After posting that link I became embroiled in a debate with pro-nuke blogger Red Craig, who is aware of the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and curb global warming, but reduces the issue to a choice between nuclear energy and coal.
I am going to make a disclaimer here: I am neither a scientist nor a journalist, and my posts are not as researched as articles in a scientific journal. However, the ideas and opinions I share on Urban Botany are informed by a lot of reading, both online and in print. Energy is not my specialty; in fact I am much more interested in the issues of waste and global resource depletion. It's based on this point of view that I believe that beefing up the nuclear infrastructure is not the way to salvage the climate or preserve the biosphere. Rather, it would replace one long term problem with another.
We are already feeling the effects of spewing waste from fossil fuels into the air. If we allow the nuclear power industry to build a lot more plants, they will generate a lot of radioactive waste that has to be stored on land or underground. And there is no safe, fool-proof way to do so. No one wants the nuclear waste that already exists to be stored near them (would you?), and there is no way to neutralize it.
Craig claims that clean, renewable power technologies like solar and wind can't provide enough energy "without something to back them up." I think he's probably right. The way developed countries consume energy at present can't continue. As Bill McKibben says in this Alternet article:
We need to conserve energy. That's the cheapest way to reduce carbon. Screw in the energy-saving lightbulbs, but that's just the start. You have to blow in the new insulation -- blow it in so thick that you can heat your home with a birthday candle. You have to plug in the new appliances -- not the flat-screen TV, which uses way more power than the old set, but the new water-saving front-loading washer. And once you've got it plugged in, turn the dial so that you're using cold water. The dryer? You don't need a dryer -- that's the sun's job.We shouldn't turn the planet into a nuclear wasteland so that we can maintain the Western way of life. We also can't count on magic technologies to allow us to continue our wasteful ways. Rather, we have to adjust to the reality of a fossil-fuel free future.