Nuclear Power Prevents More Deaths Than It Causes | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: April 2, 2013

Nuclear Power Prevents More Deaths Than It Causes

Climate Change: Study estimates that nuclear energy leads to substantially fewer pollution-related deaths and greenhouse gas emissions compared with fossil-fuel sources
Department: Science & Technology | Collection: Climate Change
News Channels: Environmental SCENE
Keywords: nuclear power, climate change, greenhouse gases, mortality, air pollution, coal, natural gas, Fukushima
Nuclear Future
The Crystal River nuclear power plant in Florida is scheduled for decommissioning, and there are no plans to replace it.
Credit: Mark Schrope
Nuclear Future
The Crystal River nuclear power plant in Florida is scheduled for decommissioning, and there are no plans to replace it.
Credit: Mark Schrope

Using nuclear power in place of fossil-fuel energy sources, such as coal, has prevented some 1.8 million air pollution-related deaths globally and could save millions of more lives in coming decades, concludes a study. The researchers also find that nuclear energy prevents emissions of huge quantities of greenhouse gases. These estimates help make the case that policymakers should continue to rely on and expand nuclear power in place of fossil fuels to mitigate climate change, the authors say (Environ. Sci. Technol., DOI: 10.1021/es3051197).

In the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, critics of nuclear power have questioned how heavily the world should rely on the energy source, due to possible risks it poses to the environment and human health.

“I was very disturbed by all the negative and in many cases unfounded hysteria regarding nuclear power after the Fukushima accident,” says report coauthor Pushker A. Kharecha, a climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in New York.

Working with Goddard’s James E. Hansen, Kharecha set out to explore the benefits of nuclear power. The pair specifically wanted to look at nuclear power’s advantages over fossil fuels in terms of reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Kharecha was surprised to find no broad studies on preventable deaths that could be attributed to nuclear power’s pollution savings. But he did find data from a 2007 study on the average number of deaths per unit of energy generated with fossil fuels and nuclear power (Lancet, DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61253-7). These estimates include deaths related to all aspects of each energy source from mining the necessary natural resources to power generation. For example, the data took into account chronic bronchitis among coal miners and air pollution-related conditions among the public, including lung cancer.

The NASA researchers combined this information with historical energy generation data to estimate how many deaths would have been caused if fossil-fuel burning was used instead of nuclear power generation from 1971 to 2009. They similarly estimated that the use of nuclear power over that time caused 5,000 or so deaths, such as cancer deaths from radiation fallout and worker accidents. Comparing those two estimates, Kharecha and Hansen came up with the 1.8 million figure.

They next estimated the total number of deaths that could be prevented through nuclear power over the next four decades using available estimates of future nuclear use. Replacing all forecasted nuclear power use until 2050 with natural gas would cause an additional 420,000 deaths, whereas swapping it with coal, which produces significantly more pollution than gas, would mean about 7 million additional deaths. The study focused strictly on deaths, not long-term health issues that might shorten lives, and the authors did not attempt to estimate potential deaths tied to climate change.

Finally the pair compared carbon emissions from nuclear power to fossil fuel sources. They calculated that if coal or natural gas power had replaced nuclear energy from 1971 to 2009, the equivalent of an additional 64 gigatons of carbon would have reached the atmosphere. Looking forward, switching out nuclear for coal or natural gas power would lead to the release of 80 to 240 gigatons of additional carbon by 2050.

By comparison, previous climate studies suggest that the total allowable emissions between now and 2050 are about 500 gigatons of carbon. This level of emissions would keep atmospheric CO2 concentrations around 350 ppm, which would avoid detrimental warming.

Because large-scale implementation of renewable energy options, such as wind or solar, faces significant challenges, the researchers say their results strongly support the case for nuclear as a critical energy source to help stabilize or reduce greenhouse gas concentrations.

Bas van Ruijven, an environmental economist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colo., says the estimates on prevented deaths seem reasonable. But he wonders if the conclusion that nuclear power saves hundreds of times more lives than it claims will convince ardent critics.

The nuclear power issue is “so polarized that people who oppose nuclear power will immediately dispute the numbers,” Van Ruijven says. Nonetheless, he agrees with the pair’s conclusions on the importance of nuclear power.

