TechCrunch – Bill Gates spoke at a Wired business conference in New York City. Bill spoke about the benefits of nuclear energy, particularly next-generation designs. The backlash [to Fukushima], he thinks, is overblown. “If you compare it to the amount that coal has killed per kilowatt hour,” he points out, “it is way, way less.” When an accident does occur, however, its effects are much more visible. “Coal kills fewer people at one time, which is highly preferred by politicians,” he says.
Clearly Bill Gates needs to hire me for energy and other analysis at a very high salary.
Why is nuclear power feared more than other energy
I would note that actually coal often kills more people at one time but people have gotten used to it. It is like random shootings or car accident fatalities on the street that happen every day against a broadcast of the movie Saw. The Saw movie has unusual kinds of deaths. They are more shocking. No one actually has died because of the Fukushima nuclear incident that was caused by the Tsunami, but there is concern that cancer deaths for those exposed might go from 30% to 30.1% over a lifetime. The earthquake and tsunami deaths and the fear from that are associated with the problems at the nuclear reactors. There were actual deaths from a dam failure caused the Tsunami, but that had almost no reporting. It can also be more frightening because the radiation exposures can happen so quickly, while the air pollution exposures are over a longer period of time. Coal or oil accidents that can kill hundreds are usually over quickly. It is more rare for a major oil leak, oil fires or coal fires to last a long time and usually any risks of deaths are over in the first few days. Any increased fossil fuel pollution risks are generally ignored.
The evacuation from a major nuclear power plant problem like Chernobyl or Fukushima is scary for people because they cannot see the radiation. An evacuation from a major hydro dam failure has visible flooding. Oil spills can be seen as well as fires. Natural gas leaks cannot be seen but they have added agents so that they can be smelled and usually the amount of the evacuation is smaller.
People fear radiation more than air and other fossil fuel pollutants.
People associate nuclear power to nuclear bombs.
Minimum life shortening cutoff for lifetime energy calculations
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 year. 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.
We have discussed ways to lower deaths per terawatt hour Primarily it is putting air pollution mitigation systems onto fossil fuel power plants
Pounds of Particulates Breathed per year – Why Air pollution is ten thousand times as deadly as Chernobyl
You breathe so you cannot avoid air pollution
In major cities there is between 20-370 micrograms of particulates (PM10 10 micron) per cubic meter of air.
Each day you take over 20,000 breaths and breathe about 35 pounds of air. At sea level and at 20 °C, dry air has a density of approximately 1.2 kg per cubic meter. So every day you are breathing 13.2 cubic meters of air. So 0.2-1.5 grams of particulates each day pass through your lungs every day unless you live some of the particularly clean air areas.
In one year 73-1100 grams of particulates pass through your lungs. So in Beijing over 1 pound of particulates through someones lungs each year. 2.6-5 ounces of particulates every year for people living in many major US cities. So every 4-6 years, one pound of particulates through the lungs even for cities in the USA.
The particulates are interacting with your lungs and body and causing cardio and pulmonary effects. Were you ever exposed to significant levels of radiation from a nuclear power plant ?