Chemical and Engineering News, a publication of the American Chemical Society, is reporting on a paper from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies looking at the human costs of energy production. The paper, published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology, finds that the historic use of nuclear power has prevented 1.8 million deaths from air pollution-related causes. Further, they estimate that replacing our current fleet of nuclear power with coal would result in an additional 7 million deaths from air pollution by 2050.
The peer-reviewed article is here.
And it should be noted the 4900 deaths attributed to nuclear power over the historical period are acknowledged by the authors to be an overestimate, as about 70% of that number relies on the Linear No-Threshold (LNT) dose hypothesis for induced cancer deaths. LNT, adopted as a conservative standard for radiation protection practices, is believed to significantly overstate the mortality risk at low radiation dose.
Regardless of the quibbling over the nuclear mortality rate estimate, the numbers are dwarfed by the mortality impacts of fossil fuel. And the NASA analysis did not attempt to estimate additional mortality from anthropogenic climate change.