Nuclear Energy Saves Lives

Germany’s closing of nuclear power stations after Fukishima cost billions of dollars and killed thousands of people due to more air pollution. Here’s Stephen Jarvis, Olivier Deschenes and Akshaya Jha on The Private and External Costs of Germany’s Nuclear Phase-Out:

Following the Fukashima disaster in 2011, German authorities made the unprecedented decision to: (1) immediately shut down almost half of the country’s nuclear power plants and (2) shut down all of the remaining nuclear power plants by 2022. We quantify the full extent of the economic and environmental costs of this decision. Our analysis indicates that the phase-out of nuclear power comes with an annual cost to Germany of roughly$12 billion per year. Over 70% of this cost is due to the 1,100 excess deaths per year resulting from the local air pollution emitted by the coal-fired power plants operating in place of the shutdown nuclear plants. Our estimated costs of the nuclear phase-out far exceed the right-tail estimates of the benefits from the phase-out due to reductions in nuclear accident risk and waste disposal costs.

Moreover, we find that the phase-out resulted in substantial increases in the electricity prices paid by consumers. One might thus expect German citizens to strongly oppose the phase-out policy both because of the air pollution costs and increases in electricity prices imposed upon them as a result of the policy. On the contrary, the nuclear phase-out still has widespread support, with more than 81% in favor of it in a 2015 survey.

If even the Germans are against nuclear and are also turning against wind power the options for dealing with climate change are shrinking.

Hat tip: Erik Brynjolfsson.


This is worse for Germany than anything Trump has done to America, but the reporting is absent. And such unfortunate timing: just as the Left is starting to be convinced (against their will) that there is no solution without nuclear.

From a classical liberal perspective, Trump's trade wars are abhorrent. What Chernobyl and Fukushima have taught us is that the worst case nuclear accidents have almost zero impact on human health if appropriate action is taken BUT the likelihood of core meltdowns is much worse than the worst case estimates.

Zirconium clad fuel rods too easily produce large amounts of explosive hydrogen. I don't follow nuclear technology closely anymore so I don't know if there is a decent alternative to Zirconium in modern reactors but until there is, the lifetime costs of nuclear reactors is just way too high, especially since natural gas has become so cheap (and clean[er]).

We can gloat about progressives being out to lunch on nuclear tech but the fact that Tabarrok and other economists are still focused on "Lives Saved" as the critical metric shows that we are still not thinking clearly about energy policy. The economic tragedy of German nuclear plants is that they were mothballed long before their full service life was complete.

"Lives saved" is an odd metric because it treats as if they were equal letting a child live for another 80 years and letting a codger live for another fortnight. On the other hand the accuracy of the "lives saved" calculation is probably so low that the criticism doesn't much matter.

Yes. Every time I see the "lives saved" line, I think that "deaths delayed" is what is actually being discussed.

It's another triumph of emotional manipulation over reality based analysis, which is understandable for propaganda, but really out of place in a technical or policy analysis.

" the 1,100 excess deaths per year" is pure fiction. It is likely that no one dies in Germany from air pollution and probably no one has ever died in Germany from air pollution. Now China, maybe.

But asthma ...

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>which is understandable for propaganda

...and climate-based fear-mongering.

You know what else is abhorrent? The Trump Administration delay of the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is also killing Germans, as more coal will be burned to offset the loss of natural gas originally planned for delivery starting around now.

A thousand times worse is killing Gates's Terrapower partnership with China. Traveling wave reactors have the promise of 80-100 years of power generation with no refueling, zero nuke bomb material, and almost no long term nuclear waste.

The US popularised nuclear reactor designed that consumed only 3% of "fuel" so they turn 80% of fuel into fission bomb material. Fusion bombs then made so many fission bombs into an absurdity: no need to shell a city with fission bomb shells when a single fusion bomb can completely flatten it.

Nixon shutdown molten salt reactor designs because they didn't produce bomb material, just power too cheap to meter, ie socialism, wiping out all fossil fuel jobs.

