To some critics, there is no riskier source of electricity than nuclear power. For others, nuclear power’s minimal greenhouse gas footprint makes it a vital alternative to carbon-belching coal and natural gas in the pitched battle to curb climate change — and a far more reliable energy source, at least for now, than wind and solar power. To still others, nuclear power’s advantages in the carbon war are eclipsed by the crippling economics of getting a nuclear power plant built, making it a prohibitive and wasteful investment.
Everyone is right.
At the end of last month — just a bit shy of the two-year anniversary of the nuclear disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility — the World Health Organization appeared to deliver some encouraging news. Despite being hammered first by an earthquake and then by a subsequent tsunami that hobbled the plant’s safety equipment and triggered the wholesale meltdown of three nuclear reactors, the impact of the released radiation on human health, the United Nations body determined, appeared to be quite low.