For decades, nuclear power has remained the safest among all, and the fuel for it is widespread enough for a number of scientists to directly call the energy of the atom renewable. Until the seventies, "atomic electricity" was also very cheap. Despite all this, the fear of the new industry was extremely strong from the very beginning, and after Chernobyl and the myths it generated, it turned out to be completely unbeatable. As a result, the development of nuclear energy all over the world has been stopped, and its share in the production is constantly decreasing. The matter is so serious that even Rosatom began to buy wind turbine production technologies abroad. What psychological factors led to such a sad end? Why do scientists believe that the victims of Chernobyl are five hundred times less than those who were saved by the nuclear power plant? Let's try to figure it out.
A brilliant start
In 1954, when the USSR launched the world's first nuclear reactor, the future of the new industry seemed cloudless. At that time, almost half of the world's electricity was obtained from coal, and the fact that this is a very dirty fuel was already clear in that distant era. During the four days of London's Great Smog of 1952, 12,000 Londoners died from it, and everyone knew perfectly well that many of the city's coal-fired power plants were associated with these unpleasant events.
Among the clear advantages of nuclear power plants was that they could use fast reactors and even uranium extracted from seawater. Economically, this was quite possible, because the price of fuel in atomic kilowatt-hour does not play a major role, in contrast to the price of fuel at thermal power plants. Therefore, even a serious rise in prices for uranium sources does not in itself make "uranium" electricity too expensive.
According to calculations, humanity can provide its current needs with such "oceanic" uranium for at least six billion years, that is, until the very end of the existence of the current solar system - and at the same time, the concentration of uranium isotopes in seawater will still decrease by only a quarter. Therefore, many experts proposed to consider atomic energy renewable - after all, its actual resource is equal to the resource of our Sun, that is, it is clearly not lower than that of solar or wind energy.
Finally, the price of their construction for the United States in the sixties was six (!) Times lower than today - no more than $ 900 per kilowatt of power in today's dollars. For comparison: gas-fired thermal power plants, the cheapest of all thermal power plants, still cost in the United States and in the world no less than the same $ 900 per kilowatt of power. The only difference is that uranium as a source of energy was (and is) much cheaper than any other fossil fuel. So, ecologically, economically and strategically, nuclear power plants seemed to be the most sensible type of power plant.
Anti-nuclear protests and stopping the expansion of nuclear power in the United States
From the late sixties, however, things began to deteriorate sharply. At first, it turned out that nuclear power in the United States was growing so fast that suppliers could not cope and began to inflate prices - and then the construction of a nuclear power plant in 3-4 years became 2, 0-2, 5 times more expensive. This in itself would not be a problem.
First, the phenomenon was clearly supposed to be transient: after the deployment of mass construction, temporary "deficits" and inflated prices would go away again. Secondly, on average, a nuclear reactor operates at full capacity 90% of the year, while a thermal power plant only 40%. This means that a nuclear power plant per unit of power generates 2, 0-2, 5 times more kilowatt-hours per year than a thermal power plant.
As a result, the cost of a kilowatt-hour will be approximately equal even with different construction costs. That is, the share of the station's cost in the price of a kilowatt-hour remained the same, but due to cheaper fuel, its electricity still came out less expensive than coal or oil (in those distant years, many thermal power plants were still heated with inexpensive oil products).
But the trouble came from where they did not expect. From the very beginning of the deployment of nuclear power in the United States, it has been continuously attacked by serious protests, and the faster the nuclear power plant was built, the more violent such protests became.
The first protests against the construction of nuclear reactors there began in 1958. Moreover, they did not come at all from the tycoons of thermal power - they simply did not yet feel the threat from semi-experimental new installations. As a detailed study of the issue shows, the source of the protests was exclusively the local population, which perceived nuclear energy as dangerous (due to radiation) from the very beginning - from the fifties.
Stop, the reader will say. What kind of radiation, what kind of threats from nuclear power plants in the 50s? At that time, in principle, the public did not have noticeable knowledge about the real design of reactors. What did they criticize there and on what basis? Where did people get the idea that nuclear power is dangerous?
Oddly enough, by 1958 this was already a rather hackneyed topic. In 1940, science fiction writer Robert Heinlein sat for a while in the public library, reading the information available at that time about nuclear reactions, and, based on this, wrote the story "Explosions Happen." It - before the launch of the first real reactor - describes the future, where it turns out that the nuclear reactor, which has long played a major role in the energy supply of the planet, is calculated slightly incorrectly.