The CANDU reactor design does not use enriched uranium and has been operational in Ontario, Canada since the 60's. Non-proliferation, like CO2 emissions, is another externality that people focus on rather than lifetime costs. Nuclear power in Ontario has consistently cost about 25% more than hydrolectric power. Unless non-proliferation has somehow become inexplicably more important now than during the cold-war era, your claims sound like marketing.

CANDU is also used in Eastern Europe. Romania's two reactors are CANDUs.

Trump is supposedly a real estate guy. So, why didn't he buy cheap ocean front land in Ōkuma, Fukushima to develop into a Trump Resort? Prove nuclear is safe by getting the wealthy to spend time in the area with high levels of radiation, and make a huge profit selling luxury homes to his followers and fans?

Of course, the question is why he hasn't bought cheap played out coal mines flattened by mountain top removal, valley fill, in Appalachia for Trump resort golf courses, creating lots of hospitality jobs for families of coal miners funded by Trump's wealthy friends and followers. Why does he hate Real America? Trump's America, where the poverty and opiate addiction is?

Surely conservatives want to live where nuclear and coal dominate the local politics of creating real jobs.

There is no area in Fukushima where radiation levels are high.

Alex T: "Germany’s closing of nuclear power stations after Fukishima (typo) cost billions of dollars and killed over a thousand people due to more air pollution."

The study estimates 1,100 extra deaths per year so by now around 10,000 extra German deaths.

The Japanese shut down all of their plants immediately in 2011 and only slowly let a few go back on line so there were also many more premature deaths in Japan. A decent estimate if the German estimate is correct might be 10,000 to 30,000 deaths over the past nine years.

There are some really interesting technologies out there that with iterative development could really provide safe sustainable nuclear power. Things like SMRs paired with pebble-bed technology or thorium. But perception is power right or wrong, and people can't think of anything but Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, or Fukushima.

There is never a wrong time to remind everyone that Three Mile Island killed fewer people than Chappaquiddick.

dearieme, Three Mile Island (TMI) is good example of why "Lives Saved/Lost" is the wrong metric. As outlined in Charles Perrow's book "Normal Accidents", the simultaneous failure of two everyday industrial components, a pressure valve (stuck open) and a pressure gauge (misreading) resulted in a very serious accident and came very close to a core meltdown like Chernobyl/Fukushima. The only thing that stopped the meltdown was an individual who connected the dots and had the authority to act on the assumption that a stuck valve was the underlying cause.

TMI made the theoretical real: zirconium clad fuel rods produce copious amounts of explosive hydrogen gas in common failure modes.

Even with a core meltdown, TMI would not have cost many lives. Depending on the direction of the wind, the potential cost of a TMI meltdown would have been an enormous swatch of land contaminated by low levels of radiation. This was the lesson of Chernobyl. The lesson of Fukushima was that Chernobyl could not be chalked up to communist incompetence: boiling water reactors are prone to abrupt meltdowns. The lesson of CANDU reactors in Ontario is that the capital costs required for relatively safe nuclear power makes it an uncompetitive option.

I do appreciate the Chappaquiddick quip; I'm just ranting. Technically, nuclear energy is not a great option. Its not a bad enough to prematurely mothball existing plants but without some new technological advancement but it is not a good option for energy policy moving forward except for some very special cases (like military submarines).

The opinion that nuclear energy is a safe solution to climate change is misinformed.

You are right in theory but there are many reactors world wide and they've been operating for 50+years and so far the record has been pretty good.

Well okay, but if we accept that using fossil fuel based power "kills" then efficiency mandates become justified. Right?

Something tells me that this news won't be processed in a terribly consistent way.

That’s a nonsequitor. Unless you’re proposing to switch to coal fired cars.

A large tax on particulate matter pollution would definitely be in order. With the goal to phase it out completely.

