Kharecha, P. A., & Hansen, J. (2013). Prevented mortality and greenhouse gas emissions from historical and projected nuclear power. Environmental Science and Technology, 47 (9), 4889–4895. doi: 10.1021/es3051197
In Prevented Mortality and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Historical and Projected Nuclear Power, Kharecha and Hansen(2013) hypothesized that replacing carbon-producing fuels with nuclear power could “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” (p. 4889). They correlated the historical output of CO2 to the resultant air pollution-related deaths to determine that the use of nuclear power since 1971 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” (p. 4889). The authors found that increased reliance on nuclear energy would be safer and less ecologically harmful than continued reliance on fossil fuels or expansion of natural gas use. The publisher of this paper, American Chemical Society, is known to be a reputable, peer-reviewed source, but it has lately come under fire by the libertarian-leaning Watts Up With That blog for presenting a political agenda. Because of the known bias of Watts Up With That, such claims are not necessarily prohibitive; likewise, there are no peer-reviewed studies refuting the data of the article. This article is especially useful for discussing the opportunity costs of society’s dependence on coal and oil as well as for calming some of societies’ concerns about nuclear energy.