According to refined calculations, its explosion could inflict a serious blow on the entire planet. The heroes of the story begin a massive anti-nuclear PR campaign, during which the reactor's supporters become outcasts. At the end, the reactor on Earth is closed and taken to the moon. By the way, in the next story of the cycle, "The Man Who Sold the Moon", he explodes there due to incomplete consideration of the features of nuclear fuel.
But this is far from all that pop culture has contributed to the fears of the masses about the word "atom". In May 1941, Heinlein published the short story "An Unsatisfactory Solution." It describes the development of nuclear weapons in the United States and their use to end World War II - use in 1945, as in our reality. True, Heinlein miscalculated the months a little, and the bombs in his history were used in Germany, which had not yet had time to fall.
The science fiction writer also had another deviation from reality: he considered that America did not have time to create a large arsenal of real atomic bombs by 1945, and there they chose a faster way of generating radioactive dust ("dirty bomb"). There are no particular explosions with them, but Heinlein managed to accumulate tens of thousands of them. As a result of a series of wars, millions are dying, and America, under the threat of complete radioactive contamination, puts the whole world under its control.
Heinlein was not read much at the time, but intellectuals quickly became familiar with his concepts. Already in 1944, the authors of the Superman comic book included atomic weapons in the plot. When 1945 saw the real blows to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, pop culture churned out variations of horror stories at the speed of a frenzied printer. By the end of the fifties, the topic was thoroughly worn out by Hollywood: the film "On the Shore" showed the death of almost all mankind from radioactive fallout after a nuclear war, and echoes of this topic continue to walk through mass culture today.
It should be understood that if Heinlein was a 1940 forecaster, whose mistakes in assessing the safety of nuclear reactors are forgivable, then the representatives of the creative class inspired by him did not bother themselves with any libraries and created freely, without looking back at real physics. Therefore, they ended up with horror stories, and not something that has predictive power.
Heinlein himself wrote in 1979: “I have doubts about the re-publication of Explosions Happen because of the current ignorant fear of nuclear power, fueled by the recent harmless cotton. Yes, - he immediately noted, - radiation can be a threat, but the dose received by the personnel of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant during the accident was lower than Heinlein himself received on the last X-ray.
Heinlein had something that scriptwriters of Hollywood films and books like "On the Shore" did not have in sight: the ability to delve into physics and take a sober look at numbers. Unfortunately, these abilities were, are and will be vanishingly rare among the creators of mass culture. Therefore, they did not know that a nuclear war could in no way destroy humanity, nor did they know what the real consequences of nuclear accidents were.
Because of this sad fact, the image of nuclear energy, created by pop culture among the masses, generated simply hysterical sentiments in relation to any atomic object or phenomenon. This is how "Godzilla", a fictional creature "awakened" by radiation from atomic explosions (1954), got into mass culture.
That is why, already in 1957, Akira Kurosawa shoots the film "I live in fear", describing the victim of atomic hysteria in his terminal stage (at the end of the tape, the doctors recognize him as insane). In other words, by 1958, the beginning of anti-nuclear protests in the United States, radiophobia was already so widespread that such protests were simply inevitable.
And they had consequences of deafening proportions. Mobilized by the dream industry, those who consider themselves eco-activists began to file an incredible number of class actions against the construction of nuclear power plants - after the issuance of a permit for their construction. Power plants are built on credit, because power engineers have never had their own non-borrowed money in such volumes.
So, companies of the nuclear industry in the United States took out a loan for construction, began to pay it off, but … for years they could not start building the station. All this time, they continued to pay interest, staff salaries, and so on, which is why their costs began to grow catastrophically. The cost of nuclear power plants during the seventies increased several times, almost reaching the current level.
The control shot in the head of the American nuclear power industry was Three Mile Island. As Heinlein wrote at that time (and as modern research confirms this), Three Mile Island did not kill a single person, and this accident is more a demonstration of the safety of nuclear power plants, and not a threat from them. But the problem is that all these formulas and numbers of yours are boring, and movies are fun and understandable even for those who did not tolerate physics or mathematics at school.
And a few days before the accident on Three Mile Island, the non-disconnectable and uncontrollable dream conveyor of Hollywood released the film "China Syndrome". In it, the scriptwriters did not understand a little the joke of nuclear physicists that molten nuclear fuel in the event of an accident could burn through the Earth right up to China.