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Ding  (April 2, 2013 11:23 AM)
calculating the scale of disaster after North Korea impose their threats multiplied by retaliation.
Then what do you suggest we do about the waste?
Ryan  (April 2, 2013 11:27 AM)
Why save so many just to leave them poor?
Nathan Howell  (April 15, 2013 1:24 PM)
I think you make a great point. I know that the authors were not looking at the connection between poverty, energy, and climate aspects, but all of us should be looking at that more. If people understood how engineering, industry, and policy choices could be grouped to make a(some) metric(s) of poverty as often-toted as Gigatons of carbon then our choices towards peoples' lives from a compassion perspective could be better understood. Our choices have consequence towards poverty, but I think that most people (possibly even experts)see personal and policy consequences of poverty as so complicated that they just ignore it. Even it is hard, I don't think you can afford to ignore it.
JoeD  (July 11, 2013 5:20 PM)
This is not even a coherent statement. Please, do tell us the connection between poverty, energy, and climate aspects that, in your opinion, cause people to be poor - at least that is, I think, what we can take away from your post. The rest of your post is just liberal mumbo-jumbo that means nothing. "If people understood how engineering, industry, and policy choices could be grouped to make a(some) metric(s) of poverty as often-toted as Gigatons of carbon then our choices towards peoples' lives from a compassion perspective could be better understood" - this is nonsense. If people could understand software programming, Walmart, and people love of cheese could be grouped to make a(some) metric(s) of poverty as often-toted as Gigatons of carbon then our choices towards peoples' lives from a hateful perspective could be better understood. Get it? Of course not, it's gibberish. What I do understand from your post, however, is your need for a governmental authority to tell people how to live their lives as YOU see fit - as YOU see compassion. The problem is, of course, as this article points out but you somehow miss, is that unintended consequences of gov't intervention almost always make things worse because it is the populace who knows nothing about science, economics, or psychology. With politics, however, you don't need to, you vote for the clown you like best, who says the things that you think are true (like nuclear power being "bad") and they make policies that limit the use of nuclear power which in turn kills more people than if nuclear power was CHOSEN by the market. The difference between politics and the market are that in the market people have real choice, so the "wisdom of the crowd" dictates that people do not need to be well educated to move markets in positive directions. Politics is the opposite - there is little to no choice and while people vote in a market every day, it takes a very long time to get rid of incumbents. If the market had been left alone, free from gov't intervention and special interests who distort the market and turn it into a cesspool of corruption and special favors for the politically connected, we'd have had nuclear power LONG ago and we'd have cleaner air. We might not even be in the middle east!!!! And then, maybe, our terrorist problems would be gone, or at least squashed to a minimum. But no - thanks to gov't regulations and special favors we remain addicted to oil and coal. This country got rich not through gov't, and NOT through gov't regulation but by free people pursuing their own interests, free of gov't coercion. Free of protectionism (for the most part) and free from absurd laws that stifle innovation and creativity and motivation. But you would have more of that, more "policy" from our great overseers. You would drive this country into the poor house with your compassion. Compassion that leads to policies like welfare that keeps voters dependent on the state instead of self sufficient. A policy that STOPPED the decline in the poverty rate in its tracks and has let the poverty level remain nearly stagnant since.
JoeD  (July 11, 2013 5:02 PM)
So it is your assertion that it is better to be dead than poor? I have no idea what you think the direct connection is between keeping people alive and being poor unless it is you unfounded conclusion that the more people we have the more people will be poor. This is patently absurd and has been shown to be absurd on numerous occasions. By your logic Americans, by the tens of millions, should be dirt poor. But alas, they are not. There is plenty of research and evidence in direct contradiction to this idea that of course has been spewed forth by "intellectuals" for decades, if not centuries, and they have always been shown to be dead wrong.
George  (April 2, 2013 11:29 AM)
What about Hydro power...I'd say it wins hands down. This study is fundamentally flawed in my opininon because it is making a comparison of two evils and chosing the lesser of them...
Glen  (April 4, 2013 9:17 PM)
Hydro-electric power is bad for the environment because of how it disrupts fish habitat. It has other problems as well.
KitemanSA  (September 1, 2013 5:12 AM)
It also drowns out vast acreage and endangers those downstream with flooding. And more important, all the good spaces are used up, mostly.
Hayley Dunning  (April 5, 2013 1:53 AM)
The problem is hydro is not everywhere, not completely reliable and essentially cannot, at present, take on our energy consumption. To do that, many many more dams would have o be built, which comes with their own consequences (i.e. drowning land lives on, farmed on, full of unique ecosystems...) Of course, any energy solution comes with it's own issues (e.g. the use of rare earth elements in solar panels, wind turbines and electric car batteries).
Well, that's a little tangent, but the point is hydro cannot pick up the slack right now. So we need a transition fuel - something to use instead of fossil fuels while we wait for renewables to be good enough. Nuclear is likely the best transition fuel we have right now - at least in terms of greenhouse gases, that is.
Johnathon  (April 9, 2013 8:15 AM)
In theory the world needs approximately 15.5TW at any given time, now about 3% of that is hydro, and it is believed about 5% of the above figure is around the maximum we will ever get from Hydro. Currently about 85% of our power comes from fossil fuels all if which are estimated to no longer be feasible in the next 100-200 years, so unless we find a way to make a hydrogen power station which is still possible nuclear is the only way forward not to mention 15.5TW as a value will only increase. The risks with nuclear can only be removed by doing it other wise everything else is speculation. Disposal wise i know universities and research groups around the world are searching for an answer, one i heard during a electro chemical lecture was to pipe it into the empty oil/gas fields and then resealing them because obviously if we got natural gas from them then in theory no gas can escape the rock bed layer so we could leave it their. obviously their would be fears of radiation so all in all only one way to find out but in all honesty since we are already burying it carefully obviously then the radiation given of can be masked by rock so it probably is viable.
Chris Miller  (April 20, 2013 12:40 PM)
"only increase. The risks with nuclear can only be removed by doing it other wise everything else is speculation. Disposal wise i know universities and research groups around the world are searching for an answer"...

Actually, one disposal solution is fourth-generation nuclear. Remember that nearly all nuclear plants around are second-generation nuclear technology, which is relatively inefficient in converting fuel to energy, leaving large amounts of still radioactive byproducts as waste. A third generation includes reactors that use not uranium but thorium, resulting in far less in radioactive actinides left over.

The fourth generation, which the US *was* researching but cancelled a decade or more ago partly because of the efforts of John Kerry, includes various kinds of "fast" or "breeder" reactors. Breeder reactors are actually designed, first of all, to be inherently safe: a failure automatically shuts down the reaction: the design makes a "meltdown" impossible. More importantly, they are designed to recycle fuel, including any nuclear waste from earlier technologies. In other words, what is now nuclear waste can be reused as *fuel* for these reactors — which, being far more efficient, need less fuel to draw an equivalent energy and can make use of the same amount of material for a far greater length of time. And when as much energy as possible has been wrung out of the fuel, what is left over has a half life not of millennia, but mere decades. And unlike the admittedly small danger of plutonium being stolen to make thermonuclear bombs or dirty bombs, the design of fourth generation reactors makes this impossible, and the waste itself is useless for any such purpose.