Thankfully in the US, coal is dropping rapidly even with the Dems shutting down all nuclear power plants. (1990 42% coal, and 2019 25% coal)

That’s because of natural gas, now at 35%. Of course, the main plank of the Democrat party energy policy in 2020 is to immediately shut down all fracking. Which in combination with shutting down the last nuclear plants would boost coal to maybe 50%.

There are a lot of things wrong with this answer, but I'll go with the big one. The "both-sides centrist" moves from "conservation" to "blame Democrats."

True colors noted.

Maybe Tyler should think about why this guy is so fast to declare some criticisms "off topic."

He didn't. He called you out on your deception and bad faith argumentation. Coal kills, not gasoline.

So, you guys have really never heard of Energy Star?

My first thought was of my appliances, but we could go further, with LEED architecture, etc.

The German Passivhaus is good too.

There is no good reason to believe that, in the long run, the exact mix of energy sources used really has a lasting or dramatic effect on the environment. Maybe we should stop with the environmental hysteria and the nuclear shilling. The point is, coal and oil, no matter how hated by the potheads, are actually safe and tried. Meanwhile, nuclear disasters with dire i pacts on human activies and communities keep happening and we re promised -- again, again and again -- that next time will be different and that next time Homer Simpson will do his job better. Let us be blunt: nuclear energy for civilian uses is a bad idea whose time has passed.

Coal and diesel are the big documented "killers." We can fantasize about replacing both entirely, but in the meantime conservation is the only thing that can reduce those deaths.

It is the only immediate action available.

Jeez Louise, I looked it up. 40% of passenger vehicles in Germany are diesel. We, in the US are at only 3%. If we were serious about "killing" people, we'd all just ban them from non-critical use.

On the other hand Germany does bicycle more and drive less.

No, they are not. Actually, access to cheap energy is one of the best predictors of life expectancy.

I can certainly use this opportunity to link to something true:

There's even a race angle! You guy's will love it.

I think we must keep usingbwhat is tried and true instead of wishing for migical wands.

True fact: The safety bicycle was invented in 1876!

(Energy Star appliances came a bit later, 1992.)

Good point.

When we map out our local pediatric asthma cases we can also plot the location of the local coal plants and the predominant winds from the same data.

Coal does indeed kill. We did not develop autopsy standards for "Coal Miner's Pneumoconiosis" because they all died at advanced age of something else. Once we started treating coal like the hazardous material it is, yeah NIOSH and the MSHA have managed to bring down the obvious deaths from fibrotic lung disease.

Yet, nonetheless when we map out our pediatric asthma cases the gradients show the location of the local coal plants and the dominant wind direction.

As far as nuclear disasters, I have yet to find a single study that shows me more than a rounding error in mortality.

As I say below, see GAO "Information on Tall Smokestacks and Their Contribution to Interstate Transport of Air Pollution"

Coal-burning is essentially engineered to be a global rather than a local problem.

Remember the mountain lions.

That's fog in California, which had no coal plants. And prevailing winds are from the West. That mercury is coming a long ways.

So does about 1/3 of the power consumed in California, although to be fair only about 3% of this imported power is generated from coal (per this 2018 report).

I don't like coal but, to be fair, the ultimate source of the Mercury is unknown at this time.

From the article:

"In California, mercury mines in the coast ranges produced large amounts of elemental mercury for use in gold mining operations, leading to contamination of watersheds throughout the state. Bacteria in soil and sediments transform elemental mercury into methylmercury compounds that are especially toxic and readily absorbed by organisms.

Weiss-Penzias said the new results provide some clues to how methylmercury gets into coastal fog, although more research is needed to understand the processes involved. He is particularly interested in a highly volatile compound called dimethylmercury. "Dimethylmercury is more stable in the deep ocean, but we're not quite sure how it forms or where it's coming from," he said. "We found elevated levels in the surface water during upwelling, and it readily evaporates from the surface into the atmosphere, where it decomposes into monomethylmercury and gets into fog droplets."

Gold mining is environmentally scary.

As the masthead of the California Mining Journal put it, Without mining, there is no civilization.