Well, and, of course, the first questions most reporters at the press conference on the accident were "How close did Three Mile Island come to the so-called China Syndrome?" They might as well have asked if the accident was due to an alien attack.
At first glance, this cannot be. Even natural history for the fifth grade gives a child enough knowledge to understand why no nuclear fuel can melt through the Earth.How did this wild idea get into the movies? How could reporters who went to school at least ask such a question to a physicist? How could people who heard this press conference take this opportunity seriously?
The answer to these questions is the same: yes easily. People are attracted not by cold reasoning, but by something that appeals to their emotions. Few speaks to them more than fear - however silly and irrational it may be.
The results of 1979 in the United States were predictable: not a single nuclear power plant has been built there since then. New projects dragged on endlessly, their price increased due to this, until they lost any economic sense. Yes, the United States is still the world leader in terms of the number of atomic kilowatt-hours generated, but only due to the legacy of the era before 1979, before the final victory of Hollywood over common energy sense.
It may seem that these are the problems of Americans, not humanity. Much of it is more immune to American pop culture concepts. Take France or the USSR of the 70s-80s: due to the powerful protection from the import of Western cinema, as well as the inaccessibility of the American press, fantastic ideas from the West came to the French and Soviet citizens extremely weakened and did not in any way affect the decisions of the leaders of these countries. Why did the nuclear power industry also experience a stop there?
Chernobyl: the reactor designer barks, and the Titanic sails
The Soviet nuclear power industry did not really feel the influence of anti-nuclear sentiments: until 1986, it was considered an extremely promising replacement for all coal-fired power plants, and the only problem was that the construction of nuclear power plants did not keep pace with the need for new plants.
Everything changed on April 26, 1986, with the explosion in the fourth power unit of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Contrary to popular myths, the explosion was not the result of an "experiment" with disabling the emergency protection of the reactor. On the contrary, that night there was a scheduled preventive maintenance, and with each such repair, the protection of the reactor was turned off - because without this it was impossible to check its operation in emergency modes. That is, the shutdown itself was planned, but not "experimental".
After the collapse of the USSR, Gosatomnadzor honestly admitted that the cause of the accident was not an experiment, as they tried to tell in Soviet times, and not at all the mistakes of the station personnel, who were blamed as if they were dead. In reality, the problem was in two features of the then reactors of the RBMK series.
The fact is that the technically active zone of the reactor is a bunch of graphite rods weighing a couple of thousand tons and channels between the rods through which water circulates. She, as expected, slows down neutrons well. If something goes wrong with the reactor and it starts to overheat, the water will turn into steam, and that slows down the neutrons very badly. Accordingly, they will become faster, and the heating of the core by them will begin to decrease. This should be the case if the designers calculated everything correctly.
In fact, they made a series of mistakes. Because of it, the graphite rods were close to each other, and the inhibiting role of the transformation of water into steam turned out to be incorrect. Here it is, the first cause of the accident - "positive steam coefficient of reactivity".
By itself, he was not so scary. In the end, when overheating, emergency protection rods are pushed into the core, they will absorb neutrons, which will end overheating of the reactor. But that is, if we design the rods sensibly.
And when the RBMK was created, they planned to insert the rods into the same channels where there was water. Recall that water absorbs neutrons. Before the rod is inserted, its head goes in front of it, where there is no material that absorbs neutrons - and this part displaced water. This second problem is called "end-effect". In other words, giving the command for emergency shutdown of the reactor for a short time at first accelerated it additionally.
To put it simply, both technologies of "braking" the damaged reactor at the RBMK could actually accelerate it further.And on the night of April 26, this is exactly what happened, which led to the explosion. Was this the fault of the staff? We doubt this: if the brake pedal on a car works like a gas pedal, and the driver, without knowing it, accelerates in a sharp turn on a mountain road, then, in our opinion, he is not to blame.
Unfortunately, RBMK designers are also hard to blame. The fact is that, years before the accident, they sent a letter to all directors of the nuclear power plant, where they set out the essence of the problem and suggested how to solve it. Alas, no one paid attention to the letter, although it also came to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
Why did it happen? As is often the case in large bureaucratic organizations, the lack of a sane chain of command played a role: the designer seems to be the main person in reactor safety, but for the administrative apparatus of the nuclear industry itself, he was more of a buzzing fly, the requirements of which could be dismissed, because nothing is real he could not do them, only write letters. This is how the main - and the only one in history - catastrophe of a nuclear reactor happened, which caused human casualties.
