Kurzgesagt takes a look at the number of deaths from nuclear power in comparison with other sources. You might find the actual numbers surprising.
I think the video makes an important point. But by focusing exclusively on deaths, it downplays the emotional trauma and economic costs of nuclear accidents. The area around the Fukushima plant will reportedly not be habitable for decades. For the people who lived there and the surrounding regions, this is a pretty devastating outcome. In the case of Chernobyl, it may be millenia before anyone will be able to safely live there, effectively forever for the people from that region. Both regions are now effectively economic anchors for their respective countries, and in the case of Chernobyl, the international community.
Now, you might be thinking that in the overall scheme of things, particularly in comparison to the world wide health effects of fossil fuels, this still isn’t that bad. But we have to consider what things might look like if nuclear power were more widely used. Statistically speaking, we’d have a lot more accidents, with some likely having similar effects. It implies that had nuclear power been more widely adopted, with the level of care historically applied, it could have resulted in far more regions becoming toxic forbidden zones, that no one can enter except briefly or with the right protective equipment, for decades, centuries, or millenia.
This isn’t to say we shouldn’t use nuclear power. The stark truth is, we don’t really have a choice. This is a world of nearly eight billion people, all who want or will want the modern lifestyles of the developed world, with all the power requirements that come with it. Providing it all with more use of fossil fuels will continue to poison the planet and ourselves.
But it also means we shouldn’t be pollyannaish about nuclear power and its dangers. Using nuclear power is like riding on demons. We should never think we’ve domesticated them, and be absolutely sure our harness doesn’t allow them to turn on us. In other words, nuclear power has to be aggressively regulated, and in as transparent a manner as possible so national and international groups can watch for problematic installations.
Incidentally, we shouldn’t beat up too much on nuclear. Kurzgesact discusses renewable energy, and those options should definitely be pursued, but their discussion of a massive dam disaster makes clear that harnessing any source of massive power, of any type, comes with potential dangers. Those dangers seem inseparable from actually using the power.
For better or worse, we live in the world we live in, one with daunting energy requirements but also with an environment that can’t sustain the abuse from satisfying them in the manner we’ve historically used. We have to use nuclear power, but we should do so with our eyes wide open to the dangers.
Unless of course I’m missing something?