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I have seen the stats on this website saying that the number of death caused by nuclear accidents was way smaller then those caused by any other energy production factory. Do you have any information, studies that can confirm that? And numbers for accidents caused by windmills?

Thanks!

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moved from answer to comment:useful data, which does check out (at least the datum points I managed to research) xkcd's radiation chart- xkcd.com/radiation Which indicates just how low any risks are from radiation - with the only real exception being workers at the plant at the time or in the immediate cleanup. (check out where "living in a stone or concrete building" comes on the list) –  Rory Alsop Mar 20 '11 at 19:05
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I came across nextbigfuture.com/2011/03/deaths-per-twh-by-energy-source.html , which argues that nuclear is safer even than hyrdo, wind, and solar from rooftops. –  Andrew Grimm Mar 20 '11 at 21:54
    
@Alsop Great link! I love xkcd but this chart is really magnificient! –  Zenon Mar 21 '11 at 3:15
    
The 8 deaths/TWyr estimate for nuclear in the question's link is way too low. They claim only 31 nuclear worker deaths = not including Chernobyl. The nextbigfuture estimate is more realistic: 0.04 deaths/TWh = 350 deaths/TWyr, based on 4000 Chernobyl deaths. –  endolith Jul 4 '11 at 18:10

5 Answers 5

up vote 19 down vote accepted

An update, as I found some interesting information:

This post has deaths per Terawatt hour for various energy sources:

for example the world average for coal is 161 deaths per TWh, and for nuclear power 0.04 deaths per TWh! Even solar power is 0.44 deaths per TWh (I'm thinking installers falling off the roof:-)

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If you have useful data that isn't really an answer it's best to post it as a comment. –  Christian Mar 20 '11 at 12:58
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@Christian - agreed. The xkcd info went in a comment, and I popped useful data in here. –  Rory Alsop Mar 20 '11 at 22:49
    
That's a sketchy source. Their number for nuclear is based on a prediction of no accidents over the next 25 years. "If those possible 4000 deaths occur over the next 25 years..." –  endolith Apr 6 '12 at 17:46
    
@endolith - did you attach this comment to the wrong answer? :-) –  Rory Alsop Apr 6 '12 at 18:40
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Some figures are here as well scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-human-cost-of-energy . I also remember an article that examined the same exact question, but will have to dig it up again. –  ipavlic Apr 10 '12 at 11:56

This is just a partial answer:


As an example for a Hydroelectric plant disaster:

In the Banqiao Dam failure (China, 1975),

approximately 26,000 people died from flooding and another 145,000 died during subsequent epidemics and famine.



Wikipedia has a list of Nuclear power plant accidents (1952-2011).
The figure given there for fatalities is 4000+ (the majority of deaths coming from the Chernobyl accident)



From The Accidental Century - Prominent Energy Accidents in the Last 100 Years
(by Benjamin K. Sovacool)

A study, published in the May 2008 issue of Energy Policy (written by the current author), assessed major energy accidents worldwide from 1907 to 2007. The study identified 279 incidents totaling US$41 billion in damages and 182,156 fatalities ...


Energy accident fatalities by source (1907-2007): (via ClimateSight)
Fatalities


The study found that accidents at dams were the most dangerous, accidents at nuclear power plants the most expensive and accidents at oil and gas pipelines the most frequent


Table 1

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This is only a partial answer. –  Oddthinking Apr 8 '12 at 11:17
    
@Oddthinking - You are right. Strangely I remember this question being about deaths caused by other energy productions facilities. But looking at the Edit history, only the title of the question has been changed, not the body. I will mark it as a partial answer. –  Oliver_C Apr 10 '12 at 9:58
    
Total number of deaths is not a fair way to compare power sources that produce different amounts of energy. –  endolith Apr 10 '12 at 19:57

The WHO estimates up to 4000 victims of the catastrophe in Tchernobyl 1986. Indisputable are only 40 cases of them.

