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Desire to Know
Dr. Jane Goodall

Nuclear vs Wind and Solar

| Modified 27 Mar, 2016 | Views 1651

More Americans have died from installing rooftop solar than have ever died from the construction or use of American nuclear power plants.

Nuclear Energy  vs. Wind and Solar

Four bottom lines up front:
  • It would cost over $29 Trillion to generate America’s baseload electric power with a 50 / 50 mix of wind and solar farms, on parcels of land totaling the area of Indiana. Or:
  • It would cost over $18 Trillion with Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) farms in the southwest deserts, on parcels of land totaling the area of West Virginia. Or:
  • We could do it for less than $3 Trillion with AP-1000 Light Water Reactors, on parcels totaling a few square miles. Or:
  • We could do it for $1 Trillion with liquid-fueled Molten Salt Reactors, on the same amount of land, but with no water cooling, no risk of meltdowns, and the ability to use our stockpiles of nuclear “waste” as a secondary fuel.
No form of energy production is, or ever has been, completely safe. Down through the centuries, countless people have been injured and killed by beasts of burden. More were lost harvesting the wood, peat and whale oil used for cooking, heating, and lamplight. Millions have died from mining coal, and millions more from burning it. America loses 13,000 people a year from health complications attributed to fossil fuel pollution; China loses about 500,000.

Although hydroelectric power is super-green and carbon-free, we too easily forget that in the last century alone, many thousands have died from dam construction and dam failures. Even solar energy has its casualties. In fact, more Americans have died from installing rooftop solar than have ever died from the construction or use of American nuclear power plants. Some people did die in the early days of uranium mining, but the actual cause was inhaling the dust. Proper masks lowered the casualty rates to nearly zero.

Although reactors produce nearly 20% of America’s power, and have been in use for over fifty years, there have been just five deaths from construction and inspection accidents. Only three people have ever died from the actual production of American atomic energy, when an experimental reactor suffered a partial meltdown in 1961. And for all the panic, paranoia, and protests about Three Mile Island, not one person was lost. The worst dose of radiation received by the people closest to the TMI plant was equal to one half of one chest X-ray.

Putting it all in perspective

For a baseload 500 MWavg power plant with a 60-year lifespan, sufficient to provide electricity for 500,000 people living at western standards:


  • Wind: 119 km2 - two-thirds of Washington, DC
  • CSP: 63 km2 - one-third of Washington, DC
  • Nuclear: 0.04 km2 - one-half of the White House grounds

  • Wind - 0.15 deaths / TWh
  • CSP - 0.44 deaths / TWh
  • Nuclear - 0.04 deaths / TWh
Carbon Karma

  • Wind - 181 days
  • CSP - 370 days
  • Nuclear - 9 days
60-year Cost

  • Wind - $40 Billion (nearly 10 X nuclear)
  • CSP - $18.5 Billion (over 4.5 X nuclear)
  • Nuclear - $4.03 Billion

The bottom line 

The only way we’re going to power the nation—let alone the planet—on carbon-free energy is with nuclear power. And the sooner we all realize that, the better.


Energy Reality - by  Mike Conley & Tim Maloney





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