Risk with energy from conventional and nonconventional sources

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Science  23 Feb 1979:
Vol. 203, Issue 4382, pp. 718-723
DOI: 10.1126/science.419404


Risk to human health was compared for five conventional and six nonconventional energy systems. The entire cycle for producing energy was considered, not just part. The most important conclusion drawn is that the risk to human health from nonconventional sources can be as high as, or even higher than, that of conventional sources. This result is produced only when the risk per unit energy is considered, rather than the risk per solar panel or windmill. The risk from nonconventional energy sources derives from the large amount of material and labor needed, along with their backup and storage requirements. Risk evaluation is a relatively new discipline, and therefore the results presented here can be considered only a beginning. However, society should keep relative risk in mind when evaluating present and future energy sources.