On April 4, a Discover magazine blog entry read, “Study: Nuke Power Has Saved Millions of Lives. Media Yawns.” Discover, Scientific American and Chemical & Engineering News reported on the study after it was published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology.
ONE OF THE study’s authors, James E. Hansen, recently retired from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, is the climate expert who first brought the science and potential impacts of global warming to the attention of the world. Because he believed so much in his own research showing the potential for the warming of Earth because of greenhouse gas emissions, he became an ardent proponent of nuclear power, noting that other “renewable” energy concepts could not sate the world’s growing appetite for energy.
The other author, Pushker Karecha, who proposed the study because of sensational misinformation in the media concerning the Fukushima nuclear disaster, still is with NASA.
Lacking direct data on deaths prevented by nuclear power, the authors used previously published peer-reviewed data on deaths caused by burning fossil fuels and calculated how much fossil fuel would have been required to replace the nuclear contribution to our energy mix.
THEIR CONCLUSION was that the use of nuclear power has prevented about 1.84 million pollution-related deaths and 64 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions that would have resulted from fossil-fuel burning.
Further, if nuclear were to be replaced by coal, by 2050 there would be 7 million additional deaths, or 420,000 additional deaths if replaced by natural gas. Obviously, the additional carbon dioxide burden in our atmosphere and oceans could become a matter of great concern.
The authors made no attempt to estimate the enormous cost associated with treating all of the maladies related to fossil-fuel use, including heart disease, cancer, emphysema, black lung and a host of other respiratory conditions.
ORDINARILY, IF Hansen made a pronouncement about global warming studies, it would get extensive media coverage. But except for the tech-oriented publications mentioned earlier, the mainstream media have shown little interest in carrying this story that highlights the advantages of nuclear power. While anti-nuclear ideologues continue to call for an end to the use of nuclear power, rational voices should be calling for nuclear power to assume a larger role in energy production.
The mainstream media do a disservice to the public interest by not covering more fully a report of this importance by such renowned climatologists. Apparently the conclusions of the report, which are based on facts, do not meet the criteria for news that the media think we need to know.
(The writer is executive director for Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness.)