The Motley Fool offers a list of myths about nuclear energy, with an eye, as you might expect, to investing your hard-earned money into various projects. Writer Maxx Chatsko seems to really like TerraPower, which is fine, as long as we recognize that it is one of many projects out there. But we’re smart enough to figure that out, I think. What I found interesting about this list, which is useful and well-intentioned, is that it rather oversells nuclear energy.
We should like that, yes? Well, maybe, but it can lead to cul-de-sacs, making more complex what should be quite simple to grasp. For example:
28. Radiation exposure from abandoned medical equipment, which kills two to four people each year, is more deadly than living or working at a nuclear plant.
But here’s the point: contracting radiation sickness at or near a nuclear power plant isn’t just rare, it hasn’t happened. That’s all you really need to say.
Accidents at American plants are occupational in nature, and nuclear facilities have a very good record on that score. So do utilities in general. Take a look at page 12 of this pdf from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and you’ll see that occupational mishaps at all utilities is very low. While almost any human activity carries risk, working at or living near a nuclear facility is not by a long shot one of the riskier ones. Heck, candles are riskier propositions. That’s a point well worth making.
25. Entrepreneur Seth Goldin recently compiled historical World Health Organization, or WHO, data to determine the global death rates for various energy sources. For every terawatt hour of electricity generation, there were 161 coal-related deaths, four natural gas-related deaths, 0.15 wind-related deaths, and 0.04 nuclear-related deaths.
26. A 2011 study (link opens PDF) conducted by the WHO determined that environmental noise causes enough stress each year to shorten European lifetimes 3.376 million years. In other words, as Europeans worry about doomsday nuclear scenarios, they lose, on average, three days of life each year from the noise of their car engines.
This could go on forever – it’s a morbid game, though, with little utility. Chatsko could say that playing with kittens is more dangerous than a nuclear power plant and stay on target, even if you play with the kittens right beside a nuclear plant. (Not sure how this works if there’s a lot of noise near the plant.)
Nuclear energy facilities are incredibly safe. No one has contracted radiation sickness at or from them. The occupational accident record is extremely good.