One problem is, that radioactivity increases the probability to suffer from cancer, but you cannot for sure identify a reason if somebody dies 2, 5, or 20 years after exposition. Due to the weather conditions, a cloud moved over parts of Europe, and depending on local conditions, much or less rain on certain days, the pollution differs much. In parts of Bavaria/Germany you can today, 25 years later, not eat mushrooms or wild pigs, which ate mushrooms, because they are radiating too much.

I guess it will be hard to get numbers of people who worked in the mining of uran.

Since the problem of final storage isn't solved, we can't say much about the future, but from windmills there aren't long term dangers, as far as I know.

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You can find a lot of varying estimates, based on other varying estimates, and they're almost always from a source with a vested interest in skewing the statistics one way or another.

And numbers for accidents caused by windmills?

Here's my attempt at nuclear vs windmills (except I'm only mildly biased in the pro-nuclear direction and trying to be as fair as possible):

Nuclear
The vast majority of nuclear power plant deaths occurred from Chernobyl. This has been estimated anywhere from 57 deaths to 985,000 deaths. Obviously these numbers are both BS. A realistic estimate appears to be about 5,000. (See Have several hundreds of thousands of people died because of the Chernobyl disaster? )

Since 1965, nuclear power plants worldwide have generated about 69,602 TWh, if you add up all the totals from BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2011

Together, this is 0.07 deaths / TW⋅h = 630 deaths / TW⋅yr

Wind
CWIF lists 99 windfarm-related fatalities up to to 31st December 2011. Some of these are dubious (car accidents caused by distraction from shadows), but there are certainly others unreported, so we'll just use that number.

It's really hard to find a single statistic for the total amount of energy produced by wind. Wind advocates always quote "installed capacity" because it sounds bigger, but that's just the maximum theoretical power a wind farm could produce under constant high wind. The actual amount of energy produced in reality is less than 1/4 of this.

Combining several incomplete sources (EIA, Paul Gipe, IEA, WWEA) that seem to match each other more or less, and extrapolating for 2011, I get a total of 2400 TWh total since 1980. (data)

graph of actual wind energy production

Together, this is 0.04 deaths TW⋅h = 360 deaths per TW⋅yr

So based on (pretty imprecise) death estimates, nuclear still has to catch up with wind.

As I said in a comment, the Next Big Future source is being dishonest by extrapolating the nuclear numbers 25 years into the future and assuming no accidents during that time, which they don't do for other power sources.

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The Straight Dope wrote an article covering this.

Re Chernobyl:

An astute nuke spokesperson might have said: "Look, here was a five-star fiasco and the confirmed death toll is about the same as from 12 hours of U.S. traffic accidents. Is that an outstanding safety record or what?"

Also, mining kills many more people than you'd expect

Each year. on average, 35 U.S. coal miners are killed and 4,000 are injured. In China, 2,600 coal miners were killed in 2009, following 3,200 dead in 2008. (Recent U.S. uranium mining deaths: zero.)

While past performance isn't a perfect indicator of future performance, so far nuclear seems to be winning in safety. There is also the issue of safely storing all the waste we produce for thousands of years. Whether this will become a huge problem or we will invent a solution, remains to be seen. We also have to worry about the effect nuclear power has on the proliferation of nuclear weapons, but that is, of course, another question.

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Does nuclear power have an effect on proliferation of nuclear weapons? –  endolith Jul 8 '11 at 2:10
    
@endolith A big maybe. Nuclear explosives can be made with uranium (mined and refined directly) with no reactors. They can be made more compactly using plutonium, which must be generated in breeder reactors. Most power reactors are not breeders. The IAEA works hard to insure that conformant countries other than the acknowledged nuclear powers don't breed plutonium or divert spent fuel for weapons. Not every country is conformant. In the US, weapon material production happens (or rather happened) at non-power reactors. –  dmckee Feb 27 at 17:41

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