Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hiding in plain cite
"Nuclear Reaction": the gift that keeps on giving

The glorious thing about the internets is that you can follow up citations, and find out what someone isn't telling you. For example, take this post from Nuclear Reaction, which quotes a popular article in EnergyBiz by Dr Benjamin Sovacool. 

One recent study published in the May issue of Energy Policy looked at major energy accidents from 1907 to 2007. The major accidents were defined as incidents that resulted in either death or more than $50,000 of property damage. The study identified 279 incidents totaling $41 billion in damages and 182,156 fatalities, with the number of accidents peaking in the decade between 1978 and 1987, which had more than 90 accidents. In terms of cost, nuclear plants ranked first with regard to their economic damage, accounting for damages equivalent to $16.6 billion, or 41 percent of all damages during the past century.

Contrary to the industry´s claim that nuclear facilities are safe, 63 major accidents have occurred at nuclear power plants. Twenty-nine accidents have occurred since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, and 71 percent of all nuclear accidents, that is, 45 out of 63, occurred in the United States, refuting the notion that severe accidents cannot happen within the country or that they have not happened since Chernobyl.

Using extremely conservative estimates, nuclear power accidents have also killed 4,100 people. The nuclear power accidents have involved meltdowns, explosions, fires, and loss of coolant, and have occurred during both normal operation and extreme, emergency conditions such as droughts and earthquakes.

Sounds scary. How odd that Greenpeace forgot to include the previous paragraph:

While responsible for less than 1 percent of total  energy accidents, hydroelectric facilities claimed 94  percent of reported fatalities. looking at the gathered  data, the total results on fatalities are highly dominated  by one accident in which the shimantan dam failed in  1975 and 171,000 people perished. 

Personally, I would have also noted that the number of people killed in coal mining accidents in China alone in 2005 was 5986, in excess of that for nuclear power in the entire period studied, in order to provide some context for the figure. 

Unfortunately, Dr. Sovacool (or his editor) neglects to give the full citation, or even mention the paper is by him, but for the partial citation in the text you can deduce that it is Sovacool, "The costs of failure: a preliminary assessment of major energy accidents, 1907-2007", Energy Policy, Volume 36, Issue 5, p1802-1820 (2008) and is available here thru' Science Direct.

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