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Loss Life Facts

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“Our freedoms can only
be maintained by the advancement of technologies that serve mankind—
not advancing technology puts Freedom at Risk and
our freedom is
threatened because we
don't take the time to
participate in it” GJD

Dr. Cohen’s book goes into great detail comparing health risk analysis of accidents, medical illness, socioeconomic environments, etc. to the radiation environment of nuclear power plants. This table is in Chapter-8 Pg-128 in his book. The table represents Loss of Life Expectancy in DAYS based on the research gathered. Table items in BOLD are directly related to ENERGY development. A couple paragraphs follow the table relative to these comparisons are to further explain the comparisons in Dr. Cohen's book.

LOSS OF LIFE EXPECTANCY (LLE) DUE TO VARIOUS RISKS

TABLE 1

 

Activity or risk*

LLE (days)

 

Living in poverty

3500

 

Being male (vs. female)

2800

 

Cigarettes (male)

2300

 

Heart disease*

2100

 

Being unmarried

2000

 

Being black (vs. white)

2000

 

Socioeconomic status low

1500

 

Working as a coal miner

1100

 

Cancer*

980

 

30-lb overweight

900

 

Grade school dropout

800

 

Sub-optimal medical care*

550

 

Stroke*

520

 

15-lb overweight

450

 

All accidents*

400

 

Vietnam army service

400

 

Living in Southeast (SC,MS,GA,LA,AL)

350

 

Mining construction (accidents only)

320

 

Alcohol*

230

 

Motor vehicle accidents

180

 

Pneumonia, influenza*

130

 

Drug abuse*

100

 

Suicide*

95

 

Homicide*

90

 

Air pollution*

80

 

Occupational accidents

74

 

AIDS*

70

 

Small cars (vs. midsize)

60

 

Married to smoker

50

 

Drowning*

40

 

Speed limit: 65 vs. 55 miles per hour*

40

 

Falls*

39

 

Poison + suffocation + asphyxiation*

37

 

Radon in homes*

35

 

Fire, burns*

27

 

Coffee: 2 cups/day

26

 

Radiation worker, age 18-65

25

 

Firearms*

11

 

Birth control pills

5

 

All electricity nuclear (UCS)*

1.5

 

Peanut butter (1 Tbsp./day)

1.1

 

Hurricanes, tornadoes*

1

 

Airline crashes*

1

 

Dam failures*

1

 

Living near nuclear plant

0.4

 

All electricity nuclear (NRC)*

0.04

*Asterisks indicate averages over total U.S. population; others refer to those exposed.

If we compare these risks with some of those listed in Table 1, we see that having a full nuclear power program in this country would present the same added health risk (UCS estimates in brackets) as a regular smoker indulging in one extra cigarette every 15 years [every 3 months], or as an overweight person increasing her weight by 0.012 [0.8] ounces, or as in raising the U.S. highway speed limit from 55 miles per hour to 55.006 [55.4] miles per hour, and it is 2,000 [30] times less of a danger than switching from midsize to small cars. Note that these figures are not controversial, because I have given not only the estimates of Establishment scientists but also those of the leading nuclear power opposition group in this country, UCS, (Union of Concerned Scientists).

I have been presenting these risk comparisons at every opportunity for several years, but I get the impression that they are interpreted as the opinion of a nuclear advocate. Media reports have said "Dr. Cohen claims . . ." But there is no personal opinion involved here. Deriving these comparisons is simple and straightforward mathematics which no one can question. I have published them in scientific journals, and no scientist has objected to them. I have quoted them in debates with three different UCS leaders and they have never denied them. If anyone has any reason to believe that these comparisons are not valid, they have been awfully quiet about it.

It seems to me that these comparisons are the all-important bottom line in the nuclear debates. Nuclear power was rejected because it was viewed as being too risky, but the best way for a person to understand a risk is to compare it with other risks with which that person is familiar. These comparisons are therefore the best way for members of the public to understand the risks of nuclear power. All of the endless technical facts thrown at them are unimportant and unnecessary if they only understand these few simple risk comparisons. That is all they really need to know about nuclear power. But somehow they are never told these facts. The media never present them, and even nuclear advocates hardly ever quote them. Instead, the public is fed a mass of technical and scientific detail that it doesn't understand, which therefore serves to frighten.

When I started my investigations into the safety of nuclear energy in 1971, I had no preconceived notions and no "axes to grind." I was just trying to understand in my own way what the fuss was all about. Rather early in these efforts, I started to develop these risk comparisons. They convinced me that nuclear power is acceptably safe with lots of room to spare. If I am a nuclear advocate, it is because developing these comparisons has made me so.

To be certain that this all-important bottom line is not missed, let me review it. According to the best estimates of Establishment scientists, having a large nuclear power program in the United States would give the same risk to the average American as a regular smoker indulging in one extra cigarette every 15 years, as an overweight person increasing his or her weight by 0.012 ounces, or as raising the U.S. highway speed limit from 55 to 55.006 miles per hour, and it is 2,000 times less risky than switching from midsize to small cars. If you do not trust establishment scientists and prefer to accept the estimates of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the leading nuclear power opposition group in the United States and scientific advisor to Ralph Nader, then having all U.S. electricity nuclear would give the same risk as a regular smoker smoking one extra cigarette every 3 months, or of an overweight person increasing his weight by 0.8 of an ounce, or of raising the U.S. highway speed limit from 55 to 55.4 miles per hour, and it would still be 30 times less risky than switching from midsize to small cars. The method for calculating these numbers is explained in the Chapter 8 Appendix.

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