Rarely has one of my postings generated so many negative comments (email and in-person) as my contention that only* 50-60 deaths can be attributed to Chernobyl as of 2005. So, I am revisiting the issue briefly. Here are the exact words of the United Nations’ report:
As of mid-2005, however, fewer than 50 deaths had been directly attributed to radiation from the disaster, almost all being highly exposed rescue workers, many who died within months of the accident but others who died as late as 2004.
That is the source of my contention. The report also says,
A total of up to 4,000 people could eventually die of radiation exposure from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant (NPP) accident nearly 20 years ago, an international team of more than 100 scientists has concluded.
“Up to” and “could eventually” almost certainly overstates the case because, if you read further, these are all cancer deaths and there is no provision for people who would have contracted cancer “naturally” (i.e., without Chernobyl).
The report goes on to say,
Dr. Repacholi concludes that “the health effects of the accident were potentially horrific, but when you add them up using validated conclusions from good science, the public health effects were not nearly as substantial as had at first been feared”.
All forms of energy have risk. My point is that if Chernobyl is the worst that could occur (and it is because there was no containment structure), then nuclear power — even with the current technology — is “safe enough.” So, lets move on with the next generation — even safer and more economical — of nuclear power as quickly as possible.
* “Only” in comparison to the hundreds of thousands predicted. Every death is tragic.
UPDATE: A related post here.