"that next time will be different and that next time Homer Simpson will do his job better."

This is exactly the problem. The public's information about nuclear safety is through The Simpsons , a cartoon, and B movies from the 70s.

And Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Three Miles Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima, etc. Our commu ities should not he expected to live with a nuclear sword of Damocles over its heads. We are sick and tired of social engineers trying to re-invent mankind for their own sick purposes. Oil and coal are good enough to power our economies. China knows that. We won't be beaten with the allegued environmental stick because some people want to play Doctor Strangelove.

The fact that you even include nuclear weapons in the same list as nuclear reactors shows you don’t really understand how any of this works (or maybe you are just saying public opinion is formed by those events, in which case the public is incredibly misinformed).

In any case, do some 3rd grade Wikipedia research on Three Mike Island, it was not the disaster everyone seems to recall, and clearly does not fall in the same category as Chernobyl or Fukushima.

I wonder what Germany thinks its tail risk is in continuing to operate nuclear plants? Why a tsunami caused event would cause them to take action is beyond me...

I am talking about the risks of nuclear energy. I care about families and communities more than about profits.

In that case you should favor nuclear energy which is much safer than coal. Chernobyl killed less than 100 people, Fukushima none, Three Mile Island none. Coal kills hundreds of thousands each year.

It is not true at all. That claim is part of the Democ-rats' war on coal. It has never been conclusively established that coal has any significant impact on human health.

Black lung disease is clearly fake news.

West Virginia has the absolutely the healthiest population because they are almost entirely white demographics with no disease ridden non-whites and the extremely healthy coal industry?

When will you move to the low cost of living housing development built on reclaimed strip mines in West Virginia where the environment will ensure your kids are extremely healthy?

In the era of Trump, why is West Virginia experiencing the highest rate of population decline?

It wasn't the tsunami. It was that the tsunami was supposed to be within design parameters. Thus it was illustration of design error, and safety overconfidence.

I can feel that with our local San Onofre experience. When safety is over-promised, and design or construction errors produce costly overruns, it's easy to become skeptical about "clean, safe, too cheap to meter."

Obvious Thiago trolling is obvious.

Stop taking the bait boomers.


Concentrate on saying true things and don't worry about it.

Why don't they use

Clean Coal?

In this day of endless hacking, how safe is a nuclear power plant, today or in the future, to hacking of it or the systems that supply it or maintain it?

Maybe we should be looking at local distributed power systems, rather than large central systems? Solar and batteries anyone?

finally someone solves the conundrum

Particularly when we give a public subsidy to nuclear (clean up) and a waiver of liability.

We don't include the full costs in the accounting of nuclear v alternatives on either energy costs or environmental. If you can do a full cost accounting, and included all existing future costs and risks, then look at it: but remember, you are locking yourself in to a plant for many, many years as we know technology is changing faster than it has before with alternatives.

If the social price of carbon is as bad as some of the more pessimistic estimates, nuclear is cheap.

If the social price of carbon is much less than the pessimistic estimates, then natural gas is both the cheapest option and low enough in the carbon emissions to remain the best option.

Obviously, with its attempt to prevent completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the Trump Aministration disagrees with the idea that natural gas is better than coal. And whatever number of Germans that die (if one accepts the logic of this study, that number is likely in the 10s per year) from this delay is unimportant from an American perspective.

Berkshire Hathaway (Warren Buffet) just announced a solar electric plant in Nevada. Here is the cost profile: he Gemini project will cost $38.44 per megawatt hour under a 25-year contract, the L.A. Times reported, while Lazard has calculated that the average national cost of a new natural-gas plant ranges from $44 to $68.

From Wall Street Journal.

What are the all in costs of nuclear?

Yes, but who else does full cost accounting?

Do we do it for solar panels that have massive amount of cadmium? Do include the cleanup costs for when hurricanes trash major solar installations? How about the risks of transporting concentrated hydroflouric acid? How about the risks from disposal of toxic byproducts from silicon etching?

