What do we think about nuclear power? Benjamin Cohen of The World’s Fair is not a fan. I am.
Modern nuclear power has a lot going for it. In no particular order, here’s the reasons that appeal to me.
- It’s reliable. No worrying about solar or wind availability, and it works anywhere.
- It’s safe. Modern nuclear plants designs are extraordinarily safe, and frankly even the old first-world designs are very safe. The worst accident – Three Mile Island – didn’t kill anyone. The spectre of Chernobyl haunts the public discourse, but Chernobyl is to modern nuclear power as bloodletting is to penicillin.
- It’s cheap. Not the cheapest to be sure, but relatively affordable.
- It’s environmentally friendly. The mining and construction processes release CO2, but very little per kilowatt-hour relative to fossil fuels.
- It’s environmentally friendly (2). Fuel disposal is not nearly as difficult as the anti-Yucca propagandists make it out to be. After a few hundred years most of the radioactivity is gone, and storage during that period is easy. We’re doing it now, safely and reliably on-site at the reactors now. Honestly Yucca is massive overkill, and probably unnecessary. If the French can do it, we should be ashamed that we can’t manage it.
- It’s geopolitically convenient. Tired of shipping hundreds of billions of dollars to lunatic terrorist-supporting dictatorships? Me too. But if you want electric cars, you need electricity.
Which isn’t to say I don’t like other technologies as well. Solar and wind power are great, and we ought to implement them as much as is practical. But by themselves they’re not going to cut it, and we need an alternative to oil and coal. And that pretty much leaves nuclear.
What’s more irritating to me personally is the other argument used against nuclear power in the World’s Fair interview:
A lot of what people are trying to hang on to when they embrace nukes is the opportunity to do things pretty much the way they’ve always done them: sloppily, wastefully. Nukes are the last best chance of not changing.
This isn’t pro-environment, it’s anti-human. Modern civilization requires energy, and lots of it. Sure it’s better to have the civilization while minimizing waste, but thermodynamics fundamentally determines that the chemistry and physics we use to create our modern lives will use large quantities of energy. There’s no way around it. “Changing” in this context can only mean either piddly and inconsequential savings around the periphery (CFLs, etc (which I use)), or abandonment of everything since the industrial revolution. I’m sure Rebecca Solnit would disagree, but that’s just the simple reality of electrical power. If nuclear energy is part of what lets us be environmentally sustainable without “changing”, what in the world is wrong with that?