Some under-analyzed nuclear concerns
I wrote this as a response to another comment, but couldn't see how to link to the Nuclear category, so I'm posting this here as well. A few concerns I have about nuclear (I really don't think it's the way of the future) that haven't been expressed as much.
1. The costs are ridiculously high. Nuclear, once thought too cheap to meter, is now one of the most expensive types of energy, and that's even without counting the government covering massive waste repositories and cheap energy subsidies for the feedstocks of nuclear. I recently heard that somewhere in Kentucky, there are 3 entire coal plants making electricity just to refine the uranium needed in a number of eastern nuclear facilities - not very clean, even in the global warming sense (this was on Kilowatt Ours, a recent film on energy in the Southeast). Nuclear takes lots of energy to mine, refine, and process, plus all the radiation controls and all, which makes it really expensive. It's more expensive than wind, geothermal, or cogeneration biomass, and within a few years, it will be more expensive than solar too. It's a bad energy return and a bad financial investment.
2. Waste storage facilities are too exposed to terrorism. I know the plants themselves are very well secured, but I know that at least on some plants - the one I know the most about is Indian Point, which is on the Hudson River about 30 miles north of New York City - store waste in water. For the details; you can read The End of Nature by Robert F Kennedy but here's the basics: tons of this waste is stored in liquid pools in buildings 'with the structural integrity of a Wal-Mart big-box'. There's no threat of fission in an attack, but a direct hit with a 747 full of fuel would shatter the roof and evaporate the water in these pools, causing massive meltdown. The fall-out zone is a 50 mile radius, and at least with Indian Point, that zone has about 20 million people in it. What's worse, the two planes that attacked the World Trade Center flew directly over this facility on Sept. 11. Now, this is partially just lax security and bad management at a single facility, but with terrorism (of course linked with our oil addiction) on the rise, is this really a threat we want to chance?
3. It's ridiculous to expect that strategies for storing nuclear waste can successfully envision security for 10,000-100,000 years. The former is the same period of time as since the agricultural revolution, the latter since roughly the evolution of our species. It's quite likely that waste storage plans that have functioned well in the past 50 years, and may function well for the coming decades or even centuries, will have significant negative consequences further down the line.
4. Conservation lifestyles, smart urban design, local economies, energy efficiency, and renewable energy are much more effective and safe strategies. They're also of course much more fun.