How many lives has nuclear power saved?

When people talk about nuclear, they often focus on the deaths caused by it. On the contrary, the use of fossil fuels causes 3.6 million deaths every year because of air pollution (Jos Lelieveld et al. (2019)).

Replacing nuclear energy with fossil fuels kills people. Most of Germany’s energy deficit from scraping nuclear energy is fulfilled through increased coal production – which is the most polluting source with the largest health impacts. Analysis by Stephen Jarvis, Olivier Deschenes, and Akshaya Jha (2020) estimates that Germany’s nuclear phase-out has come at the cost of more than 1,100 additional deaths each year as a result of air pollution.

Two climate scientists Pushker Kharecha and James Hansen aimed to answer the question ‘How many lives has nuclear power saved?’ A study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology analyzed how many more people would have died over the period from 1971 to 2009 if nuclear had been replaced by fossil fuels. They estimated nuclear power has globally saved about two million lives (Kharecha, P. A., & Hansen, J. E. (2013)).

1. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Jos Lelieveld et al. (2019)
2. Kharecha, P. A., & Hansen, J. E. (2013). Prevented mortality and greenhouse gas emissions from historical and projected nuclear power. Environmental Science & Technology, 47(9), 4889-4895.

Published by Amit K Shah

Nuclear Engineer. Junior Research Fellow at National Institute of Advanced Studies.

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