Sunday, April 3, 2011

Nuclear power and assessment of risk

The Chicken Littles keep telling us that nuclear power is more dangerous by a huge degree, if not in kind, than any other source of power known. Yet this study says (emphasis added),
Comparison of different forms of commercial power generation by use of the fuel cycle methods developed in European studies shows the health burdens to be greatest for power stations that most pollute outdoor air (those based on lignite, coal, and oil). The health burdens are appreciably smaller for generation from natural gas, and lower still for nuclear power. This same ranking also applies in terms of greenhouse-gas emissions and thus, potentially, to long-term health, social, and economic effects arising from climate change.
See also here.

People tend to evaluate risk, not rationally, but in accordance with the perceived familiarity of each risk and with a few especially media-worthy outlying data points. I noticed this in the seventies, when relatives expressed fear of flying, and in the eighties, when I was involved in HIV education.

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