So the solution to one problem falls naturally out of the solution to another.
Unimportant  (January 18, 2014 10:00 AM)
In terms of waste, and many of the other problems with nuclear energy, I believe will be shoved with the advent of the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor. This reactor is uses Thorium - a material currently disposed of by mining companies as waste and three times more abundant that uranium, most of which cannot be used for nuclear energy anyways - and uses it as a fuel. The thorium is dissolved into a liquid salt solution and 'breeded' into uranium. This uranium then reacts and is split.
The biggest advantage of this system is that the fuel is contained in a liquid form, and so it does not need to be removed before it is completely used up, as current reactors have to (because if they don't, the fuel rods may crack and release radiation). This allows the fuel to be used up more completely, estimated at about 99 percent (even though that is a little optimistic) as compared with current uranium's less than one percent. Allowing the fuel to burn this long also breaks down radioactive wastes that are associated with nuclear energy as well, just to sweeten the deal.
The next advantage associated with this reactor type is the safety features. Most reactors today have active safety features which must be switched on to function, such as backup generators in Fukushima, each most likely with a high probability of turning on, but they were wiped out, and so the reactor melted down. The Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) though, has a passive safety system. The reactor is built with two chambers, one to react in, and one empty one. The tube connecting them is plugged with frozen salt, which is kept cool by cooling systems outside of the pipe. If the power is shut off for whatever reason, then the plug melts, and the fuel drains into this drain tank, stopping the reaction. This safety feature will cut the risk of nuclear energy down (I'm not exactly sure on this figure) from it's already lowest out of any resource (The major ones, at least. Of course, I don't know what the death rates for hydro or wind are, but they aren't exactly a feasible resource right now. Maybe in the future, but not now).
Alex V  (May 16, 2013 3:31 PM)
But the out-put of Hydro is no where near the out-put of Nuclear.
zack ayers  (January 14, 2014 1:56 AM)
although hydro power sounds more efficient than nuclear power you got to think of the problems to hydro power such as pollution to lakes and other reservoirs and it kills the sea life and it is not as stable or containable as nuclear energy and it is more expensive for the economy to keep it up and running
Matthew Galvin  (September 29, 2014 9:43 AM)
All forms of energy have flaws, and sources like Solar, Hydro and Wind are, in my opinion, the most preferable. But remember, while these may be two evils, there is no way to practically power the modern USA (never mind world) with them yet, the technology just isn't there. I'm not saying they should stop making them, they should do it more, make them better and better overtime until one day they can takeover. But until then, we need something to give us power. This study shows that of the older technology we have, Nuclear power should be the only plants we make, because it's the least damaging, which still providing enough power.
Jonathan  (April 2, 2013 11:56 AM)
Human society improves every time we graduate to a more efficient energy source. Making the jump from personal labor to slave labor built the pyramids, watermills let us mass produce paper and bread, combustion created trains then cars then jets, electricity brought the internet, and nuclear is just the next step.
Sheldon  (April 2, 2013 12:27 PM)
So what this study is saying is we should get off coal and nuclear power. Okay lets do that.
Chris Miller  (April 20, 2013 12:41 PM)
Coal, yes. Nuclear, no. It shows that nuclear is far safer and the only feasible solution to a fast shift away from hydrocarbons.
John C  (April 2, 2013 12:39 PM)
Everyone on the green bandwagon is pointing to coal and saying no, its dirty, then accusing nuclear of being unsafe, tha example of fukashima is an extreme case where bad location coupled with bad design caused a problem.With enough forethought , nuclear power can deliver cheap clean energy,wind power will never be reliable and produce enough energy,solar in the uk is a joke,whats needed is more research on nuclear ,aimed purely at safe power production, rather than like the original program which was a spinoff of the race for nuclear weapons,thorium reactors for example.
Chad  (April 4, 2013 8:17 PM)
Coal use should be phased out as soon as practical, no more than ten years.

I have no problem with nuclear, though as it has already received hundreds of billions of subsidies in the past, it should be able to stand on its own two feet in the market now. So go ahead and build your nuclear plant, as soon as you can demonstrate that you can privately insure it against the full costs of a Cherynobyl level disaster AND that you have a method to indefintely store the waste products for at least 10,000 years, including money set aside to pay for whatever maintanence is necessary. If you have that, you can even build it in my back yard.

Pumped hydro can solve renewable realibility issues. It's old, simple technology, and permit applications have skyrocketed in the last few years precisely because we need more of it.
Alan  (April 19, 2013 12:53 PM)
Of all the comments, this is the only one to mention using thorium reactors which have well documented multiple advantages. Despite all the rhetoric, there is no doubt nuclear is a very safe energy source. (The Japanese disaster was a fluke exacerbated by the unexpected collapse of the coast by several feet). However, there are problems; we need to recycle spent fuel, (France has done it for years) and enable newer technologies which improve the efficiency, cost and lead time for building new nuclesr stations.
George Lerner  (September 26, 2013 4:50 AM)
John C. mentions "thorium reactors". He (probably) means thorium in a Molten Salt Reactor.


LWR is cooled by water, at very high pressure to keep it liquid at 350C so it will cool effectively. The risk of a pipe breaking means a huge steam containment building is essential, and multiple-redundant high-pressure pipes and valves.

MSR is cooled by molten salts (boiling point over 1400C, operating temp 600C-950C). The entire MSR operates at atmospheric pressure. With no water in MSR, all of the water risks and pressure risks of LWR are eliminated.

LWR materials can melt if the fuel gets much hotter. In an emergency, everything that normally happens in the reactor has to be overridden to stop fission and keep the fuel cooled.

In MSR the molten fuel expands/contracts with changes in heat, self-adjusting the fission rate. Reactor materials can handle the hottest the reactor could get in any normal or emergency situation. A "freeze plug" melting allows the molten fuel to quickly drain into passive storage tanks where fission can not happen, that do not need any electricity or water.


In a Light Water Reactor (LWR) about 1% of the fuel is fissioned because fission products are trapped in the fuel, blocking fission.

In Molten Salt Reactors over 99% of fuel is fissioned, simply by using molten fuel so the fission products are easily removed. Uranium, plutonium, and all other long-term radioactive materials are simply left circulating in the reactor until they either are fissioned, or decay to short-term radioactive materials (store for 10 years).

A Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) is a Molten Salt Reactor that can convert plentiful thorium (4X as common as uranium) into uranium, inside the reactor; so there is 5X as much fuel available.

Using thorium instead of U-235 makes a few percent difference in the <1% un-fissioned long-term radioactive waste. (There is uranium naturally in coal. Every coal plant leaves more uranium than a MSR; but coal plants just leave it in the ash heap as "naturally occurring radioactive material".)

Molten Salt Reactors take 800kg to 1000kg mined uranium (or thorium) to make 1GW electricity for a year, leaving only short-term waste; LWR takes 250,000kg mined uranium to make 35,000kg enriched uranium, leaving all of it as waste.

MSR can use LWR waste as fuel; some MSR configurations can even use the 215,000kg depleted uranium left over from making enriched uranium. No "reprocessing" needed, put the uranium, plutonium and fission products in the MSR and it works. (All types of nuclear reactor need some enriched uranium or plutonium to start the reaction; MSR can operate on "spent" LWR fuel).

Both MSR and LWR leave the same amount of fission products for the same heat: that 800kg to 1000kg. (But MSR can use more efficient high-temperature turbines, to make more electricity than LWR from the same amount of fission.) 83% of that has to be stored under 10 years; 17% has to be stored 350 years. We know how to store the few chemicals, totaling 170kg or 375 lbs per gigawatt-year, for 350 years. MSR eliminates long-term nuclear waste.

For more detail, and scientific journal references, see
Hunter  (April 2, 2013 12:50 PM)
what if a nuclear power plant collapses? how much safer is it them in comparison to any other type of power plant?
George Lerner  (September 26, 2013 5:44 AM)
Fukushima wasn't the Light Water Reactor (LWR) site closest to a 9.0 earthquake, none of the reactors collapsed. The tsunami didn't make any collapse either. Backup diesel generators were destroyed, not supplying power to the LWR cooling systems; and a country in ruin couldn't replace them quickly enough; and no other country flew diesel generators in to help. Japan had people die in oil and natural gas fires; nobody died from the reactors.

