Pushker A. Kharecha and James E. Hansen have published “Prevented Mortality and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Historical and Projected Nuclear Power” in Environmental Science and Technology.
Because nuclear power is an abundant, low-carbon source of base-load power, it could make a large contribution to mitigation of global climate change and air pollution. Using historical production data, we calculate that global nuclear power has prevented an average of 1.84 million air pollution-related deaths and 64 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent (GtCO2-eq) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that would have resulted from fossil fuel burning. On the basis of global projection data that take into account the effects of the Fukushima accident, we find that nuclear power could additionally prevent an average of 420 000–7.04 million deaths and 80–240 GtCO2-eq emissions due to fossil fuels by midcentury, depending on which fuel it replaces. By contrast, we assess that large-scale expansion of unconstrained natural gas use would not mitigate the climate problem and would cause far more deaths than expansion of nuclear power.
I have my beefs (beeves?) with Keith Kloor but he is on the money this time:
How does mainstream media not jump all over the news that nuclear power has apparently saved millions of lives? Then there’s the climate change angle, the massive amount of carbon emissions that seems to have been prevented. This strikes me as big!
I’m not suggesting the Hansen paper should be taken at face value, but I think it’s reasonable to expect it to be reported on, given his stature and the study’s startling claim. Millions of people saved is a lot of people.
It’s more than a little interesting to watch the twitter stream regarding this paper; Keith Kloor and Andy Revkin are happy to be media critics on this occasion.