In a post over at The Weather Channel's Climate Blog, Dr. Heidi Cullen, the channel's climate expert, is examining public acceptance of nuclear energy:
With nuclear power, it all boils down to waste disposal. Understandably, many Americans are nervous about waste disposal, with only 28 percent believing that radioactive waste could be safely stored out into the distant future. Interestingly, the survey found that almost two-thirds of the roughly 1200 surveyed, believe reprocessing spent nuclear fuel is worth pursuing. Reprocessing spent fuel, which is done in France, reduces the life span of most toxic wastes from 100,000 years to 1,000 years.It's hard to find anything to quibble with here, though the industry contends that the used nuclear fuel currently being stored on-site at the nation's nuclear power plants is being cared for safely and securely.
Because of the growing national concern about global warming, new energy policies will force us to factor in the cost both to the economy and the environment. Personally, I kind of like the notion of applying the Hippocratic Oath of ‘first do no harm' to our energy choices. The question is, can we get to a point where doing no harm to the environment doesn't do a lot of harm to our pocketbooks. That will ultimately be the test of good energy policy.
Which is why my response to the back end of her post has to be that only a balanced energy portfolio can hope to achieve what she seems to be seeking. Over-reliance on any one source would be a mistake not only on grounds of cost, but also on grounds of energy security. Try as we might, there is no one perfect energy source that provides abundant and affordable electricity without some sort of environmental trade-offs. What we need to understand is that while there are tradeoffs, there are also ways to intelligently manage them.