NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Nuclear Power Is An Option

January 15, 2001

Environmental activists don't like global warming and they don't like nuclear power. But observers say they must soon make a choice between coal-fired generating plants -- which they contend lead to global warming -- and clean nuclear power.

There are many arguments in favor of nuclear power, and one of them is the safety issue. Serious studies consistently show that, to generate the same amount of electricity, more people will die if coal is used than if nuclear power is employed.

  • In America, about 36 people per year are killed in the coal-mining industry -- and China reportedly loses about 10,000 per "normal" year in coal mining.
  • If we assume the developed world has a death rate per million tons mined equal to that of the United States, and that the Third World has a death rate equal to that of China, 55 people per day die in the world's coal-mining industries.
  • While few of those deaths receive any publicity, the deaths of two workers in a nuclear power plant in Japan made headlines around the world last year.
  • Such reporting obscures the high degree of safety found in nuclear power activities and leads people irrationally to fear its use -- while coal is seldom faulted on safety grounds, even though it is infinitely more dangerous.

Source: Lester C. Thurow (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), "Time for Nuclear Power," USA Today, January 11, 2001.


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