Even including Chernobyl (a very different type of reactor than LWR, known to be risky, yet with no containment building at all), more people have died from coal or oil Each year than have died from nuclear power All 60 Years Combined.

Molten Salt Reactors are another type of reactor, that we built and operated, and was shown to be Very stable.

MSRs use no water, are cooled by stable kind of salt, so would have no chemical explosions, no pressure explosions. Losing power would melt a "freeze plug" and the molten fuel drains to passive storage that doesn't need power or water.

Fission products can be removed regularly from the molten fuel; the gasses just need to be collected. Almost all the fission products need only 10 years storage, but many of them only need Days. There would be less highly radioactive material than at any LWR.

The fluoride salt in MSR chemically binds the fuel and most fission products; doesn't interact or dissolve in water; doesn't interact with air; is almost twice as dense as water. Cools to solid, much easier to collect than in LWR accidents, plus no radioactive Water.

Most likely MSRs would be installed underground, with metal floors that could collect any spills from damage like an earthquake. That would stop most terrorist strikes, and contain the radiation if there were a strike. With no flames, no explosion, no big radiation leak, no needing emergency cooling water that would need to be contained, it would be a boring TV show, so I think terrorists would stick to trains and oil refineries and bridges and restaurants.

One design of MSR would have 200MW fit in a standard shipping truck, fully assembled. In addition to making electricity, the high heat can desalinate water or make gasoline (water + CO2 + heat = gasoline). Ideal for providing power to disaster areas...
Ryan  (April 2, 2013 1:19 PM)
When I look at the pro/cons of nuclear power it is obvious to me that it is the safest cleanest energy source we have today. It's too bad there is so much bad mojo around it in the public because I think embracing it would go far to solve our energy needs, and is a keystone to using eletric vehicles.
christopher polonski  (April 7, 2013 11:54 AM)
I think most of the negativity comes from the huge propaganda coming from the fossil fuel industries, its really sad that so many people say all these negative things about nuclear when the benefits are so much greater than fossil fuels. People should do research before they blatently badmouth something they don't know alot about
Stop comparing  (April 2, 2013 1:20 PM)
Well, that's pretty obvious. It's like saying handguns kill more people than railguns. Doesn't mean we should start allowing people to buy railguns.

Whatever is common kills more than the uncommon.
E. C. Gladden  (April 5, 2013 3:50 AM)
That would be a valid argument if the comparisons were merely coal_deaths - nuclear_deaths. Instead, they're saying that replacing nuclear with fossil fuels would have killed 1.8 million. Using your handgun comparison, that'd be saying that, if we replaced all railguns with handguns, 1.8 million people would have died.

Or, the other way around, in an alternate universe where we haven't used fission to produce electricity (but still had all the data about it, somehow), they could say that, had they used nuclear, those 1.8 million people wouldn't have died.

Commonality has nothing to do with it.
KitemanSA  (September 1, 2013 5:35 AM)
If you look at a per unit of electric energy basis, which takes "commonness" out of the issue, then for every 90 people who die from nuclear power related operations and accidents you get about 170,000 who die from coal operations and accidents.
For wind it is . . . ~150
solar roof PV . . .~440
hydro . . . . . . . ~1,400
Biofuels . . . . ~24,000

Nuclear is safer than the lot.
Nicolas Loud  (April 2, 2013 1:41 PM)
Nuke power is cleaner than all fossil fuels but it certainly no wind or solar. Hell if Nikola Tesla says we can all get free energy by whats using around us...why spend so much money on Nuke plants, which I do believe its a dirty business. Especially the recycling of radioactive materials. I don't trust any country using nuke power based on overflowing barrels of radioactive materials based in bunkers in isolated areas. Down with nukes, harness the electronic energy that is around us!
Joe  (April 6, 2013 11:53 AM)
"I don't trust any country using nuke power based on overflowing barrels of radioactive materials based in bunkers in isolated areas."

What are you- 12 years old? You should probably not talk until you understand how nuclear power and waste disposal works, because you are making yourself sound foolish.
Nicolas Loud  (April 2, 2013 1:41 PM)
Nuke power is cleaner than all fossil fuels but it certainly no wind or solar. Hell if Nikola Tesla says we can all get free energy by whats using around us...why spend so much money on Nuke plants, which I do believe its a dirty business. Especially the recycling of radioactive materials. I don't trust any country using nuke power based on overflowing barrels of radioactive materials based in bunkers in isolated areas. Down with nukes, harness the electronic energy that is around us!
john  (May 1, 2013 2:10 PM)
you must not really look at facts very much. Nuclear power doesnt produce much waste because it recycles the waste until the waste is unusable which usually results in a "barrel" the size of two soda cans. if your going to hate at least have intelligent points
anan zaa  (April 2, 2013 2:21 PM)
nobody supports using fossil fuel sources. we demand new technologies like solar energy, wave energy
Joe  (April 2, 2013 2:34 PM)
Basically most people look at nuclear and think UN-CLEAR. They think TMI, Chernobyl, Fukushima and the half dozen or so nuclear disaster movies out there. Have you ever seen any movies about the big explosion at a coal plant?
T. Leah Spencer  (April 2, 2013 2:40 PM)
It seems to me that these numbers here may be correct, but we are still aiming here at a failed Energy Policy with Coal, Natural Gas, Petroleum, AND Nuclear Power Sources. All have major issues. So why so readily dismiss (and in one brief paragraph mention) the Renewable Sources of Energy available, and to which most of the rest of the thinking world is turning. This whole study seems like a smoke screen to inhibit real change. Good job guys, but I'm not fooled. We can do better as a Nation and a Species than "the lesser of two evils."
George Lerner  (September 26, 2013 6:30 AM)
If you want to eliminate all fossil fuel use, so it is not providing "base load power" to back up renewables (most renewable proponents forget to factor that in), you either need region-wide interconnected power grid capable of supplying the full electrical needs of the region, and enough generation capability and power storage capability to power the entire region through weeks of bad weather...

Or you need modern nuclear power that can throttle up/down matching renewable supply to electrical need. Even LWR might be able to provide cheaper power than all that renewable power plus storage -- land, construction, maintenance, operation. Molten Salt Reactors definitely can.

Even natural gas can't do that as well -- the most efficient NG is only that efficient at one speed, and less efficient but rapid-on NG combined with solar/wind uses More NG than the most efficient NG plant without solar/wind.

I think we should stop calling LWR "nuclear power" when it is only One Type of nuclear power, and the fossil fuel companies are making sure we don't develop other proven types of nuclear reactors... and build modern nuclear reactors and renewable energy as fast as possible.

