The Case for Nuclear Power

When you think of nuclear reactors, do you think of the Chernobyl disaster or the Three Mile Island accident?

Nuclear power has gotten a lot of bad rap (deservedly, actually) but given the advances in safety and the ever-growing need for energy, should we reconsider nukes? Dan Hinge of Environmental Graffiti writes:

The WHO at the time estimated that the blast caused less than 50 direct deaths. About 600,000 people were deemed to have been seriously exposed to radiation, of whom it was estimated that 4,000 would die of cancer over the course of their lives as a result of the explosion at Chernobyl. The figures are horrific. However, to put them in perspective, based on UN estimates from 2001-2004, during this period one person would die of starvation every second. That’s nearly 4,000 an hour [2].

Worryingly, with an urgent need for carbon emissions to be cut and a sustainable and cost-effective source of energy desperately needing to be found, Chernobyl is still cited as a reason not to invest in nuclear power. It is true that Chernobyl is not the only accident that has occurred at nuclear power plants: accidents at Three Mile Island in the US and Windscale in the UK both caused small releases of radioactive material, but no deaths resulted. As one commenter pointed out, TMI was the worst nuclear disaster in US history; and yet it led to no injury or death and almost no environmental damage. That was 30 years ago [3].


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However many people died at Chernobyl, the fact is that there have been no other fatal nuclear accidents, and very few environmentally damaging ones. The quality of new reactors is so great that there will never again be an accident on the scale of Chernobyl, or even Three Mile Island or Windscale.

If we're serious about being green, nuclear is our only option. It is safe as houses and produces a small amount of waste for a huge amount of power.
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#8: The melted fuel never reached the mine shaft, the planned containment device was never installed. Those miners died needlessly. The risk was that a steam explosion could have expelled more radioactive material. 15 MT sounds quite outlandish for a steam explosion. Do you have an actual source?
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1) 200 000 persons worked on the site of the Chernobyl blast, as "liquidators". Half of them have yet died because of irradiation-linked illnesses, the other will do in the near future.

2) Chernobyl would have ended in a 15-megatons explosion (the equivalent of the Castle Bravo nuclear test, the bigger ever performed by the US), weren't the courage of miners the Soviet authorities had sent to dig a tunnel under the plant in order to stop the melt fuel from falling into a water-table that was under the reactor. Everything as far as Minsk (the Bielorussian capital) would have been vitrified.
All those hundreds of miners are now dead.

3) Even in countries were the nuclear industry appears as "safe", it is not.
In France, there are big accidents every year, but nobody speaks about it, except the workers' unions. ( in French, it says that there have been 3 accidents in the last 3 months of 2009)
In the US, it is only because of luck that a major accident was avoided at the beginning of 2002: a hole was discovered in the head of the David-Besse nuclear reactor, and it wouldn't have been found if the inspector hadn't been zealed enough.

The nuclear industry might be safe, but it would be more reassuring if they were telling us more about what they're doing.
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