Planet Earth is a bad place for nuclear reactors.
Coal power releases more radiation per MWh than nuclear. Burning that much of something that contains even tiny traces of radioisoptopes releases huge amounts. Coal also comes with a massive CO2 footprint. If we were to burn all of the coal in the world, we wouldn't just have a little climate change, we would make the earth uninhabitable just in terms of O2/CO2 balance in the atmosphere. Air polution acutely kills thousands a year from asthamtic attacks and also harms unborn children. The numbers you are looking there makes the nuclear option safer.
Using a dirty, dangerous energy source to justify another dangerous energy source isn't an argument for either.
The 4,000 fatalities figure from Chernobyl is from the IAEC, an industry front group that cheerleads and lobbies for nuclear.
I'm afraid you've miss-cited here. That was the IAEA which reports to the UN. This report was co-puplished by the WHO and UN Development Fund. Hardly biased groups there.
Yes, I missed the last letter of the acronym. The IAEA wrote the report, based on studies from only three countries (those deemed most affected). Ironically, it was high levels of radioactivity detected in Sweden that ultimately led researchers and officials to the source of the emissions in the Ukraine. Instead of laughing at the IAEA report, the WHO passed it on as gospel. This is from the IAEA website:"The IAEA is the world´s center of cooperation in the nuclear field. It was set up as the world´s "Atoms for Peace" organization in 1957 within the United Nations family. The Agency works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies."
Hardly the mission statement of a disinterested organization. There's the usual pablum on the website pertaining to 'safety', easily recognizable as PR spin. The WHO and UN are not biased? Can you say H1N1 pandemic? Or how about UN Oil for Food Program? C'mon, you're smarter than that.
5 million people die each year from smoking related illnesses. You are looking at a very difficult statistical problem to solve there and previous models on long term effects of radiation do not appear to be ringing true. Previously we based such calculations on the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs where concentrated populations had large doses. The model from this only looked at the really massive doses, not the large population exposed to a low level as a result of Chenobyl. The natural background radiation in the world differs greatly from 1-35mSv per year depending upon the geology of the area. If you were to take the Hiroshima/Nagasaki model you would find cancer cases to vary across the world by natural background radiation level. This simply is not the case. The body does have levels of imunity to radiation exposure built in. Radiation sickness is possibly an evolutionary response to get out of the body something that has been ingested. At a lower level too some of the first genes to mutate under hard gamma bombardment appear to have an anti-cancer role.
1). Smoking is irrelevant.
2). Radioisotopes from bombs are slightly different than those from nuclear power plants, nuclear waste and radon, so not sure what point you were trying to make here.
3). There is ample evidence that supports the fact that background radiation (approx. 50% from radon) induces a linear dose response. (Since you're in Britain, here is a BMJ study on Radon and Lung cancer: British Medical Journal http://www.bmj.com/content/330/7485/223.long
). There is no such thing as a "safe" dose. We've known this for a while. It comes from the linear no-threshold (LNT) radiation dose-risk theory. The LNT model states that any radiation dose carries some level of risk. The higher the dose, the higher the risk; the lower the dose, the lower the risk. It has a linear relationship. That means even at the lowest possible dose, there is still a risk, and therefore no actual true "safe" threshold ('safe', meaning zero risk). Yes, the biological cellular mechanisms will repair DNA and chromosomes, but not 100%. They don't work perfectly. Some lesions aren't repairable, sometimes the mechanisms can't reach the damaged site, and some repairs are misrepairs. Thus, even at low doses, a certain percentage of residual DNA damage isn't repaired. For there to be a "safe" threshold, there would have to be a level of radiation at which 100% of the DNA was repaired perfectly. The lowest possible dose is theoretically one nuclear track going through one nucleus of a cell. The lowest possible unit is one particle. You can't have a fraction of a particle going through a fraction of a cell. Either that particle goes through a cell and creates damage or it doesn't. Ionizing radiation isn't like poison, where dilution can create a safe threshold. It comes in units of particles that either pass through cells or don't. The LNT model isn't perfect, but it is simple, elegant, and predicts outcomes fairly well. Many research groups like the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation Committee use it. That said, I know there are some good, honest scientists who disagree with it. So far, it has stood up to scrutiny.
4). The "a little bit of radiation is good for you" line is a fraud. It's also known in more polite circles as Radiation Hormesis. The US Deapartment of Energy promotes this incessantly, for obvious reasons. Interestingly, even the UN body UNSCEAR doesn't support it.
Chenobyl was a bad accident, yes. I know people who've been there and it's over a Sv a year at the perimeter which is definitely bad for you. It, or the current events in Japan, or Kyshtym, or Windscale, or TMI aren't events that can happen with modern, well designed nuclear plants. Designing safety systems is a good investment. Now is not the time but I would expect TEPCO will come under a lot of scrutiny for the lack of defense in depth built into their cooling systems. One line of defense is just silly.
I agree, TEPCO after this will be (or should be) in very in hot water (pun intended). They told residents in Myagi prefecture back in 1970 that the Fukushima plants were 'safe' and that there was nothing to worry about, and that there was no history of earthquakes in that specific location. Same old sales pitch. Some things never change. Just like saying, 'Our modern reactors are well designed and all those other accidents could never happen with our new and improved safety technology.'