In the midst of a still struggling and fragile global economy, Germany has announced that it will shut down seven nuclear plants by the end of the year–which means that Germans will be left to run their factories, heat their homes, and power their economy with 10% less electrical generating capacity. Nine more plants will be shut down over the next decade and tens of billions of dollars in investment will be lost.

The grounds for this move, and similar proposals in Switzerland, Italy, and other countries, is safety. As the Swiss energy minister put it, “Fukushima showed that the risk of nuclear power is too high.”

In fact, Fukushima showed just the opposite. How’s that? Well for starters, ask yourself what the death toll was at Fukushima. 100? 200? 10? Not true. Try zero.

To think rationally about nuclear safety, you must identify the whole context. As the late, great energy thinker Petr Beckmann argued three decades ago in his contrarian classic “The Health Hazards of NOT Going Nuclear,” every means of generating power has dangers and risks, but nuclear power “is far safer than any other form of large-scale energy conversion yet invented.”

To date, there have been devised only five practical means of producing large-scale, affordable, reliable energy: coal, natural gas, oil, hydroelectric, and nuclear. (Although widely-hyped and frequently subsidized, solar and wind power — which generate energy from highly diffuse and intermittent sources — have failed for forty years to deliver.) Whether you’re concerned about a dangerous accident or harmful emissions, a nuclear power plant is the safest way to generate power.

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