The folks at Next Big Future did an analysis of deaths per unit energy produced back in 2008, which was republished recently due to the media’s focus on the Japan reactor. (There is also a many eyes visualization of the data.) World wide Coal kills 4000 times as many people each year as Nuclear. In the US things are a bit better than world wide, and it’s only killing about 1/2 as many as Oil, but it is still a big killer.
I think people are reacting to this safety issue much like they do flying vs. driving. Flying on an airplane is far safer than driving, but if it goes wrong a lot of people all die in one place at one time. The real killer takes us in ones and twos every day in every corner of this country.
(Image courtesy of Seth Godin)