Light Water Reactors are the only type of nuclear power we've used for decades, for political reasons not technical ones. For example, the Atomic Energy Commission's report to the President and Congress, in 1962, saying to stop using LWR, and use other types of reactors, was ignored.

Molten Salt Reactors will be much simpler than LWR, since they don't have the safety issues with using Water. No steam containment building, no high-pressure reactor vessel and pipes -- because no steam and no high-pressure. MSR would be factory assembled, with lower cost, better quality control, modern instrumentation and monitoring.

MSR consumes over 99% of the molten fuel, vs LWR 1% of the solid fuel. And MSR can use LWR waste as fuel.

If you want to Eliminate nuclear waste (not bury it and hope), only the right type of nuclear reactor can do that. Of the possible types of reactor, only a Molten Salt Reactor has been built and operated.
Energy Realist  (April 2, 2013 2:42 PM)
In a place named Shoreham on Long Island, New York, A Governor named Mario Cuomo choose to force the closing of a brand new never used Nuclear 860 Mw Plant in favor of politics, the end result was the shutdown of the Nuclear Power industry in the US which led to an insatiable demand of the middle easts oil assets, followed by political unrest in the region, which led to the attacks of 9/11 and the subsequent collapsing of the economy….and the best part, the governor wanted shoreham shut down for reasons of safety…. go figure…. how much blood he now has on his hands….
PRKing  (April 2, 2013 5:19 PM)
Wind power and solar power in Europe is significantly cheaper than electricity from fossil fuel or nuclear power when you factor in health and environmental damage.

Renewable energy does not bring the catastrophic risk that nukes do. Only nukes can suddenly and violently make a huge area of land uninhabitable. The choice is not nukes vs. fossils - it is nukes vs. renewables and nukes lose.
E. C. Gladden  (April 5, 2013 4:24 AM)
Nukes don't suddenly and violently fail. They're not bombs with a random timer on them just waiting to explode. The two major accidents, Fukushima and Chernobyl were caused by a loss of coolant to the reactor, Fukushima because of a 9.0 earthquake and 10-meter tsunami which knocked out backup generators to run the coolant systems; Chernobyl was caused by *big breath* a rushed design and construction (Cold War) leading to a fault in the emergency shutdown which caused steam explosions to tear open the 'containment building', exposing graphite to the air causing it to ignite spewing radioactive dust out through the new sunroof.

Note that neither Fukushima nor Chernobyl had the dome-shaped reinforced concrete containment buildings of which the US is so fond. Which, by the way, stopped Three Mile Island, also caused by a failure of cooling, from doing much damage. In other words, the containment building contained the disaster.

Hence, the last (and first) deaths in the US due to nuclear power was in 1961, meaning 52 years and over 100 nuclear power plants has lead to 0 deaths.

Saying we shouldn't build nuclear plants because they might melt down is like saying we shouldn't build cars because (in an alternate universe) there existed a few shoddily-built gasoline engines that could explode. Build the engines right, and they're safe.

Don't believe me? Ask the US, with their 104 reactors, all of which had construction begin at least 39 years ago, and their sparkling safety record. With technology 39 years old. A 39-year-old /computer/ would probably explode if operated, but not nuclear power plants.

Fission can also be built in cities, where wind is more difficult, and in cloudy areas (Cascadia, Britain, e.g.) where solar is more difficult. It's way more compact than wind, is way less environmentally altering than hydro, and more versatile than geothermal, which is pretty much limited to Yellowstone (exaggeration).

I would say 'give nukes a chance', but we've already done it: a 50-year-long chance, and despite a beautiful safety record, it's still distrusted.
christopher polonski  (April 7, 2013 12:03 PM)
Im a nuclear engineering student and we are currently studying chernobyl and if my memory serves me correctly, they did not even have a containment building! And they shut down the entire reactor and tried to restart it less than 10 minutes later without giving it enough time to dissipate xenon levels. Both incidents are nothing compared to the thousands of oil spills and accidents from fossil fuels, and both incidents were caused because of a lack of preparation, whcih the U.S. has overcome. Just a month ago there was a large oil spill in south america that NPR talked about that destroyed hundreds of homes. People are just biased and uneducated and others like us need to get the information out there, and fossil fuel companies have the bank to prevent it while covering up all the horrible messes they have created.
Corinne  (July 13, 2013 1:43 PM)
The fact is that the safety of nuclear energy is an argument for, not against it. People will bring up 3 Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima without putting them into context (If you ran over a pedestrian because the brakes on the car you built in your garage went out would it be fair to deem the brakes on Hyundai cars unsafe?)yet even so the toll on human life and quality there of is essentially non-existent when compared to other sources of energy. Both coal and renewable. The environmental consequences on the other hand are literally and absolutely non-existent provided de control where the waste goes which we do. We have a self imposed "waste" problem due to "nonproliferation". The elements that are produced as a byproduct in a nuclear reactor can actually be useful and beneficial. For example, cobalt 60 can be used for radiation treatment plutonium can be recycled as fuel and so on. In fact if all the energy a typical American used (we use more than anyone else)throughout their lifetime were nuclear all the waste produced would fit in a coke can (taking into consideration current bans on the recycling of fuel). The breeder reactor concept was intended as a closed fuel cycle. However again due to non proliferation we are not allowed to use breeder or fast reactors or recycle spent fuel. So again the perceived "waste" problem is self imposed. Furthermore, peoples association of nuclear reactors and atomic bombs is erroneous. No US nuclear power plant uses weapons grade uranium therefore a nuclear explosion is actually physically impossible. The first reactor to produce electricity was finished in 1951 and since then we have had a total of 3 fatalities due to nuclear reactors. Compare that to other energy sources. And no Chernobyl did not have a containment dome. If they had had one no one would have been exposed to radiation. In addition, higher ups were removed from the buildings while all other workers were not told about the incident until 4 days later. They also overrode all safety protocols to run their experiment. Had they evacuated immediately and provided people with iodine tablets a lot less people would have gotten sick. Public welfare was clearly not priority.
Bonds 25  (April 19, 2015 4:16 PM)
Just some extra details. The "dome-shaped" containments are associated with Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR). Fukushima are Boiling Water Reactors......which HAVE containments (called Drywells)you just can't see because they are located inside the Reactor Buildings. Drywells are a lot smaller due to BWR's not having a Pressurizer or massive Steam Generators. Chernobyl's reactors are horribly designed RBMK's (basically designed for weapons production) with no containments that were run by Soviet morons. TMI did not experience a total station blackout....WITH the loss of all emergency generators like Fukushima. Nuclear Power is the safest, cleanest and most efficient way to produce massive amounts of base load 24/7 power.
George  (April 2, 2013 5:33 PM)
"Nuclear Power Prevents More Deaths Than It Causes"

A most curious title, as if there are a lot of nuke power plant related deaths?

