Infographic of the Day: Just How Deadly Is Nuclear Energy?

Not very, if you compare it to oil or coal.


The Fukushima meltdowns may have derailed hopes that American will be upping its investments in nuclear energy anytime soon. And no wonder: It wasn’t but a couple days after the tsunami that you regularly saw misguided “environmentalists” claiming there’s no way we can prevent disasters like the one that struck Japan.


But the fact is, these arguments aren’t based in fact, and this simple, utterly powerful infographic by famed business writer Seth Godin illustrates why. What you see are the deaths per terawatt hour of energy produced:


Shocking, huh? The data it’s drawn from is about as reliable as it gets: The World Health Organization’s figures on worker deaths in various industries. As Godin writes:

Vivid is not the same as true. It’s far easier to amplify sudden and horrible outcomes than it is to talk about the slow, grinding reality of day to day strife. That’s just human nature. Not included in this chart are deaths due to global political instability involving oil fields, deaths from coastal flooding and deaths due to environmental impacts yet unmeasured, all of which skew it even more if you think about it.

This chart unsettles a lot of people, because there must be something wrong with it. Further proof of how easy it is to fear the unknown and accept what we’ve got.

We’re betting that the tragedy in Japan sets back nuclear energy in the U.S. by at least a decade. But make no mistake: That’s not because of science or facts. It’s because of politics, and an irrational fear we have of nuclear power that’s a relic of the 1950s.

About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.