Japan’s earthquake has unleashed a massive wave of hysteria throughout Germany as media outlets hyperventilate over the danger of a meltdown at the Japanese Fukushima nuclear power plant. Sure nuclear power is deadly dangerous if not properly used, and the situation in Japan is critical. But listening to the media, you’d think nothing could be more dangerous.
Now activists are demanding we switch immediately over to the-planet saving renewable energy sources, like wind power for example.
But just how safe is wind energy? Just how “safe” are many things out there? What about public transportation?
It turns out that nuclear power is a minor killer when the big picture is examined.
Zero nuclear power plant deaths in the USA
Wind energy has killed more
The Japanese earthquake and nuclear reactor accidents is yet another example of the media’s distorted perception. It turns out that wind power has been a bigger killer than nuclear power in the USA. Here’s what treehugger reported awhile back:
According to one viewpoint of reports offering the comparison between wind versus nuclear energy, there has not been one single injury to a nuclear plant worker in all its 104 power plants and 40 years of service in the United States… not one!
The Wind Turbine Industry on the other hand, has quite a treacherous track record as you can see by the summary below:
Summary of Wind Turbine Incidents (December 2008):
• 41 worker fatalities – includes falling from turbine towers and transporting turbines on the highway.
• 39 Incidents of blade failure - failed blades can travel over 400 meters, killing any unfortunate bystanders.
• 110 Incidents of fire - When a wind turbine fire occurs, local fire departments can do little but watch due to the 30-story height of these turbine units. The falling debris are then carried across the distance and cause new fires.
• 60 Incidents of structural failure- As turbines become more prevalent, these breakages will become more common in public areas, thereby causing more deaths and dismemberment’s from falling debris.
• 24 incidents of “hurling ice”- Ice forms on these giant blades and is reportedly hurled at deathly speeds in all directions. Author reports that some 880 ice incidents having occurred over Germany’s 13-years of harnessing wind power.”
Another way to save the planet and to “live safely” is to ride your bicycle. Well it turns out that bike-riding is far deadlier than nuclear power. In the USA in 2008, 716 bicyclists were killed in traffic accidents. About 53,000 bicyclists have died in traffic crashes in the United States since 1932. Compare that to the deaths caused by nuclear power in the United States – or even globally.
Candles kill more than nuclear
Indeed many things are far more dangerous than nuclear power plants, at least they have caused far more deaths and mayhem. Here are some annual death statistics from the USA that cause many more deaths, taken from here and here at Arthur Hu’s site. Why don’t we ban all of these menacing products?
Nuclear power plants – 0 deaths per year
Candles – 126
Bicycles 1995 – 800
Agriculture – 1,300
Motorcycles – 2,500
Car Phones 2002 – 2,500
Alcohol – 100,000
Tobacco – 500,000
Candles kill 126 – in just a single year and in a single country! Having a reliable supply of electricity would mean less use of candles, and so lives would be saved. As far as I know, all of the above killer items are being sold without protest. Here are some other killers:
Roller skates – 10
Window blind cords – 13
Drawstring hoods – 17
Dog Bites – 20
Skiing deaths – 34
Yes, even the lowly blind cord has killed more than U.S. nuclear power plants have.
Green transportation is a killer too
Let’s go green and hop on public transport. But wait, they cause more deaths than nuclear power too. Admittedly these US statistics aren’t so up-to-date, but they give you an idea of the risks involved.
1999 bus deaths – 58
1999 railroad – 805
1999 struck by trains – 530
And let’s move to ban all the following potentially catastrophic occupations. Actually they are not potentially – they simply just are! They are destroying the planet and kill humans. Occupations in USA; deaths/100,000:
Timber cutters – 117.8
Fishers – 71.1
Pilots and navigators – 69.8
Structural metal workers – 58.2
Drivers-sales workers – 37.9
Roofers – 37.0
Electrical power installers – 32.5
Farm occupations – 28.0
Construction laborers – 27.7
Truck drivers – 25.0
We accept many of the risks these products and occupations pose because their benefits far outweigh the harm they do.
Automobiles are far more dangerous
If zero deaths in the United States from nuclear power is too much to take, then take a look at what the automobile claims every year:
Traffic deaths per year global: 1.27 million
Nuclear power has an excellent record
One thing that constantly gets ignored is the cost-benefit analysis of nuclear power. It has a far better track record than many other products or systems out there and it vastly improves our lives as a whole. Of course, there is a risk in generating power with nuclear reactions, but the benefits it offers are immense.
Sure accidents will happen. But as technology improves, these accidents will become rarer. It is indeed difficult to find a product that has given us so much for so little in terms of lives lost. Even if the worst happens in Japan, the loss of life will be relatively small.
I recall a few years ago 4 workers getting killed in a biogas plant here in northern Germany. Yet, the incident went practically unreported in the media. Imagine if these four workers had been killed in a nuclear plant.
The issue has little to do with safety, and much more so to do with politics and power.