B  (April 9, 2013 10:36 AM)
There are accidents and deaths associated with any industrial environments.
Systems Engineer Z  (April 2, 2013 7:24 PM)
the problems that people have with nuclear power is the traditional story of deaths due to an outrageous event (nuclear power plant failure,plane crash, etc ) versus deaths due to a something widespread where people are not outraged (air quality toxicity deaths, car crash, etc)

Anything that furthers carbon based fossil fuel (oil, coal, natural gas) dependance is not the answer, nuclear fission reactors are a step in a better direction (although it is unjust to burden future generations with the not fully decayed radioactive material)

In addition there are recent developments for safety measures, new paradigm disasters for such things as tsunamis or earthquakes

Howard Long MD MPH, Epidemiology  (April 2, 2013 7:33 PM)
NONE, ZERO deaths have ben caused from irradiation in the 100 USA nuclear power plants!
NOT, "-The NASA researchers combined this information with historical energy generation data to estimate how many deaths would have been caused if fossil-fuel burning was used instead of nuclear power generation from 1971 to 2009. They similarly estimated that the use of nuclear power over that time caused 5,000 or so deaths, such as cancer deaths from radiation fallout and worker accidents. Comparing those two estimates, Kharecha and Hansen came up with the 1.8 million figure.,"

Data from NSWS, Taiwan apts, etc is so overwhelming of BENEFIT from more rediation that
for 5 years I have been sitting on thoriated welding rods giving 150 mRad/hour (10x ambientm 3 hours/ day),
a Denver dose, to inhibit cancer.
William  (April 2, 2013 9:28 PM)
I have always been i big believer in nuclear power. with not many of us willing to change our lifestyles to reduce energy consumption, the only way forward is to use energy sources that minimise environmental damage. while i would much prefer people to use renewable energy like solar not everyone has the means to have it installed in there home or business. hopefully studies like this will help people realise the benefits of nuclear power. it's not perfect but it's the best we have.  (April 2, 2013 10:16 PM)
This is not exactly news. Professor Petr Beckmann of the U. of Colorado at Boulder pioneered this research and published findings in "The Health Hazards of NOT Going Nuclear" (Golem Press) and it was in print by 1980. His Access to Energy newsletter provided much followup material.
Thomas Applewhite  (April 2, 2013 10:27 PM)
How about the authors drop their bias against renewables. Solar and wind are the fastest growing energy sources. And neither will cause ANY deaths. TOOLS!
Marc  (April 10, 2013 9:17 AM)
Rooftop Solar actually has the highest death rate per Megawatt due to industrial safety accidents. Wind is less than solar but more than Nuclear.
George Lerner  (September 29, 2013 10:04 PM)
If you want to reduce use of coal/oil, renewable energy sources are great.

If you want to Replace coal/oil, not having natural gas as backup for wind/solar, well you need to think things through. Energy storage systems to cover a city through 5 weeks of non-stop overcast skies, and generating capacity to keep those storage systems charged? Trans-continental power transmission systems (sounds like a technical challenge and political nightmare)?

If you want natural gas backup for wind/solar, and natural gas is cheap, why would a community pay for wind/solar equipment on top of natural gas equipment? Pair up solar/wind with the wrong type of natural gas plant and you use More natural gas than without solar/wind. Natural gas has much less pollution than coal/oil, but inevitably releases methane, 30x as powerful a greenhouse gas as CO2. You have to think things through.

Got to think things through, to make sure you are getting what you want. Start to finish, total cost, total pollution, illness and deaths caused, land use, water use, mining through dismantling.

People have too died with solar and wind. Far fewer than from coal or oil, more than from global nuclear, per gigawatt-year. Solar photovoltaic requires mining and handling toxic chemicals; so do high-tech windmills; people have died cleaning windmills.

New types of nuclear reactor, such as Molten Salt Reactors, work better with wind/solar variability than even natural gas, produce far less pollution (and less radioactivity in the environment, and less environmental damage in accidents) than coal/oil, use no water (and make enough heat to desalinate water) and can Eliminate long-term waste from Light Water Reactors.

LWR's time is past -- the physicists and engineers were saying that in the 1950s, told the President and Congress that in 1962. Few people drive 1970 automobiles or watch 1970 TVs; we should build the best possible nuclear reactors (especially since they cost and waste less than LWR).

If you want to eliminate coal/oil, and want to build solar/wind, then new, completely different types of nuclear reactors take less land, water, money, pollution, environmental damage than any other potential power sources, to back up wind/solar.
Mike Barnard  (April 2, 2013 11:02 PM)
Hmmm... large scale implementation of renewables face significant challenges?

Let's unpack that and do a nuclear vs renewables throw-down:

1. Training sufficient resources to the skill level necessary to safely build generation - massive advantage for renewables
2. Training sufficient resources to the skill level necessary to safely maintain generation - massive advantage for renewables
3. Security required for supply chains - massive advantage for renewables
4. Security required for operating generation - massive advantage for renewables
5. Ensuring no significant sudden loss of generation - advantage for renewables
6. Cost of a gigawatt of new generation - massive advantage for renewables
7. Social license for new generation - massive advantage for renewables
8. Ease of financing for new generation - massive advantage for renewables
9. Ease of decommissioning and waste storage - massive advantage for renewables
10. Ease of limiting generation in the event of surplus - advantage for renewables

As for health impacts and CO2e per TWh, nuclear and renewables are about equal. Where nuclear exists it makes tremendous sense to keep it running (with a couple of exceptions like Ontario where there is a bit too much of it leading to SBG). There are about as many places where there is social license to build as there are skilled resources to build and operate in the pipeline. Nuclear generation is self-throttling. It will never be a major part of the energy future without extraordinary societal change over the next 50 years.

Renewables, on the other hard, are growing enormously quickly around the world using pretty basic technology that can be installed and maintained by people with skills and aptitudes that are in wide supply.

I like nuclear as a part of our energy mix, but you have to live in a pretty hypothetical world to think that it will supplant renewables as a primary area of new generation growth, or even that it should.
Andrew M. Dodson  (June 23, 2013 2:05 PM)
This does nothing to help the rest of the non-american world as they grow in their need for energy. Solar and Wind stand at roughly 32 cents and 18 cents per kWh, compared with the 4.5 of coal and 6-8 of natural gas.

