New energy pundits and soap box orators would have you believe, would shout at the top of their lungs, how dangerous nuclear reactors, nuclear fallout and the number of nuclear power plant accident caused deaths are. It’s enough to scare anyone away from the mere thought of accepting nuclear energy as a way to help electricity deficient nations move up the economic ladder. I applaud their efforts. However, the opposite is actually true.

Let’s examine the numbers and you can draw your own conclusion from a reasonable and lucid argument. Fear not the value of mathematics as a proponent of logic. Fear the hyperbole of scare tactics. If I may, I humbly present the numbers as a stand-alone argument for the safety of nuclear generated energy versus other causes of death around the globe.

Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day. More than 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where income differentials are widening. In 2005, the wealthiest 20% of the world accounted for 76.6% of total private consumption. The poorest fifth just 1.5%.

Incredibly, the poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income. The richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income. Water problems affect half of humanity.

  • 11,000,000 child deaths every year of which more than 70 per cent are attributable to six causes: diarrhea, malaria, neonatal infection, pneumonia, preterm delivery, or lack of oxygen at birth. About 29,000 children under the age of five – 21 each minute – die every day, mainly from preventable causes.

When you include fatalities of “other than children” the numbers get even worse…

After that slice of morbidity I’d like to present a tad of relatively good news by taking a look at the safety of nuclear power reactors.

From the outset, there has been a strong awareness of the potential hazard of both nuclear criticality and release of radioactive materials from generating electricity with nuclear power.  As in other industries, the design and operation of nuclear power plants aim to minimize the likelihood of accidents, and avoid major human consequences when they occur.

  • Nuclear related deaths: Worldwide total (not annually, but from inception of nuclear) nuclear deaths including Three Mile Island (March 1979), Chernobyl (April 1986) and Fukushima (March 2011) are LESS than 200.

Let me repeat that, to put the above numbers into perspective, of the millions and millions that die each year from starvation, diseases, weather, air pollution, driving, working, walking, and overdosing, nuclear related deaths have been less than 200 worldwide, not annually, but from inception of the industry.

Yes, there have been three major reactor accidents in the history of civil nuclear power – Three Mile Island (March 1979), Chernobyl (April 1986) and Fukushima (March 2011). One was contained without harm to anyone, the next involved an intense fire without provision for containment, and the third severely tested the containment, allowing some release of radioactivity. These are the only major accidents to have occurred in over 17,000 cumulative reactor-years of commercial nuclear power operations in 33 countries.

Today there are about 450 nuclear reactors operating around the world. Additionally, there are 140 nuclear powered ships that have accumulated 12,000 reactor years of “safe” marine operation.

The evidence over six decades shows that nuclear power is a safe means of generating electricity. The risk of accidents in nuclear power plants is low and declining. The consequences of an accident or terrorist attack are minimal compared with other commonly accepted risks. Radiological effects on people of any radioactive releases can be and have been avoided.

It befuddles me why the antinuclear Left wants to kill it when the world is doing such a bang-up job killing itself by many other means far and above what historically the nuclear industry is actually credited with, comparatively speaking.

When looking at energy production, nuclear is superior to other forms of energy because of its unsurpassed power density, i.e., the most energy on the least land used to create it.

Developed countries across the globe are steadily increasing their nuclear power generating capacity with more than 50 reactors currently under construction. China has launched the most aggressive nuclear program on the planet, with plans to add about 150 new nuclear reactors to its fleet, and about 300 more are proposed.

For the world to turn its back on preventable deaths of 11 million children every year in underdeveloped countries is morally irresponsible, especially when there is a proven safe and emission free source of electricity energy available to them. Maybe it’s time to seriously look at bringing zero emission electricity to undeveloped countries which would save millions of lives and start them on the road to the prosperity we enjoy in our developed nations.


  • CFACT -- We're freedom people.

  • Ronald Stein is an engineer, senior policy advisor on energy literacy for CFACT, and co-author of the Pulitzer Prize nominated book “Clean Energy Exploitations.”