Relative Danger of Energy Sources


1. How many Americans will die from coal mining this decade?  
< 100         100 – 1,000           1,000 – 10,000        10,000 - 100,000       > 100,000

Coal power requires 100,000 - 1,000,000 times as much fuel as does nuclear power to produce the same amount of electricity; uranium mining involves fewer workers.

According to Center for Disease Control, coal workers’ pneumoconiosis is the underlying, or a contributing, cause in about 900 deaths among US coal miners each year. After declining rates of death for decades (from 3,000/year in 1972), the rate of death is now rising in the US.

Accidents used to kill hundreds to thousands of US miners/year, but by the l990s, deaths fell below 100/year, though more than 20,000 were injured each year.

Worldwide, between 10,000 and 15,000 coal miners (ch. 6 of Australia's uranium: Greenhouse friendly fuel for an energy hungry world) die yearly from accidents. The number of deaths is greatest in China (averaging over 6,000/year), but the death rate is highest in the Ukraine, where more miners Deaths from mining accidents alone:

Ukraine -- 7 deaths from accidents/million metric tonnes coal mined (Mt)
China -- 4.2 deaths/Mt
US -- 0.034 deaths/Mt
Australia -- 0.009 deaths/Mt

At more than 200 deaths from coal mining accidents/year, Ukraine's coal mining deaths since Chernobyl (1986) is already larger than the number of deaths expected from Chernobyl over 8 decades.

Note: in the US, today, coal power supplies 2.5 times as much electricity as does nuclear, so multiply nuclear deaths by 2.5 to compare to coal deaths. In the 1940s and 1950s, when miners were exposed to radon which eventually killed many, much of the uranium mining was done for weapons. I don't know how the quantity of uranium mined during the 1940s and 1950s would compare to uranium mined today.

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