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Friday, May 6, 2011

Deaths Per Kilowatt Hour

Bill Gates recently defended nuclear energy, with accurate, albeit creepy economic logic.

He pointed out that, compared to coal, nuclear energy is still safer in terms of "people killed per kilowatt hour". That has to win 'Stat of the Year', if such a prize committee exists.

Of course, this is only half (or much less) of the argument. Otherwise, me peddling a bicycle in my living room to power a light bulb might win a power source award in terms of "safety". Cost per kilowatt hour is the other essential variable. Because, like Gates points out, there are a lot of "cute" energy ideas. But, "in 80% of the world, energy will be bought where it is economic."

In countries that do not regulate for economic externalities (like pollution), coal is a hard proposition to turn down. But, in terms of overall safety and affordability, nuclear is currently the answer. And that's why Gates is putting his money there.

Eric Olsen,
Regular Columnist, THL
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