Safety in Energy

Now here is an interesting chart from this website:

Anil Markandya and Paul Wilkinson (2007) published an analysis in the medical journal The Lancet, which compared the death rates from the major energy sources.2 In this study they considered deaths from accidents, such as the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, occupational accidents in mining or power plant operations, and premature deaths from air pollution.3

This study was published in 2007, before the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan. You might assume that the figures from this analysis therefore understate the death toll from nuclear energy, but in fact the opposite is true. Later in this article we look at a more recent study on the safety of low-carbon energy sources, published in 2016 which includes Fukushima impacts, and in fact reports a lower death rate than Markandya and Wilkinson (2007).4 There were no direct deaths from the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. The official death toll was 573 people, all of which were premature deaths from evacuation and displacement of populations in the surrounding area.5 In 2018, the Japanese government reported that one worker has since died from lung cancer as a result of exposure from the event.


Nuclear energy is by far the safest energy source in this comparison – it results in more than 442 times fewer deaths than the ‘dirtiest’ forms of coal; 330 times fewer than coal; 250 times less than oil; and 38 times fewer than gas. To be clear: the figures in this analysis was based on energy production in Europe where anti-pollution regulation and technologies are already well ahead of many countries in the world;  in this case the death rate from fossil fuels may even be understated.

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18 Responses to Safety in Energy

  1. Rafe Champion

    Critically important to see what is at the bottom of the table.
    But don’t get carried away by the death rate from coal until we calculate the lives that will be saved by electricity generated from fossil fuels in developing countries. Some 4 million people die each year from lung diseases caused by indoor smoke from renewable energy (aka biomass, animal dung and wood).

  2. They also omit the deaths caused by the mining operations for rare earths etc. But it’s very unclear how they have calculated the deaths via air pollution. What percentage is from fossil fuels vs biomass (burning cow dung in huts)?

    And does the air pollution include cars etc, general industrial activities etc, air borne disease from air conditioning units in buildings etc that have no bearing whatsoever on where the electricity comes from?

  3. Ah, as Rafe noted, 4 million out of the stated 5 million are from the likes of burning dung in huts. So what does the other one million constitute?

  4. Rafe Champion

    An estimated five million people die prematurely every year as a result of air pollution; fossil fuels and biomass burning are responsible for most of those deaths.

    There are no deaths from CO2 in the air and there is no reason any more to have any kind of pollution from coal fired power – the sulphides, nitrates and particulate mater can be screened out.

  5. Nob

    How many lives are saved by fossil fueled emergency vehicles?

  6. mem

    No mention of the number of deaths caused by “fuel poverty” due to the increased prices caused by ruinables.
    eg “Since 2000, excess winter deaths in England and Wales remained generally at around 25,000. For the period of 2007-2008 the number of excess winter deaths was 27,480 of which the Hill report estimated that around 10% were caused directly by fuel poverty.”

  7. Bruce of Newcastle

    Funny how there’re no bars for solar and wind.
    Something to hide?
    And the “premature deaths from air pollution” is fantasy bullshit to make coal look bad.
    All modern coal plants are clean and well equipped with pollution control gear.

  8. Terry

    ” …no reason any more to have any kind of pollution from coal-fired power – the sulphides, nitrates and particulate matter can be screened out.”

    Exactly. It would be nice to see those relative statistics adapted for Australia only.

    We are prolific users of coal and yet our air quality is generally very good.
    Check out the air quality around our coal power stations – not appreciably different from the air quality around our major population centres.

    The biggest assault on our air quality in recent months was bushfires, which has nothing to do with the generation of electricity from coal despite the nefarious attempts by our resident Greentards to make the claim that it does.

    In the Australian experience, it is probably more dangerous to be a ‘pink batt’ installer than be involved in electricity generation from coal.

  9. duncanm

    Bruce of Newcastle
    #3326152, posted on February 17, 2020 at 12:47 pm
    Funny how there’re no bars for solar and wind.

    There is in the source article

    * Nuclear 0.07
    * wind 0.035
    * solar 0.019

    .. but the estimates vary quite a bit, see here

    * Nuclear 0.04
    * Wind 0.15
    * Rooftop solar 0.44

    Hydro ain’t so great, either: 1.4 deaths/TWh if you include the Banqiao dam disaster.

  10. duncanm

    In the Australian experience, it is probably more dangerous to be a ‘pink batt’ installer than be involved in electricity generation from coal.

