Many people have decided, in light of the Fukushima disaster, that nuclear energy is too dangerous, and should be stopped. Is one recent disaster, or the invisible threat of radiation caused by a catastrophic meltdown, reason to run for the hills and call your congressman? As we will see, nuclear energy is actually one of the safest and cleanest forms of energy out there. And sitting in plain sight, the energy sources that we all currently rely on turn out to be the most dangerous ones of all.
From the graphic below, provided by Scientific American, we can see the relative dangers associated with each power source that humans suck on.
As you can see, nuclear energy is objectively far safer for the public and for workers, in comparison to fossil fuels, something that most people would never think about.
We are letting our familiarity with fossil fuel technology disrupt our perceptions of risk. This is reminiscent of the story of the frog in the boiling pot: put the frog (the public) in a pot of boiling water (recent and well-covered nuclear mishaps) and he will jump out (call for an end to nuclear energy). However, put the frog in a pot of lukewarm water (slight assumption of risk) and slowly turn up the heat (deaths from fossil fuel burning being lost in its long history) and the frog will stay in the pot (become complacent with the energy source), eventually cooking.
What the data says, free from garbled perceptions of risk, is that nuclear energy is safer and cleaner than fossil fuels. Radiation is scary, but what is even scarier is how people don’t notice the tens of thousands of premature deaths do to the burning of fossil fuels.