There is quite a lot of space being spent on denying that nuclear energy is dangerous.

One way of doing this is to compare the number of deaths we can attribute to coal to the number of deaths coming from nuclear energy. Unfortunately I cannot paste in the graph from this site, but it alleges death rates from energy production per TWh are as follows:

  • 32.72 for brown coal
  • 24.62 for black coal
  • 18.43 for oil
  • 4.63 for biomass
  • 2.82 for gas
  • 0.07 for nuclear

It is impressive to see how many people die from fossil fuel poisoning.

We should also note that there are quite big disputes about how many people died as a result of Chernobyl (in Ukraine) and Fukushima (Japan). As Wikipedia notes in its current article on deaths in Chernobyl: “From 1986 onward, the total death toll of the disaster has lacked consensus; as peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet and other sources have noted.”

These deaths are quite hard to measure – unless people have large scale radiation burns, then they could have died from other causes. There are political and business reasons for lowering the death count as well. The initial Soviet reports claimed 2 people had died at Chernobyl. Hardly anyone accepts that figure today. On the other hand, some people might blame unrelated sickness on the accidents. Again people may not have died but may have been sicker than they would have been. The radiation spread quite a long way. In 2016 The World Health Organisation said “more than 11,000 thyroid cancer cases had been diagnosed” in the three most affected countries, but they gave no information as to whether this was much higher than normal, per head of population.

I remember reading the early descriptions of the Fukushima accident which implied quite large amounts of radiation sickness amongst the workers who heroically went back in to try and shut it down. This is no longer mentioned. Hopefully, they all healed, rather than were ignored. However, the big problem is that, in neither Chernobyl or Fukushima, has it yet been possible to clean the site, or seal it permanently. Both sites are still problems.

Anyway, despite the lack of agreed figures, it certainly seems likely that fossil fuels have been more overtly deadly than nuclear energy.

However that does not mean we should automatically go for nuclear. There are still the problems of expense, subsidy and few trustworthy companies wanting to build them. Never mind the lack of enthusiasm people show for living near them. Or the difficulties of guaranteeing waste disposal safety for ever.