Is new nuclear cost effective? Maybe not. But is old nuclear? Absolutely.

Is solar fully costed? Nothing I have read suggests that we have full lifecycle costing yet.

As is, I worry far more about a bunch of expensive infrastructure that can be damaged by mundane things like tornados, hurricanes, and pipe bombs than I do about harden facilities that can withstand jet impacts.

Interesting - any idea what NiCad stands for? And how many of those batteries were simply pitched when no longer needed?

The amount of cadmium used in all the solar panels on the planet is a rounding error compared to the amount carelessly disposed of over the several decades that NiCad batteries were common.

But considering that NiCad batteries are basically banned in the EU since 2006, you are certainly correct to point out that cadmium is a problem.

In the US there was a tax placed on NiCad for disposal costs. I have no idea if the money actually covered costs or even was spent on actual waste disposal.

To the best of my knowledge no similar tax exists on the Cd in solar panels.

Let's be generous and say you need only a gram of Cd per kW of capacity (google tells me 70 per kW, but the data for that is old). Currently the world has 157 PWh of energy consumption. Let's say that final build out for the planet would be something on the order of 50 PW of solar power. That is going to require 1.5*10^14 grams or 150 million tons of cadmium. If we assume that we can get an average lifespan of 25 years from modern panels that gives us a whopping six million tons of toxic cadmium waste per year.

Maybe there is science I am missing. But holding nuclear to some crazy waste disposal levels while, as far as I have seen, ignoring it with solar is not a very robust analysis.

You are missing a couple of things:

1. First solar is the only maker of CeTd panels I am aware of and their manufacturing capacity is 1.9 gigawatts which is under 2% of world PV manufacturing capacity.

2. First Solar's panels use cadmium telluride.

1. Cadmium is not the only toxic waste to cost out for solar panels. Copper indium gallium selenide, for instance, also has toxics that will need some thought for disposal.

Yes, I used First Solar's data, however we can do this same exercise with basic crystalline silicon. As noted hydrouflouric acid also create toxins that are long lasting and have disposal concerns and it is used by the ton for silicon etching. As with many green technology, the upstream waste is significant and an issue. If we want to do full lifecycle analysis we need to include all the toxics used in production and all the waste streams they create.

2. Yes far less toxic, but not completely inert. Shockingly, I merely favor identical rules for toxic handling regardless of source. Vitrified nuclear waste, for instance, is even safer than cadmium telluride, for instance.

Why are there guards with guns at these nuclear power stations that can withstand jet impacts, but normally not even a dog at wind and solar farms, if nuclear power stations aren't worried about little things like pipe bombs?

Largely because the guards with guns are required by law. We also, unfortunately, use our nuclear plants as waste storage depots because Harry Reid refused to let us centralize storage into one secure area.

Solar plants are undefended because for all the fears of domestic terrorism, no one has yet gone after a significant amount of soft infrastructure. Like high voltage power lines, solar plants are soft targets that could kill a lot of people (e.g. through loss of air conditioning during a heat wave in the Southwest) but have not been targeted because the attack is not going to get the right news coverage.

But if we want to imagine a world where nefarious actors are going after the power supply as such, I would worry first about the transmission lines that can be taken down with small explosive charges, then the transformers which again are relatively soft and massively disruptive, and then the soft generation facilities (e.g. rail chokepoints for coal, solar farms). Only after worrying about all of those would I begin to consider worrying about nuclear and other hardened generation points.

Sounds like those guns are a good idea if they are storing high level nuclear waste on site.

"On the contrary, the nuclear phase-out still has widespread support"

Irrational en masse? And not a toothbrush moustache in sight.

EXCLUSIVE: ‘I got the best looking women when I was fat:’ Self-confessed sex god, Meat Loaf, 72, on threesomes, losing 70lb and why he thinks Greta Thunberg has been brainwashed


PUBLISHED: 21:43 AEDT, 1 January 2020 | UPDATED: 21:30 AEDT, 2 January 2020

He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, with worldwide sales of more than 80million records… and it turns out he’s a bit of a catch, as well.

