Way back in August 1988 on Usenet I wrote:
Waste heat does not contribute significantly to global warming. It is all
(if it’s really happening – we probably won’t be sure until its too late)
caused by the greenhouse effect. I agree with Brad – burning fossil fuels
could well be more harmful to the environment than nuclear power.
The evidence I’ve seen since then has convinced me that it is almost certain that greenhouse gases are causing warming and that burning fossil fuels is more harmful than nuclear power.
Fran Barlow kicked off a discussion on nuclear power in the open thread with this comment, concluding:
Frankly, I believe we do have to factor in very substantial amounts of nuclear energy if we are to have any realistic hope of avoiding a human catastrophe. This course is not without its risks, but then, this is true of any system configuration we can adopt. What seems inevitbale though is that if we become stuck in old arguments about what is natural and what is not, about big centralised technological fixes and small local ones, we may authort a future in which no substantial part of our vision is capable of realisation, and that, I take it, would be self-evidently paradoxical. If we leftists continue to block with the enemies of nuclear power, then the big winners will not be wind and solar thermal, but dirty coal and dirty liquid fuels and the losers will be all of working humanity.
We ought, I believe to propose an immediate plan of replacing the 1000 worst coal fired power stations with the best equivalent nuclear replacements. This one line item could cut the output of CO2 from coal fired electricity by about 72% and likewise cut emission of toxic particulate by whatever the antecedents were producing in the fuel cycle. A whole brace of coal miners would lose their jobs, but their lives and health and those even of their children would be extended. That latter is surely something over which every leftist could feel a warm inner glow, particularly since the bulk of these deaths would be avoided in places where the said miners are poorest.
Barry Brook argues that fourth generation reactors will eliminate most of the drawbacks of current nuclear technology:
This is the technology of the future. And it solves a lot of other problems that are currently associated with nuclear power. One of the biggest is, we’ve generated all of this nuclear waste in the form of spent fuel that we have to manage for 100,000 years. Well the rather neat thing about the new technology, which is called generation four nuclear power is that it takes that waste and uses that as fuel.