Am I a fan of nuclear power? Probably not… but I like it more than most of the alternatives, including many supposedly “clean” ones.
I have seen statistics before that showed nuclear to be one of the safest, if not the safest, form of electricity generation. I was trying to find the data, and instead, I found this excellent article on the topic, followed by a passionate, but surprisingly civilized discussion with actual information content.
I wonder how many of the purported 200,000 who protested against nuclear power in Germany actually realize that if their wishes came true, many more people would be condemned to death than those killed by all nuclear disasters combined. Here are two numbers to illustrate that point. The worst nuclear disaster, Chernobyl, killed perhaps as many as 10,000 people. Compare that to the worst hydroelectric disaster, the collapse of the Banqiao dam in China… roughly 170,000 killed.
Fukushima was hit by a once-in-a-millennium natural disaster that far exceeded its design limits. Not surprisingly, it failed, along with many other man-made things, buildings, oil refineries, roads, bridges, railway lines, and more. We don’t single out any one of those industries as being inherently unsafe, despite the fact that hundreds (thousands?) died in Japan as a result of these failures in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami. In Fukushima, to date only one person died, in a crane accident. I’d say that this suggests that nuclear power is pretty safe even under a worse-than-worst-case scenario.