Soon after Chernobyl, the USSR actually stopped the further development of nuclear energy, curtailing a number of projects that were in a high degree of readiness. In the 21st century, the power of anti-nuclear sentiments subsided, and the influence of public opinion on the decisions of the country's leadership is not like in the United States: the public cannot drag Rosatom around the courts for years, slowing down its work. Nevertheless, we do not have a violent atomic renaissance even today. The reason is quite trivial: the energy sector can grow only if the economy grows, and here, in Russia, since 2008, it has had a cumulative GDP growth of about zero. In such a situation, it is quite logical that there is no significant growth in any branch of the energy sector, including nuclear.
In theory, Rosatom still has foreign markets; fortunately, the economy there is not controlled by Russian economists, so the growth of GDP in the world is radically higher than in our country, which means that new power plants are needed. But there is one problem: Chernobyl has intensified anti-nuclear sentiments outside our country so much that there are extremely few people willing to build nuclear power plants abroad.
So the deputy head of Rosatom V. Pershukhov honestly stated back in 2017: “We see that the market is shrinking, and for the sustainable development of the corporation … by 2030 we must make money not on the nuclear technology market. Everything. Otherwise it doesn’t work.” And it was at his word: Rosatom, with the help of its daughter, buys technologies for creating wind turbines from a Dutch company and plans to do just that - you have to live on something. It's a good thing: unlike thermal power plants, wind turbines kill very few people. But, as we will show below, there is a nuance.
How many did Chernobyl actually kill?
The fact is that the very fact of an accident is far from a verdict for one or another type of energy. Among those who worked at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, 31 people died (28 from radiation sickness). 75 people died from the accident at the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric power station in 2008, and from the trouble-free operation of coal and gas thermal power plants in the United States, fifty thousand people die a year. That is, in order to understand the true meaning of Chernobyl, not only the accident is important, but also its consequences.
In popular culture, their list is widely known. Take last year's series "Chernobyl": the next morning, the hospitals there were packed with irradiated people, the people who looked at the glow from the reactor, everyone (absolutely everyone) died, and so on. The film concludes that the accident killed from 4 to 93 thousand people who lived in the area subjected to radioactive fallout. A large area has been evacuated around Chernobyl. In general, there is a catastrophe of enormous proportions: the upper estimate of the number of victims is 93 thousand, roughly corresponds to the expected losses of the United States from the coronavirus.
And it is not even the highest: Greenpeace, which gave a figure of 93 thousand, believes that there could have been two hundred thousand dead. And one Russian, let's say, biologist and political activist, in his book, voiced the numbers of a million dead.
When you see such a collection of contradictory assessments, the only thing that can be done is to take and figure out who exactly and why gave each of them. It is important here and "who" (how much he is trustworthy), and "why" (how he justifies, because those who are trustworthy are also mistaken).
The estimate of four thousand was given by WHO in 2006 and applies to all victims - not only those that have already been, but also those that will still be. They argue this figure as follows: they take the number of sievert received with radioactive fallout by the entire population of Europe after Chernobyl, and consider the statistical increase in the incidence of cancer from this dose. The calculation is carried out according to the so-called “linear non-threshold hypothesis”. It states that there are no safe doses of radiation - including background radiation - and that the more the dose rises, the higher the likelihood of cancer.
This hypothesis has long been subjected to harsh criticism, because then in places with a high natural background, cancer should be more frequent than in places with a low, but in fact, it is often the other way around: in Iranian Ramsar, the background is much higher than anywhere else, and from cancer they die there less often than in neighboring Iranian cities, where water with radioactive isotopes does not come out of the ground.
However, the WHO calculations were carried out by scientists who used the methodology from peer-reviewed scientific journals. And although this hypothesis is controversial, it gives a clear estimate of the maximum possible number of victims, based on the idea that in general any dose of radiation is harmful. These are its undoubted advantages.
But all the numbers above four thousand are of a completely different kind: their sources are only Greenpeace and the above-mentioned biologist Alexander Yablokov (he published a whole book on this topic). Both Yablokov and Greenpeace have the same calculation method, and it is very simple. They take either the incidence of cancer among the population in areas with Chernobyl fallout, or even the total mortality in the years before 1986, and then compare it with the mortality after.
