Are Nuclear Disasters Dangerous?
When nuclear energy’s safety is discussed, the main focal point is power plant disasters. In the public eye, these “disasters” are viewed as once in a while catastrophes. However, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) would argue that their name proceeds them.
“Existing resources and procedures can stop an accident, slow it down or reduce its impact before it can affect public health;
Even if accidents proceed uncontrolled, they take much longer to happen and release much less radioactive material than earlier analyses suggested; and
The analyzed accidents would cause essentially zero immediate deaths and only a very, very small increase in the risk of long-term cancer deaths.”
The NRC argues that with current preventative measures in place, a nuclear disaster would have little to no harm to the public. However, what if someone can’t get away from the disaster? What if people can’t be relocated? In truth, relocating mass amounts of people is not an effective countermeasure to a nuclear disaster. A 2017 study done by a group of universities from the United Kingdom found that the relocation of mass amounts of people after a nuclear fallout is a more dangerous health concern than the fallout.
In the NREFS project (Management of Nuclear Risk Issues: Environmental, Financial and Safety), researches found that, “nearly three quarters of the 116,000 members of the public relocated after the Chernobyl accident would have lost less than 9 months’ life expectancy per person if they had remained in place, and only 6% would have lost more than 3 years of life expectancy.” These are both comparable life expectancy drops from air pollution in the United Kingdom. However, relocating and overpopulating causes much more serious health concerns and it also dramatically effects the well-being and the economy of that community or even potentially that country.
Relocation after a disaster is all fear generated and pointless because most people are worse off just breathing. The maximum radiation someone would obtain by living in a “uninhabitable” is about 100 mSv, which translates to an average loss of nine months of expected lifetime. That is someone living there for an entire lifetime. In comparison, air pollution kills 4.2 million people every year. In fact, the human population has lost an average of 1.8 years of life expectancy due to breathing polluted air. 93% of the world’s children breath polluted air and as a result 600,000 a year die.
No form of obtaining energy is completely safe. However, we stigmatize and oversell the dangers of a nuclear fallout while millions a year die as a result of burning fossil fuels. Furthermore, No, it is a lot safer than how we currently obtain energy.
To read further into the overdramatized fear of nuclear disasters read “Are Nuclear Disasters Dangerous”, by Joris Van Dorp.