China is developing nuclear because they understand this. The hope is that perhaps energy costs get as low as 2 cents per kWh! This would really change the industry and improve quality of life across the globe. Cost is most especially a concern when we consider the depressed state of economies across the world. The poor drive the economy. Their needs will be filled.
George Lerner  (September 30, 2013 12:15 AM)
China is putting about $1Billion USD into developing LFTR, a type of Molten Salt Reactor. Construction costs much lower than LWR (no water so no high pressure or expensive steam containment needed), no water use (much safer, and we need the water for other things), eliminates long-term nuclear waste from LWR (fission it). We ran a molten salt reactor in the 1960s, very stable reactor, we know the chemistry, we have the materials, we could build that design (technically, not politically) today. We want to test even better materials, for example making gasoline out of water and CO2 needs higher heat, but that is an improvement. (Politically, laws say "nuclear power" instead of "light water reactor" so much that we'd have to put a steam containment building and high pressure pipes in a reactor that operates with no steam, at atmospheric pressure! While we're at it, all those skyscrapers need to be redone to have moats for safety.)
Bao Khanh-Vu  (April 3, 2013 5:04 AM)
Nuclear power is good, but its waste is Achilles's heel; burying waste permanently under our feet or storing them for detoxification in the future???
E. C. Gladden  (April 5, 2013 4:29 AM)
Or reprocessing, the nuclear equivalent of turning cyanide into cake.
Tar Atanamir  (April 6, 2013 8:58 PM)
We are not burying waste, we are burying unspent fuel.

From a proper nuclear reactor there are only a tiny fraction of the end products that can be called waste. Like from a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) where only 7% of the end products need to be stored, and then for only 300 years until it is safe. The other 93% consist of perfectly safe and valuable materials, such as neodymium and zirconium.

The reason our current nuclear power plants produce so much waste is because they were designed first and foremost to provide material for nuclear weapons.
KitemanSA  (September 1, 2013 5:45 AM)
"The reason our current nuclear power plants produce so much waste is because they were designed first and foremost to provide material for nuclear weapons."

This is not true. However, they were designed by people who's main experience base was military (Naval Nuclear Power). Indeed, it was essentially a scaled up submarine reactor. And once te pattern was set, the NRC makes it difficult to change horses.

That could change rapidly with the right leadership.
Bonds 25  (April 19, 2015 4:29 PM)
The "spent" fuel from the last 30 years at the Nuke Plant I work at sits in dry cast storage on a pad that's about the size of a basketball court with radiation dose rates barely above background. These casks are self cooling and are for the most part, maintenance free. The high energy gamma isotopes will be mostly decayed away after a hundred years or so. That's the worst case scenario. Best case scenario, this "spent" fuel will become gold with the next generation reactors.
Kent Beuchert  (April 3, 2013 12:58 PM)
"Deaths due to nuclear power" is attributable almost in its entirety to the Chernobyl accident, which has been misreported and exaggerated over the years by so-called environmentalist groups, such as Greenpeace. The Chernobyl reactor could hardly be used to estimate reactor dangers in the Western world (Chernobyl technology would never have been approved in the West) , which have caused few, if any, deaths and very few injuries. I would estimate that solar power would cause thousands of times more deaths, injuries, simply as a result of installing the approximately 2 million rooftop solar arrays required to produce the same power as one modern nuclear reactor. Not to mention its de-installation and re-installation when the roof needs to be re-shingled
Kat  (April 3, 2013 1:20 PM)
Nice to see some objective data being presented in terms of the viability - in fact the need for - renewed emphasis on nuclear energy. This source has the capacity to move us away from fossil fuels relatively quickly - and yet, the power of the fossil fuel lobby prevents us from making strides. It gives me hope to at least see more information being presented in favor of nuclear technology. The lack of investment and conversation about the need for nuclear investment, means we will not have the scientists, engineers and trained workforce, to support an infrastructure in the US, in as little as 10 years. So we'd better make some moves if we want to have any meaningful response to the issues that will confront us from the looming climate change we're baking into the atmospheric cake~
David  (April 23, 2013 11:00 AM)
According to latest studies, Tchernobyl will lead to a total of more than 1.2 millions deaths in Ukraine and Belarus due to baby miscarriage in women and heart diseases caused by intoxication with microdoses (a few Bq) of radioactive cesium.. I'm a PhD radiochemist so by definition not against nuclear power, however we should all be very careful about these power plants because onyl one accident erases the benefits..
George Lerner  (September 30, 2013 1:05 AM)
Chernobyl was a RBMK reactor, a very different reactor than LWR (what is most used worldwide). It didn't have an accident like Fukushima (loss of coolant). Chernobyl got some steam bubbles (from improper use at low power), and steam bubbles made the reactor fission more, making more and bigger steam bubbles "high positive void coefficient of reactivity"; when at over 1000 times normal power, the whole reactor exploded from steam pressure. Fission products are initially Highly radioactive (1000s of times more than uranium) but almost all no longer radioactive; brand new fission products exploded directly into the air, no containment building at all.

All of the few other RBMK reactors (all in former USSR) have been extensively modified, including much faster control rods, so none of them will have a Chernobyl accident.

LWR has different Physics, steam bubbles make the reactor weaker ("negative void coefficient"). LWR can overheat, but no way to spiral out of control like Chernobyl.

All Generation-IV reactors would not need water cooling in emergency, so wouldn't have a Fukushima style accident.

1.2 million deaths is much higher than most estimates; most of those "estimates" rely on an early "linear no-threshold" model from when we had little data, that is now demonstrated unreliable at low radiation levels, but even that predicts 25,000 deaths (Wikipedia "Also based upon extrapolations from the linear no-threshold model of radiation induced damage, down to zero, the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that, among the hundreds of millions of people living in broader geographical areas, there will be 50,000 excess cancer cases resulting in 25,000 excess cancer deaths."), so you have to read those studies carefully... And we know that USSR didn't even tell people to evacuate for two days.
Bonds 25  (April 19, 2015 4:40 PM)
If you believe "a few Bq of radioactive Cesium" will cause ANY (let alone 1.2 million) deaths or miscarriages......then you need to flush that Radiochemistry PhD down the toilet and never practice again. You need to stop getting your information from Helen Caldicott, she is a lying, fear mongering criminal.
David  (April 24, 2013 3:32 PM)
What about the environmental damage due to mining uranium?
What about reducing energy usage? The western world could easily halve their energy usage within a decade. Improve housing standards, reduce transport drastically, and so on.
Meanwhile we can build up solar energy system. Solar panel on roofs of buildings.
We need neither nuclear nor fossil fuel power.
George Lerner  (September 29, 2013 11:53 PM)
LWR (the type of nuclear reactor we've been using) has less mining impact than coal/oil, by far, even using about 1% of the uranium. Modern designs, such as Molten Salt Reactors, that we haven't used for political reasons not technical ones, can fission over 99% of the uranium, including the "waste" from LWR.

