|Scooped by Austin Freeman|
Nuclear power technology produces materials that are active in emitting radiation and are called "radioactive". These materials can come into contact with people principally through small releases during routine plant operation, accidents in nuclear power plants, accidents in transporting radioactive materials, and escape of radioactive wastes from confinement systems. We will discuss these separately, but all of them taken together, with accidents treated probabilistically, will eventually expose the average American to about 0.2% of his exposure from natural radiation.
Very high radiation doses can destroy body functions and lead to death within 60 days, but such "noticeable" deaths would be expected in only 2% of reactor melt-down accidents; there would be over 100 in 0.2% of meltdowns, and 3500 in 1 out of 100,000 melt-downs. To date, the largest number of noticeable deaths from coal burning was in an air pollution incident where there were 3500 extra deaths in one week.
Potential problems from accidents in transport of radioactive materials are largely neutralized by elaborate packaging. A great deal of such transport has taken place over the past 50 years and there have been numerous accidents, including fatal ones. However, from all of these accidents combined, there is less than a 1% chance that even a single death will ever result from radiation exposure. Probabilistic risk analyses indicate that we can expect less than one death per century in U.S. from this source.