    Most deaths from Coal in Oz are presumably mining related.

  11. DavidH

    Sloppy terminology can inflate public perception of nuclear being more dangerous than it is. A while back, I went to a citizens meeting with my local federal member (Alex Hawke). In response to some question, he made mention of 1000’s of deaths at “Fukushima”. I called him out that the death toll there was something more like 2. His response was to say that he was referring to the tsunami.

  12. Rafe Champion

    The tsunami was caused by nuclear power?

  13. Craig Sargent

    Thanks Rafe… was about to say the same thing…

    The site linked to had further articles on air pollution death. It seems the deaths attributed to coal burning are lumped into the real sources of air pollution issues such as wood and dung burning.

    Even then, the figures are crazy estimates not actual data….

  14. On the subject of collateral damage why not consider damage to faun and flora & sterilisation of large tracts of country side for SV farms and wind mills. As it is with CO2 influences all aspects need to be counted in not just the headline ones.

  15. David Brewer

    Don’t believe any of it. There is a whole industry churning out so-called data on the death rates and life-cycle carbon dioxide emissions from various energy sources, most of which are just crap.

    In this study, the author adds in hundreds of fake deaths from Fukushima and thousands of fake deaths from Chernobyl, yet nuclear still comes out far safer than fossil fuels, which as a general proposition would be correct because coal mining is dangerous. But her figures on deaths from wind power must be wildly underestimated. Can’t see the original source but she is probably taking only identified recorded deaths, such as those given here. There is no way all wind-power related deaths are going to be captured that way – by looking for individual cases in news reports. The compilers themselves

    believe that this compendium of accident information may be the most comprehensive available anywhere… [but] that what is attached may only be the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of numbers of accidents and their frequency

    The emissions from wind power given in references from the article are also highly suspect. They say they count emissions from the electricity used in making the turbines, but what about the thousand tonnes of concrete in the base of each one, cement production being itself a major emission source?

    The standard figures on air pollution deaths are from the WHO and are also complete rubbish.

    The whole field is polluted by greenhouse funding that is generating fake science in favour of renewables. One day the worm will turn and we will be getting nothing but horror stories about how polluting and dangerous wind and solar really are. Meanwhile you need to have your BS detector switched on at all times.

    A few telltale signs in this purportedly scientific article that you are being snowed with brown stuff:

    – death rates given to four significant figures when the underlying data could be out by orders of magnitude
    – use of “we” to denote humanity: “This began to change, rapidly, once we learnt how to use coal, oil, and gas. In more recent years, we have also gained access to modern renewables and nuclear power.”
    – appealing to ex catedra statements from the UN: The United Nations says that “energy is central to nearly every major challenge and opportunity the world faces today.”
    – free advice on how you should receive information: The good news is that the safest sources are those which are low-carbon.

  16. There is in the source article

    * Nuclear 0.07
    * wind 0.035
    * solar 0.019

    So if my maths are right, brown coal causes 1000 times more deaths than wind, and 2000 times more deaths than solar. This is excellent content on the Cat, well done ex-Spartacus.

  17. Nob

    Brown coal supplies the biggest and most reliable part of Victoria’s electricity.
    Powering every hospital and medical centre.

    Sixty years of brown coal and Australia’s life expectancy is in the top six of the world.
    The best life expectancy of cost is Singapore with its 95% fossil fuelled electricity.

    The worst pollution in the Latrobe Valley was from the old briquette factory, a union bullies’ playground. I know, I worked there.

  18. David Brewer

    Please don’t believe anything from the study referred to as its figures are sheer rubbish.

    As Rafe says in the first comment, the death rate from coal consists to 99% of supposed air pollution deaths, almost all of which are fictitious, and in any case, new coal-fired power stations in developing countries help reduce air pollution by replacing more polluting sources of energy.

    Also, you will see if you follow references that the figures are “a combination of actual direct deaths and epidemiological estimates”. In practice that means scouring press articles for deaths caused by wind turbines and solar panels – with the result that you find almost nothing – while attributing millions of deaths to coal and thousands to nuclear power based on GIGO models of the health effects of air pollution and radiation exposure. The study is also 13 years old and such historical data are distorted by massive differences in safety standards and hence mortality between Communist and other countries (almost all actual historical nuclear deaths were in the Soviet Union, and the vast majority of hydro power deaths have been dam collapses in China).

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