Nuclear Safer Than Coal?

Nuclear power plants are a much safer option in terms of the effect on peoples health than traditional coal burning power stations, according to Professor Bernard Cohen, writing in the journal Interdisciplinary Science Reviews. Cohen, from the University of Pittsburgh, USA, says, "If we compare the nuclear and coal wastes on the basis of cheap, simple and easy disposal techniques, the coal wastes are 40 times more harmful to human health than nuclear wastes."

Cohen argues that the huge volume of chemicals emitted from a coal power station makes the nuclear production of electricity a much safer option than coal in terms of the direct influence on people's health caused by the waste products from the two processes. Cohen points out that fifteen tonnes of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide are produced every minute in a large, coal power station together with large quantities of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and organic compounds, many of which are known carcinogens.

In comparison, a nuclear power station producing the same amount of electricity as a large coal burning power station will produce an amount of waste that is five million times smaller in size than the waste produced by a coal burning power station. Cohen says, this waste, "can be handled with a care and sophistication that is completely out of the question for the millions of tons of waste spewed out annually from an analogous coal burning plant." Cohen calculates, from the current disposal techniques employed by the two industries, that air pollution from a coal burning power station results in the fatalities of 25 people while nuclear wastes from generating the same amount of electricity would kill 0.018 people.


Contact: Andrew McLaughlin
Institute of Materials

Page: 1

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