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?


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    Related: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/1018/…
    – Sklivvz
    Mar 20, 2011 at 10:10
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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, 2011 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.
    – Golden Cuy
    Mar 20, 2011 at 21:54
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    I wonder how Vajont fits into this question... it was a natural disaster (several millions of cubic meters of rock falling into an artificial lake), caused by the bad placement of the dam (which did not fail!) and caused more than two thousand deaths... should these deaths count as "caused by hydroelectric accident" or is accident exclusively related to the failure of the structure or deaths only related to the workers there and not people living nearby?
    – Bakuriu
    Nov 7, 2016 at 20:53
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    @Bakuriu I think the Vajont accident would go with hydro, because although knowing the high risk, they proceeded with the construction. Ultimately causing the landslide.
    – Zenon
    Nov 9, 2016 at 12:05

5 Answers 5


An update, as I found some interesting information:

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

Energy Source Death Rate (deaths per TWh) OLD

  • Coal – world average 161 (26% of world energy, 50% of electricity)
  • Coal – China 278
  • Coal – USA 15
  • Oil 36 (36% of world energy)
  • Natural Gas 4 (21% of world energy)
  • Biofuel/Biomass 12
  • Peat 12
  • Solar (rooftop) 0.44 (less than 0.1% of world energy)
  • Wind 0.15 (less than 1% of world energy)
  • Hydro 0.10 (europe death rate, 2.2% of world energy)
  • Hydro - world including Banqiao) 1.4 (about 2500 TWh/yr and 171,000 Banqiao dead)
  • Nuclear 0.04 (5.9% of world energy)

  • Even solar power is 0.44 deaths per TWh (I'm thinking installers falling off the roof:-)

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Sklivvz
    Mar 15, 2019 at 8:18

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)

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, 2012 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, 2012 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, 2012 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.

  • "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." Citation please?
    – Kvothe
    Mar 7, 2022 at 16:55
  • bfs.de/DE/themen/ion/umwelt/lebensmittel/pilze-wildbret/… from the Federal Office for Radiation Protection, Sep. 2021. There is Link for an English translation of the content on the top of the page. Mar 8, 2022 at 21:34

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):

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? )

Later, Fukushima happened, which released radiation that may result in 130-640 cancer deaths.

From 1965-2015, nuclear power plants worldwide have generated 82,337 TWh, if you add up all the totals from BP Statistical Review of World Energy

Together, this is 0.068 deaths / TW⋅h = 600 deaths / TW⋅yr

CWIF lists 165 windfarm-related fatalities up to to September 2016. 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, I get a total of 4799 TWh total from 1980 to 2015. (data) (Actually, the BP source says 4778 TWh total now.)

graph of actual wind energy production

Together, this is 0.034 deaths / TW⋅h = 301 deaths / TW⋅yr

This matches Paul Gipe's estimate of 0.032.

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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    This is a good attempt to be objective, but it is extremely hard to get information about what the probably the main death toll of each energy: mining. Uranium mines in Niger, Kazakhstan, Namibia, are extremely nefast for both workers and neighboring populations, but no mortality study in those areas is to found online (nor anywhere, I suppose). The same goes for mining for rare earths (used in minority of windmills and in various other industries) in China.
    – Evargalo
    Mar 13, 2019 at 9:50

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, 2011 at 2:10
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    @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. Feb 27, 2014 at 17:41

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