I previously wrote an article about deaths per TWH by energy source, which looked at annual deaths by energy source. This had some cumulative effects worked in as air pollution accumulates and then people have increasing health problems and then die. Air pollution from fossil fuels that were used decades ago can be part of the mix that finally kill people in any particular year. There has also been much concern about how many future deaths there will be from Chernobyl. This will be my first pass at determining what a lifetime impact on deaths is for all energy sources. This will handle deaths from Chernobyl because it will get at expected future deaths.
There are several complications to this. Someone could get sick from air pollution or Chernobyl but then they might get killed in a car accident, from some other disease or they die from other causes.
I originally wrote the deaths by TWH article and used the ExternE – the european study of energy impacts. The ExternE numbers which were for Europe and would underestimate deaths for the world. However, I applied them to the world. I calculated world and China numbers for coal using World Health numbers. I estimated 1 million air pollution deaths from coal for the world and about 800,000 deaths from coal for China.
Taking the TWH generation numbers for the World and for China (for the coal.)
ENERGY SOURCE DEATHS FATAL/TWH TWH NOTES ----------------- --------- --------- ------- ---------------------------------- Coal – world avg. 1,000,000 161.00 6,500 (26% world energy, 50% of elec.) Coal – China 278.00 Utilizing heavily-manual practices Coal – USA 15.00 Mostly open-pit & u/g machine Oil 342,000 36.00 9,500 (36% of world energy) Natural Gas 23,000 4.00 5,750 (21% of world energy) Biofuel/Biomass 12.00 Peat 12.00 Solar (rooftop) 6 0.44 12 (less than 0.1% of world energy) Wind 22 0.15 150 (less than 1% of world energy) Hydro 290 0.10 2,897 (EU deaths, 2.2% of world energy) Hydro + Banqiao) 3,500 1.40 2,500 (~2500 TWh/yr + 171,000 Banqiao dead) Nuclear 104 0.04 2,600 (5.9% of world energy) ----------------- --------- --------- ------- ------------------------------------- World 1,390,000 55.7 25,000 Terawatt-hours Unaccounted for 83,500 55.69 1,500 TWh = 6.00% … fatalities prorated
China will use about 3.45 billion tons of coal this year. Almost double what they used in 2005.
There are no good numbers for solar and wind. The are not well tracked. Occupational deaths from middle east and Russian oil are easy to find publicly.
I have also looked at the occupational deaths (coal mining numbers from China – getting relatively better)
Minimum life shortening cutoff
A concern about the original analysis is about the fact that there are predictions that many more will die from Chernobyl. The credible studies indicate that very few people have died so far (50-200 people).
Here we will consider future death anticipation in the comparison. Where we look at lifetime energy risks by source and total expected deaths. With air pollution we are looking at a range from 80 years * 2 million (with 14 year avg life reduction) for 160 million deaths is one calculation.
1 billion lives shortened (World health estimate of 2-year life expectancy reduction. then spread the 14 year avg life reduction by 1/7th to get 2-years. So that would mean about 1 billion lives shortened by 2 years or more.
I will estimate 200 million lives shortened from air pollution (half dieing from other causes). I will allocate one third to coal and 50% to oil (including transportation – cars and trucks and 10% for natural gas and biomass).
I propose a cutoff of 2 years of life-shortening, which equates to being 15% overweight. If we were playing the maximum Chernobyl numbers, then any statistical shortening by days then has the same issue for pilots and stewardesses who lose about 30-60 days from increased lifetime exposure to radiation.
I will look at half of the lifetime being in the past and half being a projection into the future (40 years historical and 40 years into the future). I will assume that the current energy generation is the average over the 80 years.
Lifetime energy deaths
ENERGY SOURCE DEATHS FATAL/TWH TWH NOTES ----------------- --------- --------- ------- ------------------------------------ Coal – world 67,000,000 129 520,000 (26% world energy, 50% of elec.) Coal – USA/Europe About ten times safer Oil 101,000,000 133 720,000 (36% of world energy) Natural Gas 6,000,000 13 460,000 (21% of world energy) Biofuel/Biomass 12.00 Peat 12.00 Solar (rooftop) 480 0.44 960 (less than 0.1% of world energy) Wind 1,760 0.15 12,000 (less than 1% of world energy) Hydro + Banqiao) 195,000 0.84 232,000 (~2500 TWh/yr + 171,000 Banqiao dead) Nuclear 15,000 0.07 208,000 (5.9% of world energy) ----------------- --------- --------- ------- ------------------------------------- World 180.2 million 60 2,000,000 Terawatt-hours Unaccounted 10.8 million 60 120,000 TWh = 6.00% … fatalities prorated
There will be a larger ramp up of solar, wind and nuclear power. There will be more natural gas usage and there will be some decrease in oil and coal usage. There will be reduction of indoor fuel usage. However, there would be too many scenarios to analyze and a lot more assumptions to make. There could also be advances in medicine which reduce the number of deaths from cancer and heart disease.
