Skip to main content

Fact Checking and The Difficulties of English

DonQuixoteWindmill We wrote about an editorial in The Hill by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) a couple of months ago. Now, Politifact, an invaluable service provided by the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times that weighs comments by politicians for their truthfulness, has decided to see whether Alexander is passing the truth test for this assertion made in the editorial:

"No member of the American public has ever been killed by commercial nuclear power — a record unmatched by other fuels."

The first part of his statement we know to be true, but the second part – well, we’re not sure. Of course, no field can suffer fewer than zero fatalities, but we figure other energy generators match nuclear’s safety record.

Politifact does come up with a couple of accidents at nuclear plants that killed workers:

In a 1986 incident, four workers were killed at the Surry power plant in Virginia from the rupture of a pipe that sprayed workers with scalding water and steam. But the accident happened in a non-nuclear portion of the plant.

We read Alexander to mean the public outside of plants, not workers, but nuclear energy plants have an enviable worker safety record, too. It’s a safety-obsessed field.

But there are other considerations in Alexander’s statement that reach the ambiguous. For example, if a runaway windmill buzzsawed through a gaggle of birdwatchers, would that count? Is wind a “fuel” in Alexander’s meaning? (We don’t think that example is conceivable, by the way.)

We’d need to look at the issue in more depth, but our intuition is that energy generation has not been a kill-crazy industry and that Alexander aims to make a strong – and true - point about nuclear energy.

Politifact agrees that Alexander’s statement about industries other than nuclear is hard to parse:

It's difficult to get a good comparison with other power-source fatalities because the numbers don't necessarily separate between common workplace hazards and those specifically related to the power source. But for comparison, 13 people have been killed in hydroelectric power generation since 2003, and fossil-fuel electric power generation has killed 23 since then, said Andrew Marsh, an economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

We’re not sure about those numbers – they may also be workers. So we cannot say – and Politifact doesn’t - that the number of fatalities for hydro and fossil-fuels are zero or above zero for the public outside those kinds of plants.

Bottom Line:

Despite these deaths [the Surry workers], nuclear power does stack up as one of the safest forms of energy.

And:

Alexander is right that no has been killed "by commercial nuclear power." And those statistics and the most complete numbers we can find for other energy sources confirm his claim that it is a record unmatched by other fuels. So we find his claim True.

We do, too.

If Don Quixote had found himself deceased as a result of tilting at the windmill, would that have been the windmill’s fault? Inquiring minds want to know.

Comments

Wilhelm said…
read the Wind Energy Accident Statistics here:
www.caithnesswindfarms.co.uk./

Popular posts from this blog

A Design Team Pictures the Future of Nuclear Energy

For more than 100 years, the shape and location of human settlements has been defined in large part by energy and water. Cities grew up near natural resources like hydropower, and near water for agricultural, industrial and household use.

So what would the world look like with a new generation of small nuclear reactors that could provide abundant, clean energy for electricity, water pumping and desalination and industrial processes?

Hard to say with precision, but Third Way, the non-partisan think tank, asked the design team at the Washington, D.C. office of Gensler & Associates, an architecture and interior design firm that specializes in sustainable projects like a complex that houses the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The talented designers saw a blooming desert and a cozy arctic village, an old urban mill re-purposed as an energy producer, a data center that integrates solar panels on its sprawling flat roofs, a naval base and a humming transit hub.

In the converted mill, high temperat…

Sneak Peek

There's an invisible force powering and propelling our way of life.
It's all around us. You can't feel it. Smell it. Or taste it.
But it's there all the same. And if you look close enough, you can see all the amazing and wondrous things it does.
It not only powers our cities and towns.
And all the high-tech things we love.
It gives us the power to invent.
To explore.
To discover.
To create advanced technologies.
This invisible force creates jobs out of thin air.
It adds billions to our economy.
It's on even when we're not.
And stays on no matter what Mother Nature throws at it.
This invisible force takes us to the outer reaches of outer space.
And to the very depths of our oceans.
It brings us together. And it makes us better.
And most importantly, it has the power to do all this in our lifetime while barely leaving a trace.
Some people might say it's kind of unbelievable.
They wonder, what is this new power that does all these extraordinary things?

Seeing the Light on Nuclear Energy

If you think that there is plenty of electricity, that the air is clean enough and that nuclear power is a just one among many options for meeting human needs, then you are probably over-focused on the United States or Western Europe. Even then, you’d be wrong.

That’s the idea at the heart of a new book, “Seeing the Light: The Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century,” by Scott L. Montgomery, a geoscientist and energy expert, and Thomas Graham Jr., a retired ambassador and arms control expert.


Billions of people live in energy poverty, they write, and even those who don’t, those who live in places where there is always an electric outlet or a light switch handy, we need to unmake the last 200 years of energy history, and move to non-carbon sources. Energy is integral to our lives but the authors cite a World Health Organization estimate that more than 6.5 million people die each year from air pollution.  In addition, they say, the global climate is heading for ruinous instability. E…