Meat Loaf, 72, told MailOnline he’s always been able to get the best looking women, even when he was a ‘fat motherf****’, (his words).

The rock icon also discussed threesomes, losing 70lbs and why he thinks there’s no such thing as climate change, claiming activist Greta Thunberg, 16, has been brainwashed.

Meat, who famously worked with President Trump on The Apprentice back in 2010, said he believes there is no such thing as climate change.

‘I feel for that Greta. She has been brainwashed into thinking that there is climate change and there isn’t.

‘She hasn’t done anything wrong but she’s been forced into thinking that what she is saying is true.’

Sure, sure. MR can always unite against the common enemy .. Greta Thunberg, 16.

I didn’t say she was an enemy. She is misguided.

You must be new here.

Fake news, she's 17, birthday yesterday. And you call yourself a fan.

If people felt the heat more instead of less as they aged, we'd probably have global warming licked by now.

So the problem was the full cost of the health and climate change externalities of fossil fuel generation were not priced in. Here in Australia the direct health costs of coal generation come to approximately 1.5 US cents per kilowatt-hour, but indirect costs such as lowered cognitive ability may be much more. In more densely populated Germany I'd expect their health costs to be higher than in Australia, although this may be somewhat countered by better pollution control equipment.

I expect the cost of climate change externalities would be at least 5 US cents per kilowatt-hour from coal.

If these two externalities had been correctly priced in then the cost of coal generation would have been at least 7 cents per kilowatt-hour higher and I think there would be little to no coal generation in Germany today.

You may be interested to know that Australia is likely to suffer 1,000+ excess deaths as a result of smoke from this disastrous bushfire season:

"... killed over a thousand people due to more air pollution". (Tabarrok)

" 1,100 excess deaths per year resulting from the local air pollution" (the authors)

What do these two phrases actually mean? Are they equivalent in meaning?

If (on average) 1,100 lives are shortened by one year, is that the same as "1,100 excess deaths per year" or 1,100 persons "killed per year"? The NBER site is not responding at the moment, so I don't have access to the study and a description of the methodology. Nevertheless, my guess is that the first phrase, at least, is hyperbolic, regardless of whether it was wise to shut down nuclear plants in Germany.

I wonder, too, about associating c. $9 billion (USD?) in annual costs with those asserted 1,100 annual "deaths" (= over $8 million USD per dead German).

These deaths and associated costs occur ANNUALLY?

What German authorities zone residential housing so close to the downwind of so many coal-burning plants? For all the imputed costs a few intrepid urban planners could be put to work to relocated suffocating Germans.

I agree: this sounds like methodological hyperbole, at least to this non-statistician.

Having worked briefly in the coal emissions monitoring business, I can tell you that stack height is designed to move pollution out of area. In fact I heard a story of a lawsuit to force a state to reduce a stack height because it was exporting pollution to its neighbor.

See also GAO "Information on Tall Smokestacks and Their Contribution to
Interstate Transport of Air Pollution"

The value of a year of life is Germany is likely to be similar to what it is in Australia, which is around $150,000 US. If each excess death represents 3 years of life lost then 1,100 deaths per year would come to $165 million per year.

Sure is likely to appear, and whatever he writes will provide a certain insight into what hyperbolic truly means.

And what is truly sad is that the people living around the open lignite mines/generating stations want to keep their economy functioning, meaning that the people suffering most from local air pollution are exactly those who do not want to stop creating it.

I think it is time to give up nuclear technology. Its pedclers keep promissingbthat this time it will work, yet it never does. Coal and oil (hydroelectricity if the place helps) are the true and tried technologies we can count on to power our ecologies.

Or: when might we (human animals) wake up to the fact that we need not rely on electricity as much as our technophiles want us to consume to power the electrified consumer goods they throw at us?

Did anyone ever need "the electric toothbrush"? "the electric scent-dispenser"? "the electric book"? "the electric blender"? et cetera.