Health Risk Est. life expectancy lost Smoking 20 cigs a day 6 years Overweight (15%) 2 years Alcohol (US Ave) 1 year All Accidents 207 days All Natural Hazards 7 days Occupational dose (300 mrem/yr) 15 days Occupational dose (1 rem/yr) 51 days You can also use the same approach to looking at risks on the job: Industry type Est. life expectancy lost All Industries 60 days Agriculture 320 days Construction 227 days Mining and quarrying 167 days Manufacturing 40 days Occupational dose (300 mrem/yr) 15 days Occupational dose (1 rem/yr) 51 days
Top 20 causes of deaths
Rank Cause Total deaths (in thousands) % of total 1. Ischaemic heart disease 7,208 12.6% 2. Cerebrovascular disease 5,509 9.7 3. Lower respiratory infections 3,884 6.8 4. HIV/AIDS 2,777 4.9 5. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 2,748 4.8 6. Diarrheal diseases 1,798 3.2 7. Tuberculosis 1,566 2.7 8. Malaria 1,272 2.2 9. Cancer of trachea/bronchus/lung 1,243 2.2 10. Road traffic accidents 1,192 2.1% 11. Childhood Diseases 1,124 2.0 12. Other unintentional injuries 923 1.6 13. Hypertensive heart disease 911 1.6 14. Self-inflicted 873 1.5 15. Stomach cancer 850 1.5 16. Cirrhosis of the liver 786 1.4 17. Nephritis/nephrosis 677 1.2 18. Colon/rectum cancer 622 1.1 19. Liver cancer 618 1.1 20. Measles 611 1.1
(World health organization 2003 Health report)
I have not tried to include any oil war related deaths.
Coal waste impacts go beyond particulate air pollution, however, the particulate studies are the most conclusive. There have been studies that show a daily fluctuation in emergency room visits with increases in smog and particulates. Actual deaths are worse than I indicated. I did not fully include indoor air pollution and did not include deaths beyond particulates because the causality is not as solid. Indoor air pollution is for heating and cooking and not for electricity. However, those are huge numbers 1.9 million per year and produce very little heat in TWH thermal. The 1.9 million deaths per year and divided between coal and biomass.
Coal and biomass deaths per TWH would skyrocket if the indoor air pollution effects were included because so little power is made and so many deaths are produced. Wikipedia on indoor air pollution in developing nations.
Luong Van Inh is among a neglected group of Asians threatened by an environmental hazard rarely considered: indoor air pollution. Caused by burning wood, coal or other cheap fuels in kitchens, it kills about 1.5 (to 2.0) million people worldwide each year.
Uranium mining deaths were mainly for uranium mined for nuclear bombs. Uranium mining was corrected by the time commercial reactors were going (starting mainly from 1970 onwards).
US Occupational fatalities hint at the deaths in the oil industry for the world. About one hundred per year. Extrapolating to world oil production would mean about 2000 deaths per year from straight immediate worker deaths from accidents.
I used the higher estimate of 9000 future deaths for Chernobyl, but actually believe a far lower number is the case.
World Health Organization Chernobyl impact study from 2006 (167 pages) The report uses empirical studies. The other method would be to use deaths from Hiroshima and Nagasaki where radiation doses were known and use those to project deaths for people effected by Chernobyl. If the method of comparing expected deaths at Chernobyl used the expectation based on what was experienced at Hiroshima and Nagasaki then the number of expected deaths would be far lower than the WHO report. The World Health Organization 2006 study has an estimate of 9000 possible future deaths from Chernobyl. About 47 to 200 people are believed to have died from Chernobyl up to 2011.
Oxford Physics Estimate using the study of survivors of the atomic bombs based on radiation exposure as they were tracked for many decades – 28(acute)+3(thyroid)+c.78(solid cancers)+c.3(leukaemia). Crude but unbiased estimate. Anyway less than 200 deaths.
•Radiation is like other hazards –life has defenses
•Low-dose repair time is on the scale of a day or so
•Doses below threshold (100mSv) cause no damage.
•Above threshold, permanent damage (scar tissue) results. Such scar tissue may remain benign, or later become malignant, like other scars
An extraordinary incident occurred 20 years ago in Taiwan. Recycled steel, accidentally contaminated with cobalt-60 (half-life: 5.3 y), was formed into construction steel for more than 180 buildings, which 10,000 persons occupied for 9 to 20 years. They unknowingly received radiation doses that averaged 0.4 Sv – a
collective dose of 4,000 person-Sv.
Based on the observed seven cancer deaths, the cancer mortality rate for this population was assessed to be 3.5 per 100,000 person-years. Three children were born with congenital heart malformations, indicating a prevalence rate of 1.5 cases per 1,000 children under age 19.
The average spontaneous cancer death rate in the general population of Taiwan over these 20 years is 116 persons per 100,000 person-years. Based upon partial official statistics and hospital experience, the prevalence rate of congenital malformation is 23 cases per 1,000 children. Assuming the age and income distributions of these persons are the same as for the general population, it appears that significant beneficial health effects may be associated with this chronic radiation exposure.
The estimated radiation doses to people in Ukraine 0.02 Sv and Belarus was 0.03Sv. This is 13-20 times less than what the people in Taiwan experienced.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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