushima.

Pro-nuclear folks tend to focus on a couple of things; cost and mortality under "normal" circumstances. Because those two things look great. But if you start talking about the full impact that nuclear power has had on it world, the picture becomes far less rosy.


But talking about Chernobyl and Fukushima is like focusing on the Pinto as a rolling deathtrap and saying we shouldn't have cars. Fukushima should have been shut down decades ago when it was discovered the danger earthquakes posed for it, and Chernobyl was such a horrific chain of bad decisions, it might as well have been on purpose.


Large countries run their electrical grid on mostly renewables (e.g. Brazil, Iceland), and large countries run their grid on mostly nuclear (e.g. France, Belgium). Centuries of development aren't necessary to achieve it, it's mostly political will.

Nuclear power has actually a fantastic track record with regards to mortality and statistical risk. The main problem is it suffers from the "Airplane effect" -- the few failures take over the media an the population's imagination, even if the overall safety is great. We can and we should scale both wind/solar and nuclear power, right now, not in a century.


I do not think you can call Iceland (#184 by population and #106 by area) and Belgium (#76 by population and #136 by area) large countries.

>> Centuries of development aren't necessary to achieve it, it's mostly political will.

While political will is important, it is not enough. It highly depends on geographical properties of the country. For example Iceland produces 85% of its energy from geothermal and hydropower sources and Brazil produces 83% of its electricity from hydropower. Both rely on naturally occurring phenomenons, not all countries are lucky enough to have them.




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