The question is do modern reactors fall far enough into the safe corner to warrant widespread deployment?
Indeed. Each exposed human being must be able to decide. As long-lived (/'hot') waste may be a matter of concern for future generations we have a problem.
There are at least a few major differences with a nuke reactor:
- Jetliners rarely kill non-passengers and everyone can chose to avoid them (be a non-passenger)
- They kill locally (in space and time) and 'patently' while every bystander, and even anti-nuke and distant people, in space and time, may be more than slightly annoyed by a nuclear reactor, and may be unable to know that they are at risk (exposed to ionizing radiation). Even without any disaster, because part of the waste is highly dangerous!
- Jetliners are very difficult to replace in their mission. Civilian nuke, used for gridpower generation, is not.
As with cars
Same answers, adaptation (as for non-passengers victims, who now can only dismiss the risk by leaving cities) left as an exercise for the reader
people regard the risk/benefit ratio to be worth the deaths
That's the whole point.
the risks/rewards lie on a continuum and that despite it being distasteful to admit some number of deaths are acceptable
Indeed. BTW a jetliner killed my brother in 1998 (flight SR-111, he was a passenger), I had to give a thought about those matters.
If you compare the number of people likely to be killed by reactor malfunctions to the number of people saved by some consequence of the reactors existing does it compare favourably?
Answering is difficult, for example (again!) because we have to take waste into account. Moreover one cannot neglect lies published by some people advocating it, which is not precisely a good factor in my book.