When might our mindless manufacturers of consumer "conveniences" begin edging away from their novel-but-needless electrification of consumer products?

On this remote planet I wonder how many "electric chronometers" alone are sucking precious electricity through our stressed power grids each day, each hour, each minute, each second, each picosecond?

I never need electric night lights myself since I commonly reside in spots where plenteous ambient lighting is available.

Good point.

To say we don't "need" as much energy as we do is to deny the modern economy in it's entirety. Your examples are irrelevant red herrings, we could give up electric toothbrushes but that is a rounding error. What we are actually talking about is the ability to transport ourselves to jobs and around the world, to enjoy relatively comfortable climate in our homes, to have an abundance of quality food and textiles. All things material and of immediate significance to human wellbeing.

Not at all: to say we don't need to consume (or produce) as much electricity as our technophiles say we need for our comfort and convenience is to begin to argue that our modern economy promotes needless waste and inefficiency as it encourages bleating consumers to uncritically buy stupid products that require energy-fueled turbines to spin more and more and more and more and more.

We may soon discover (now that "a new decade" has begun), for more than a single reason, that our illustrious modern economy with all the waste and inefficiency it generates may not prove sustainable beyond the end of this new decade. (Energy conservation has fallen out of fashion severely over the past forty-five years.)

(NASA, by the way, should have its "decade survey" of wish-list projects ready for review. Space astronomy, after three spectacular decades of data collection, could need to sacrifice curiosity about far distant space long enough to relinquish funds for terrestrial projects that are not being funded by anyone in our glorious modern economy.)

"I think it is time to give up nuclear technology. Its pedclers keep promissingbthat this time it will work, yet it never does. Coal and oil (hydroelectricity if the place helps) are the true and tried technologies we can count on to power our ecologies."

They keep 'promising it will work, yet it never does"? That would be news to the people of France, who get 70% of their electricity from nuclear power and have for decades. They also have one of the lowest electricity prices in Europe.

It would be news to the people of Ontario, who get 40% of their electricity from nuclear power and have done so for decades.

There are about 450 nuclear power plants operating in the world, all quietly and cleanly providing electricity to millions of people with zero CO2 emissions. Nuclear isn't 'promised' to work - it DOES work, more safely than any other power source we have, by orders of magnitude.

Anyone worried about climate change who isn't calling for massive deployment of new nuclear plants is either ignorant of the facts or has another agenda.

Why not take the economic cost of permanently losing all the infrastructure within an exclusion-zone radius of at least several dozen kilometers and multiply it by the probability of a Chernobyl or Fukushima event. A very high number multiplied by a very low number is your expectation value. Not easy to estimate accurately, but a plausible range might be more than you're willing to accept.

Be sure to take into account the possibly exaggerated demands for compensation – maybe even territorial compensation – if any of the fallout blows onto neighboring countries, and the resulting consequences for the unity or even survival of the EU.

The probability of another Chernobyl is zero, because Chernobyl was built under shoddy Soviet safety practices and didn't even have a containment dome. No one else does or ever has built reactors that lack such basic safety features.

Even so, the death tolls and environmental damage predicted for the Chernobyl area never did come to pass. In terms of death count, Chernobyl killed 49-54 people. Estimates of about 4,000 shortened lives due to cancers have not yet materialized, but let's go with it.

So the worst nuclear accident in history, from a design the west would never have approved, may result in about 4,000 premature deaths. How does that compare to other power sources?

Well, in the 20th century there were 34 dam failures around the world that had higher death tolls than Chernobyl, and a cumulative death toll of over 200,000 people. Millions of acres of land, including entire towns, were obliterated.

During England's heavy coal using era, there were multiple 'smog events' that killed many people. The worst was the Great Smog of London in 1952, which killed 4,000-6,000 people over the course of four days. New York had three major smog events in the 1950's and 1960's, each of which killed hundreds of people in a short period of time. And hundreds of thousands of people die each year from coal-related health issues.

