According to a recent publication from the American Chemical Society, a study performed by the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Columbia University Earth Institute of New York came to the conclusion that more than 1.8 million human deaths have been prevented by world nuclear power production from 1971-2009.
On average, 76,000 deaths were prevented globally every year from 2000-2009 thanks to using nuclear power. A mean of 117,000 deaths per year were prevented alone in Germany between 1971-2009, yet Germany announced plans to shut down all reactors by 2022. The estimated human deaths caused by nuclear power from 1971-2009 are far lower than the avoided deaths. Globally, some 4,900 such deaths were calculated, or about 370 times lower than the number of avoided deaths. Around 25% of these deaths are due to occupational accidents and about 70% are due to air pollution-related effects.
“In the aftermath of the March 2011 accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the future contribution of nuclear power to the global energy supply has become somewhat uncertain. Because nuclear power is an abundant, low-carbon source of base-load power, it could make a large contribution to mitigation of global climate change and air pollution. Using historical production data, we calculate that global nuclear power has prevented an average of 1.84 million air pollution-related deaths and 64 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent (GtCo2-eq) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that would have resulted from fossil fuel burning. On the basis of global projection data that take into account the effects of the Fukushima accident, we find that nuclear power could additionally prevent an average of 420,000-7.04 million deaths and 80-240 GtCO2-eq emissions due to fossil fuels by midcentury, depending on which fuel it replaces. By contrast, we assess that large-scale expansion of unconstrained natural gas use would not mitigate the climate problem and would cause far more deaths than expansion of nuclear power.“ (Pushker A. Kharecha and James E. Hansen in „Prevented Mortality and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Historical and Projected Nuclear Power“; American Chemical Society, 2013)