Those lives were spared, researchers say, because nuclear power spared the earth’s atmosphere 64 gigatons of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions. That’s a lot of poison. What’s more, they argue, an additional 80 to 240 gigatons and another 420 million deaths could be prevented by around 2050 if we replace some of our fossil fuels with nuclear power over time.
There’s a big difference between the estimated 1.8 million from the last 40 years and 420 million in the next 40 years. Some of that is attributable to the world’s growing population. But some is because the world is industrializing in places like China, where fossil-fuel pollution is a major problem. As the graph above indicates, estimated rates of annual lives saved by nuclear power has grown steadily for decades.