How many people died because of Three Mile Island? None.
There is no question that the events in Japan are ongoing and serious. That said, I believe a lot of people are being misled by much of the news coverage.
Read the rest here...[Meteorological Musings]
I think people fear nuclear power so much because they don't understand it. Events such as this don't help, especially with sensationalized media. Saying stuff like "there is cause for concern, not for alarm" [NPR] doesn't get viewers, listeners, or readers like cries of Chernobyl II!* Politicians saying that we should temporarily halt the development of nuclear plants... ....The Fukushima reactors in question are almost 40 years old. I'm pretty sure that development has progressed since then to make them better and safer.
I'll take a nuclear power plant next door to me over a coal fired plant any day. And I'll wager that coal shortens more live than them too.
* Note - Chernobyl has around 60 confirmed casulties though they figure that eventually around 4,000 will pass from cancers caused by it. Automobiles BTW kill around 40,000 a year in the US.