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April 6, 1984

Energy Risk Assessment

JAMA. 1984;251(13):1759. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03340370083042

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In our affluent technological age, we can afford to base our decisions more on consideration of public health and safety than on brutal economics. In a reversal of the usual cost-benefit equation, Inhaber calculates the cost in lives and disability of generating equivalent amounts of electricity by alternative methods. The comparative risks of conventional fuels (coal, oil, natural gas, and uranium) have been studied by many, including the American Medical Association Council on Scientific Affairs. Inhaber extends the analysis to the "renewable" sources so often invoked by the opponents of nuclear power: wind, water, methanol, ocean thermal gradients, and sun. He attempts to include all phases of production: the acquisition of materials and construction; operation and maintenance; emissions; transportation; energy storage and backup in the case of solar and wind power; and waste disposal and decommissioning in the case of nuclear power. Occupational and public risks are calculated both separately