If forced to decide between living in a world powered by natural gas or a world powered by nuclear energy, which would you choose?
Seems a little like trying to decide whether to chop off an arm or a leg.
Evacuees of Fukushima or residents of San Luis Obispo (a coastal Californian county where a nuclear power plant sits near poorly understood earthquake faults) may opt for natural gas. Then again, residents of nearby Contra Costa County, Calif. (where the air is poisoned by natural-gas-burning power plants), or of Pavilion, Wyo. (where the water was poisoned by natural gas fracking), may prefer nuclear.
Leave it to NASA scientist-turned-climate activist James Hansen to bring a little clarity. He crunched the numbers to determine which of the two options is less deadly to humanity. The result isn't even close: Despite the horrific threats posed by nuclear fission, Hansen and NASA colleague Pushker Kharecha found nuclear power to be far safer than natural gas.
From their paper in the journal Environmental Science and Technology: