These days, nuclear energy is frequently spoken of as being in the midst of a ‘rebirth’ or renaissance, largely because of high oil prices and concerns about climate change. Those concerned about greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions do need to give the technology some credit as a mechanism for producing large amounts of power with relatively limited climatic effects. That is no reason to ignore the problems with the technology – from water use to nuclear waste to long lead times – but it does compel the formulation of a considered response.
One possibility I came up with would be to require firms building new nuclear plants to build geological sequestration facilities for the nuclear waste the plant will produce over its lifetime before the plant can begin operation. That would probably further delay the deployment of the technology, but it would avoid boondoggles like the ongoing conflicts about Yucca Mountain. It would also be a step away from the “act now and worry about the consequences later” mentality that has infected so much of energy and environmental policy.
The response to such a demand, on the part of industry, might offer a better glimpse into what the true costs of nuclear power really are.