Nuclear energy is the safest major energy source, says University of Oxford group

When measured by power output, nuclear energy is the safest major energy source, according to Our World in Data, an online publication produced at the University of Oxford.

Discussions with regards to energy safety often incite the question of: how many died from the nuclear incidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima? We addressed this question in a separate blog post. In summary: estimates vary but the death toll from Chernobyl is likely to be of the order of tens of thousands. For Fukushima, the majority of deaths are expected to be related to induced stress from the evacuation process (standing at 1600 deaths) rather than from direct radiation exposure.

As stand-alone events these impacts are large. However, even as isolated, large-impact events, the death toll stands at several orders of magnitude lower than deaths attributed to air pollution from other traditional energy sources — the World Health Organization estimates that 3 million die every year from ambient air pollution, and 4.3 million from indoor air pollution. As so often is the case, single events that make headlines overshadow permanent risks that result in silent tragedies.

Based on historical and current figures of deaths related to energy production, nuclear appears to have caused by far the least harm of the current major energy sources. This empirical reality is largely at odds with public perceptions, where public support for nuclear energy is often low as a result of safety concerns.