Even rooftop solar has a higher death toll than nuclear. Roofing is the 6th most dangerous job in the U.S., and about 330 workers per year die from falls off of roofs. Extrapolating from that to the number of rooftop solar installations that would be required to make a dent in fossil fuel production, and you get hundreds of deaths per year just from falls. And since wind and solar are very resource intensive, you need much more mining and other industrial activity to support it.

My comment focused entirely on economic costs while yours focused entirely on deaths. So we are kind of talking at cross purposes. To be fair, the original article quoted in the post mentioned both.

The things you mention had higher death tolls but did not result in large quasi-permanent exclusion zones. Recall that the city of Kyiv, capital of Ukraine, would have become a ghost town if the wind happened to be blowing in a different direction on that day.

Fukushima had containment vessels but they were breached both at the top and at the bottom. At best these are mitigation measures, not a guarantee of anything, nor they cannot be made terrorism-proof.

"So the worst nuclear accident in history, from a design the west would never have approved, may result in about 4,000 premature deaths."

That was an old estimate that is no longer used as the modeling of radiation has changed. There may be 100 deaths due to radiation from Chernobyl with 55 believed to have died so far.

Looking at those US figures for deaths from roof falls then Australia may have had something like one death as a result of rooftop solar. We had two die building the ethene pipeline we use to make plastic bottles so that doesn't seem too bad for something that supplies about 5% of our electricity consumption. The same amount of electrical energy from coal presumably costs us dozens of lives each year.

I should probably mention we expect a dozen or two deaths from uranium mining in Australia due to low level radiation exposure. This is in addition to the usual mining hazards of silicosis, having a bulldozer back over you, etc.

Coal mining is of course worse for miner's health as there are greater toxic and fire dangers.

They’ve quantified no such thing. I’m a bit shocked that Alex and the authors BOTH spelled Fukushima wrong. Really? You guys have had too many people telling you how smart you are for too long. Sloppy.

The environmentalists are shutting down hydro in the Pacific Northwest(salmon's lives matter) and nuclear in Europe. What options are they leaving us with? They are against fracking as well, which is better than other conventional fossil fuels. I guess their solution, given its current ability to generate power, is to to cover every square in of the Earth in solar panels.

And yet Washington produces more hydroelectric power than anyone, followed by California.

We can keep using coal and oil as we have been doingbfor decades or centuries.

I'd like to see a right / libertarian effort to astro-turf an effort to shut down the cheap hydro power supplied to the east coast from Quebec. Look up the Le Grande hydro system - it makes Lake Mead look small.

Use the narrative: "Why did we pay (ignorant) Canucks to flood indigenous lands??? It's time to stop the subsiding enviro-haters to the north."

Double and triple the electric rates of blue state statists... Give them green energy good and hard.

" Germans are against nuclear and are also turning against wind power the options for dealing with climate change are shrinking."

The US built over 12 GW of wind power in the last 2 years and the US's wind farms are much more efficient than Germany's. I doubt what the Germans do matters very much.

"I doubt what the Germans do matters very much."

That's right...there are really only three countries that matter for future climate change: China, India, and (to a much smaller extent) the United States.

Your last paragraph was so passive aggressive as to be incomprehensible.

Try again in the active voice. It will spare those of us who do not find you as fascinating as you find yourself from the effort of puzzling out who you are trying to insult.

So this is a good thing because Germany would otherwise have sold fissile material to Iran???

1100 excess deaths per year: I wonder what that is in kilowatt-hours. Maybe retrofitting buildings would do the trick, and other efficiency measures. I'm not sure why out hosts consider complacency is called for in that arena.

Sounds like Germans felt a sort of anxiety when they glanced at those cooling towers. Maybe small reactors would not have the same effect.

Yeah but the options for humans controlling the weather were always nil, so there's that.

I wonder how many life years were lost. I would think that air pollution kills mostly the unhealthy old. Just Curious. It's not like opioids, vehicle accidents, war, homicide.

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