Already 5-10 years after the events, the incidence of cancer there increased sharply - and if you interpret the deaths as a result of Chernobyl, then the number of victims can be very, very large. Indeed, frankly speaking, the frequency of death from cancer in Russia is much higher today than before Chernobyl. Moreover, we boldly predict that it will never return to the pre-Chernobyl figures. One problem: it has nothing to do with Chernobyl.
As we have already noted, the incidence of cancer in people of the same age on our planet differs many times. The same was true for the USSR: for example, in Tajikistan, the standardized (taking into account the difference in age structure) probability of contracting lung cancer in men was four times lower than in Estonia. Moreover, in 1987 the likelihood of the same lung cancer (one of the most expected consequences of the spread of radionuclides after Chernobyl) in Belarus, which suffered from nuclear fallout, was for some reason much lower than in Estonia, where such precipitation did not reach.
We previously discussed the reasons for such strange distributions in our article about cancer: basically, the risk of cancer is controlled not even by a healthy lifestyle, but by the state of human immunity. Cancer cells arise in each of us every day and often in many. As long as a person's immunity is working, it kills cancer cells, and tumors do not arise. When the immune system fails, it is more difficult for it to kill individual cancer cells - and a tumor occurs. Our immune system, as has become clear in recent years, is dependent on the level of the hormone oxytocin, and this, in turn, depends on our mental state.
In the late eighties - early nineties, the latter in the countries of the former USSR entered a catastrophic phase. Suffice it to say that murders, suicides and so on in Russia in the nineties began to take tens of thousands more people a year. But heart attacks and strokes are a good indicator of the level of stress among the population - for many hundreds of thousands a year.The total mortality rate for 1990-1994 in the former RSFSR alone increased by 0.65 million a year, and taking into account the rest of the former Soviet Union, this figure was much higher.
Of course, the level of oxytocin in the population, whose mortality rate jumped by more than a third, and even more due to stress, could not help but fall. And this means that the likelihood of cancer could not but grow. But statistics on Russia show that it has grown not only in the zone where the Chernobyl precipitation fell, but also in Siberia and the Far East. Needless to say, the consequences of Chernobyl did not reach there.
So, mortality after the event of perestroika really increased, and the total number of premature deaths from the then "turnaround" is measured in millions. Only the reason for them is, as we usually say with irony, "in the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century." Radiation has nothing to do with it - and that is why the scientific community harshly criticized the figures of Greenpeace and Yablokov, criticizes them and will criticize them. For the same reasons, they have no chance of ever making their way into the pages of peer-reviewed scientific journals.
Dissenting opinion of a Japanese scientist and Taiwanese cobalt-60
In 2018-2020, Japanese researcher Shizuyo Sutou decided to compare the life expectancy and the likelihood of developing cancer in people who survived the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and their peers from the rest of Japan. It turned out to be somewhat unexpected that it is lower than the national one. True, this did not apply to all survivors, but only to those who received less than 0.5 gray.
Previous scientific work that showed higher mortality and higher rates of cancer in atomic bomb survivors was based on incorrect data processing. In them, residents who arrived in the city immediately after the bombing or lived on its outskirts were assumed to have a zero dose of radiation and compared the incidence of cancer and the likelihood of death in the townspeople of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and residents of the surrounding area. The problem, as Sutou points out, is that they are not: they received noticeable, albeit not too high doses.
This work surprisingly coincides with the findings of another, Taiwan incident. On this island, building materials with a high content of cobalt-60 were accidentally used in the construction of high-rise buildings, where 7, 2 thousand people lived for ten years. When the problem was revealed, they had all received very significant doses. Based on calculations using a linear non-threshold model, which WHO estimated mortality from Chernobyl, among these people the cases of cancer should have been higher than the norm.
The norm for their age and gender among Taiwanese is an estimated 114.9 cancer cases. Accordingly, taking into account the irradiation, there should have been more of them. But in practice, there were only 95 of them - clearly less than the norm. The conclusion was so scandalous that the authors of the corresponding work hid it on the fifth page of their work, and in the final part they kept silent about it and generally wrote "low doses of radiation seem to increase the risks of developing certain types of cancer in some subgroups of the population of Taiwan."
This is a scientific feat, for which, in an amicable way, it would be necessary to give a prestigious prize, perhaps even a Nobel (or Ignobel) prize. After all, not every scientist, having discovered that in people exposed to low doses of radiation, the probability of cancer falls by 17%, will be able to draw the same conclusion from this as the authors of the mentioned work.
