Japan’s recent troubles have given the opponents of nuclear energy some new ammunition. Using the failure of a fission reactor after a 9.0 quake and subsequent 100-foot tidal wave as evidence that nuclear power plants are unsafe is just a bit silly, in my opinion. But the thing that drives me batty about that argument is that it ignores the negative effect on the environment and the overall well-being of society if we do get rid of all the nuke plants:
You have to replace them with other sources of energy, all of which are much harder on ol’ Gaia than Andy the Atom. Coal plants are really dirty, and coal is a finite resource. Also, we’d need to build a bunch of new coal plants to make up the lost megawatts from the nuke plants, and with NIMBYs everywhere hitting the streets and writing their Senator Congressman angry letters every time someone wants to build a new anything energy-related nearby, that would be a tough feat to accomplish.
Green power is a non-starter when it comes to providing all the electricity we need. Right now, it’s supplemental energy–just a little over 10% of our juice comes from solar, water, or wind power. It’s also unpredictable, and we simply don’t have the ability to store the excess power for wide use. And wind power is not only a very low-yield way to make kilowatts, but also saddled with almost the same NIMBY opposition as power plants. A lot of the people who want renewable energy also don’t want a giant spinning rotor within sight of their property, because how ugly and ZOMG teh birds.
In the end, it’s simple math. Our advanced technological society needs a steady and reliable supply of megawatts to function, and the only way to meet that need cleanly is with the help of nuclear fission plants. Anyone who is in favor of shutting down all the reactors ASAP either can’t do math, or has a different sort of agenda–one that’s opposed to technology and industrialism. Until we get atomic fusion licked, nuclear fission is the only game in town for energy that’s clean, infinitely renewable, not derived from fossil fuels, and suitable for our vast energy needs.