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July 05, 2010

Summarizing Deaths per TWH

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This site previously covered the number deaths per terawatt hour for all energy sources. The main reference was the Externe european energy study. Mainly those sources had deaths from accidents during mining or from the operation of the plants. Coal and oil are worse when the air pollution deaths are totally factored into the calculation. Coal is also worse if transporation deaths are included, since 40% of US rail freight is for moving coal from mines to the plants.

Energy Source              Death Rate (deaths per TWh)


Coal – world average 161 (26% of world energy, 50% of electricity) Coal – China 278 Coal – USA 15 Oil 36 (36% of world energy) Natural Gas 4 (21% of world energy) Biofuel/Biomass 12 Peat 12 Solar (rooftop) 0.44 (less than 0.1% of world energy) Wind 0.15 (less than 1% of world energy) Hydro 0.10 (europe death rate, 2.2% of world energy) Hydro - world including Banqiao) 1.4 (about 2500 TWh/yr and 171,000 Banqiao dead) Nuclear 0.04 (5.9% of world energy)



The Banqiao dam failure killed approximately 26,000 people from flooding and another 145,000 during subsequent epidemics and famine. In addition, about 5,960,000 buildings collapsed, and 11 million residents were affected.

wikipedia lists dozens of other dam failures. Eight from 2000-2010. Death tolls typically range in from a handful up to 300. The median deaths from a dam failure is about about 40-100 dead.

Any calculation about the dangers of nuclear should consider that coal deaths would be 20% higher if not for the displacement of coal for electricity from nuclear power since the 1960s.
65,900 TWh from nuclear power from 1951 to mid-2010, so about 3 million lives saved instead of using coal to generate that power. Europe and the USA had 15-60 deaths per TWH. More deaths per TWH in the 1960s and 1970s and then improving with better safety and improved pollution controls.

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