Risk and Nuclear Power Plants

By Andy May

The financial risk is too great.

Updated post (2/21/2017)

In any discussion of the future of energy, nuclear power generation is brought up. Once a nuclear power plant is built and operating, it can produce cheap electricity reliably for decades. Further, in terms of human health, some claim it is the safest source of energy in the U.S. Others, like Benjamin Sovacool, claim the worldwide economic cost (worldwide total: $177B) of nuclear accidents is higher than for any other energy source and nuclear power is less safe than all other sources of energy except for hydroelectric power. Some of the costs could be due to an over-reaction to nuclear accidents, especially Chernobyl and Fukushima.  Others have much lower fatality estimates than Sovacool, it is unclear how many later cases of cancer are, or potentially will be, due to Chernobyl.

Permitting a new nuclear power plant and building it is a problem because there have been more than 105 significant nuclear accidents around the world since 1952, out of an IAEA total of 2,400 separate incidents. Thirty-three serious nuclear accidents compiled by The Guardian are listed and ranked here and mapped in figure 1. As figure 1 shows these incidents have occurred all over the world, some are design flaws, like the Fukashima-Diachi 2011 disaster and some are due to human error, like the loss of a Cobalt-60 source in Ikitelli, Turkey.

Figure 1: All nuclear power plant incidents, source The Guardian.

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