Skip to main content

Nuclear Energy Risks and Benefits in Perspective

Stan Gordelier, Head of the NEA Nuclear Development Division of the OECD, wrote a piece last month putting the risks and benefits of nuclear energy into perspective (pdf):
A continuing concern for the public and politicians is the safety of nuclear power. ENSAD, the Energy-related Severe Accident Database established by the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland, contains data on over 18400 accidents, mainly between 1969 and 2000, of which 35% are energy-related, and 3117 of which are rated as severe (with five or more prompt fatalities).

...

During this period there has only been one severe hydro power accident in OECD countries, resulting in 14 prompt fatalities. There have been no OECD nuclear accidents in this "severe" classification.

...

Why then, does nuclear seem to provoke unique safety fears in the public mind? It could likely be some combination of the association with nuclear weapons, the fear of very low probability, but very large accidents, the fact that latent deaths are associated with cancer, a disease much feared in its own right (and cancer can affect "me", whereas oil and gas accidents generally impact those working with the industry, except for the huge accidents), and the publicity that nuclear attracts because of these factors.
Great insights. I recommend reading this five page brief because he gets into lifecycle emissions of different energies, sources of emissions by sector, fuel resources, accident risks and the world's appetite for energy.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…

Nuclear Is a Long-Term Investment for Ohio that Will Pay Big

With 50 different state legislative calendars, more than half of them adjourn by June, and those still in session throughout the year usually take a recess in the summer. So springtime is prime time for state legislative activity. In the next few weeks, legislatures are hosting hearings and calling for votes on bills that have been battered back and forth in the capital halls.

On Tuesday, The Ohio Public Utilities Committee hosted its third round of hearings on the Zero Emissions Nuclear Resources Program, House Bill 178, and NEI’s Maria Korsnick testified before a jam-packed room of legislators.


Washingtonians parachuting into state debates can be a tricky platform, but in this case, Maria’s remarks provided national perspective that put the Ohio conundrum into context. At the heart of this debate is the impact nuclear plants have on local jobs and the local economy, and that nuclear assets should be viewed as “long-term investments” for the state. Of course, clean air and electrons …