Solar power is good, but not a complete system; same with wind. What are you going to use when the sun isn't shining, heavily overcast for weeks at a time? Rooftop solar might Average to zero fossil fuel use, but still requires grid power.

Need either massive power storage (expensive, and not environmentally friendly), and solar/wind generating capacity to store several weeks worth of power (expensive); or you need a baseload power. Nuclear power (even ancient LWR) provides this with less pollution, less radiation, and less total expense than any other source of power to back up solar/wind.

New nuclear reactor types would be even better; for example, eliminate LWR waste, use no water (we need it for irrigation!), cost less since no high pressure pipes and no steam containment (no high pressure and no steam).

You have to think through the total costs: land, water, mining, construction, operation, maintenance, dismantling, disposal. Total illness, death, environmental damage, pollution, radiation.

One idea: Solar requires mined rare earth minerals. Thorium is always found with rare earth minerals. Some types of nuclear reactor can use thorium and/or uranium. Molten Salt Reactors, since the fuel is molten, can fission over 99% of the fuel: the fission products can be extracted, instead of blocking fission like in solid fuel reactors. Several of the fission products are rare earth minerals, that solar (and many other industries) use. I think we should eliminate LWR waste in MSR first, though; leave the thorium until later, it isn't dangerous (like most things mined, don't inhale the dust!)
Nari Soundarrajan  (April 30, 2013 2:05 AM)
There was a recent article in C&EN about improper accounting for the decommission costs and the maintenance of that money in market based funds (leaving it up to sudden changes). Now, while this study sounds all positive and cite radiology reports from Japan that might show damage to be less, they miss the important discussion on still impending risks from water management at Fukushima.
Lo and behold, the NYT does a piece on this and the quotes of the TEPCO and other members are quite quite telling
Alasdair Lumsden  (June 1, 2013 8:28 PM)
When people talk about Nuclear safety and Nuclear waste, they're talking about PWR's, Pressurized water reactors. These use water as a coolant in a pressurised container with solid fuel, in a design that dates back to the 40s and 50s. It is inherently unsafe, and the fact we haven't had more accidents is a testament to the excellent safety standards these plants have been run to. They only burn less than 1% of their fuel, producing large amounts of Nuclear Waste.

It doesn't have to be this way. There are far better designs and technologies, such as the Molton Salt Reactor. These:

1. Burn 99% of the fuel, because it's dissolved in a liquid salt that can circulate and be reprocessed on-line
2. Produce 1% of the waste of conventional nuclear reactors
3. Can actually consume existing nuclear waste stockpiles
4. Can't melt down, are passively "walk-away-safe" thanks to their inherent safety features
5. Can't have a steam explosion, unlike a pressurised light water reactor, because they're not under pressure and don't use water
6. Can run on Thorium instead of Uranium which is as common as lead and effectively free - it's a byproduct of mining
7. Are significantly smaller and cheaper to construct. So much so that the energy from one has the potential to be cheaper than coal

Molton Salt Reactors were developed in the 60s at Oak Ridge National Laboratories and are a proven technology that were tragically not pursued due to political reasons.

There are a number of companies trying to resurrect the Molton Salt Reactor technologie, such as Flibe Energy, Transatomic Power, and Terrestrial Energy. China's National Academy of Sciences is now building a prototype reactor due to come on-line in 2020, just 7 years away. Their effort is being headed up by Jiang Mianheng, son of former leader Jiang Zemin, so they understand the potential and are taking this very seriously.

There's more information on Molton Salt Reactors here, which I'd highly recommend everyone watch:

Had we gone down the MSR route the world we inhabit would look vastly different - there would have been no Fukishima or Chernobyl, and quite possibly most of the world's energy would be being produced by them. Worldwide CO2 emissions would be considerably lower, and waste stockpiles would be considerably lower.

Thankfully it's not too late - I'm trying to do all I can to spread the word about Molten Salt Reactors, I hope others will too.
j  (October 18, 2013 4:29 PM)
New UK nuclear plants should only be built to replace existing ones that are coming to end and only be built (preferably by English firms) on those sites too.
Germany manages without much nuclear plants why can't Britain do the same.
Switzerland is also phasing out nuclear power.
j  (October 18, 2013 4:30 PM)
New UK nuclear plants should only be built to replace existing ones that are coming to end and only be built on those sites too. Germany manages without much nuclear why can't the UK do the same.
Charles R. Kiss  (October 23, 2013 11:57 PM)
This study ignores potential losses of life over the span of nuclear byproduct half-lives, and lost opportunity losses of having to use available resources to cleaning up nuclear catastrophes that could have been otherwise used to cure AIDS, Malaria, etc.
PebbleHead1  (November 6, 2013 6:47 PM)
Most of the answer to nuclear sustainability exists and has for decades. It's not new technology. Look up HTGR (High Temperature Gas Reactor). No water. No meltdown. Deep burn of fuel to minimize waste to lowest level possible today (small fraction of total fuel). Remaining waste is in very safe solid form that has decay life of a couple of decades (not centuries). Can recycle water reactor waste (synergistic) and burn up Plutonium stockpiles (anti-proliferation?). When using Thorium, you get the best deep burn up of fuel and virtually no Plutonium when you are done. This is what the Gen IV reactors can do. Here's the closest to reality today -
Jeff  (September 29, 2014 8:39 AM)
I really don't understand the fight between the renewable advocated and nuclear advocates. Fossil fuels are very limited and we will run out of them eventually. So a switch should be made and preferably sooner. Why does it have to be one or the other? Solar power is safe cheap and supplies a lot of power when we need it, however it requires a large area to collect any sizable amount of energy and doesn't work at night. Nuclear power is a viable long term solution until we discover a way to harness the same power the sun uses, Nuclear fusion. I think solar, wind and nuclear are a good mix. Together they would be cleaner and cheaper and will sustain our thirst for more power. Keep an open mind and realize that each of these has a strengths and weakness' and if we properly plan out our energy future we can exploit the strengths of these sources and mitigate the risks of using them.
Adam Selene  (February 10, 2015 12:02 PM)
Absolute NONSENSE! Nuclear power has almost killed the Pacific ocean already, and is in the process of STERILIZING this planet. No more *lies*! Nuclear is death, nothing less.
Bonds 25  (April 19, 2015 4:49 PM)
Hahaha.....the Pacific (and all oceans) already have BILLIONS of curies of radioactive material in them....and have for billions of years. Fukushima's release would be like an infant peeing in an Olympic sized pool.
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