Saturday, March 26, 2011

Cost Benefit analysis of Nuclear Power

I've been reading the many articles about the accident at the nuclear power plant in Japan.
The idea came to me suddenly that not only is nuclear power inevitable (electricity from coal is an industry based on finite and dwindling fossil fuel resources) but that we need to find arguments to justify our ever increasing reliance on nuclear power.
Arguments about safety might be at the forefront of discussions but this is a moot point. We accept that air travel has risks and we accept the road toll as an inevitable part of modern life.
Risk is just something we accept.
So how do we measure acceptable risk?
The best attempt at assessing the death toll from the accident has been a report published by the Chernobyl Forum -- a group including the UN, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health Organisation -- in 2006, at the time of the incident's 20th anniversary. Chernobyl's Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts suggests about 1000 workers received high doses of radiation in the immediate aftermath. Of these, 134 were diagnosed with acute radiation sickness and 28 died during 1986 as a result.

In the nuclear debate the answer is human lives.
Look at it this way, the benefit of having nuclear power far outweighs the cost of a few hundred lives as in the Chernobyl accident and now Fukushima.
I don't know what amount of human lives it would take to make us question the wisdom of accepting nuclear power. Would it be thousands? Or tens of thousands? Or hundreds of thousands?
I think the debate will go on for a short while and eventually fade away as we learn to accept costs of the benefits of nuclear power.
After all, we don't ban motor vehicles just because a few people get killed every day and even more get injured and/or permanently disabled.
It's a sad fact that we accept these facts as a necessary cost.
Full article here


Jeannie said...

You are entirely correct. Nuclear power will cease to be cost effective when people are not over crowding the planet.

Anonymous said...

I think the first thing we should do is start building them underground. This would make them impacted my most natural disasters, and reduce the contamination if something does happen.