Like Mark Kleiman, I believe that the spectre of global warming is so serious that, in addition to curbing our energy usage, nuclear power should not be off the table. What's the good of worrying about how to keep the nuclear waste safe for hundreds of thousands of years if, at the rate we're pumping out greenhouse gasses and pollutants, there won't be much of a civilization left in a few thousand years?
Having said that, I also don't like the idea of energy cowboys, like the guys who ran Enron, blazing in lobbyists in a tow and building plants on the cheap. Nathan Newman raises a good point regarding the recent flurry of lobbying for government subsidies of nuclear plants:
But these proposed subsidies are chicken feed compared to the 1957 Price-Anderson Act, which limits the insurance liability of nuclear reactors in case of a meltdown. Yep, if there's a catastrophic accident, the taxpayer is stuck with the bill.
My view is that nuclear might be worth exploring, but if private industry thinks it's too dangerous to open a reactor without government-subsidized insurance, I'm sure as hell not going to bet on it. The day the nuclear industry agrees that Price-Anderson is not needed is the day I'll believe the technology is safe enough.
Amen. Or, we could just overcome our 'merican revulsion of gub'mint to realize that this is one technology that needs to be so closely regulated, it really might as well be nationalized. It is the only way we can make sure long-run safety concerns are above the profit motive. In addition, by having only one maker of nuclear power plants, you encourage uniformity, predictability, and economies of scale, especially in waste disposal. All of the above are good things when it comes to something as dangerous as nuclear power.