However, in practice, among these people, 7 people died of cancer - noticeably lower than usual for Taiwanese of this age and gender group, and much lower than the linear nonthreshold model predicted. In general, of course, it is difficult to blame scientists: the conclusion "moderate doses of radiation reduce the likelihood of cancer" seriously deviates from the generally accepted, and it takes a lot of courage to make it. It is much safer to pretend that you simply "did not notice" the 17% chance of cancer, and instead write something that does not disagree with the generally accepted opinion in science.
Summarize.To date, there is no empirical evidence in humans to support a linear non-threshold model of radiation harm. The available data (both for Hiroshima and the Taiwan incident) may indicate that this model is incorrect, and low levels of radiation exposure do not increase mortality (and perhaps even lower it). If it is wrong and low radiation doses by themselves do not increase the likelihood of cancer, the number of Chernobyl victims is lower than the WHO estimates, and may not reach four thousand.
Compare oranges and apples
Let's forget the last chapter for a second and assume that there are four thousand victims of Chernobyl. How does this compare with the sacrifices from other types of energy?
A person passes about 15 kilograms of air through the lungs per day. And along with them - a large number of microparticles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers and less. Through the lungs, they enter the bloodstream, where they provoke the formation of blood clots - and these are followed by heart attacks and strokes. According to modern scientific concepts, this is the main mechanism by which energy and internal combustion engines lead people to premature death.
According to American scientists, in the United States, thermal power plants kill more than four thousand people a month, more than fifty thousand - a year, about a million - in 20 years. This means that since the time of the Chernobyl disaster, nuclear energy has killed a fraction of a percent of the number of deaths from thermal energy in the United States alone.
It is much more difficult to assess the situation around the world: in countries such as India, medical statistics are far from always good enough to correctly count the victims of smoke from the chimney. The last work on this topic came out in 2009, and it concludes that nuclear power saved 1.8 million people. If the "atomic" kilowatt-hours had not replaced some of the heat, additional emissions would have killed just so many people.
Another way of assessing the relative dangers of different energy sources is by the number of deaths per trillion kilowatt-hours they generate. The latest estimate of this kind for a nuclear power plant is less than 90 people per trillion kilowatt-hours. For coal-fired power engineering this figure is about 100,000, for gas-fired thermal power plants - 4,000.
In other words, anti-nuclear protests around the world are not just nervous and insufficiently informed people under the Greenpeace flags. These are people whose ignorance kills. Continuous lawsuits that raised the cost of nuclear power plants in the United States and knocked them out of the market, anti-nuclear sentiments after Chernobyl - all this led to the fact that the share of coal energy in 1971 and 2011 remained about 40%. Meanwhile, without an anti-nuclear movement, nuclear power plants were supposed to displace all coal: before the protests and the associated delays in construction, they gave energy trite cheaper.
According to today's data, air pollution from coal-fired power plants kills many hundreds of thousands of people every year. That is, if nuclear power plants saved a couple of million people by replacing part of coal-fired generation, they could have saved tens of millions if they had completely withdrawn coal from circulation back in the 1990s, a scenario quite likely without anti-nuclear movement.
Small benefit from anti-nuclear campaign
And one more "small" nuance. Humans emit more than 35 billion tons of CO2 into the air every year. Nature does not have time to absorb about 8 billion tons of this gas, which is why its content in the atmosphere increases. As we all know, this leads to global warming. What would happen to the warming if the nuclear industry developed without the pressure of fear generated by mass culture and reinforced by Chernobyl?
It's easy to guess. Coal energy releases more than a dozen billion tons of CO2 into the air a year. Nuclear power plants do not emit CO2 into the air at all. Replacing coal-fired power plants, they would lead to a stable decrease in the level of CO2 in the earth's air. Without the anti-nuclear campaign, judging by the growth rates of the nuclear industry in the 60s - early 70s, such a replacement would have basically ended in the 20th century. The current CO2 level in the air would be closer to 380 ppm, not 410.
Our regular readers are well aware that it is this rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide that is behind global greening - a process that has brought the amount of biomass on the planet to record highs, the highest in the last fifty thousand years. Thus, oddly enough, anti-atomic protests somewhat helped nature - this must be admitted.
But is this a sufficient excuse for the death of those millions of people who died due to the stagnation of nuclear energy? Stagnation, behind which there was nothing but fear and ignorance.