The debate over nuclear power just goes around in circles, and it makes me tired. I have my personal biases just like the next guy, but when I read the defenses put forth by its proponents, my eyes start to glaze over. For me, there is one issue that supersedes all others and renders them moot. When someone tells me that nuclear power is "clean," my hand balls up into a fist. It is not clean just because it does not place noxious chemicals in the air.
It is indeed "dirty"—we are just putting the pollutant it produces in storage containers. Tons upon tons of the most dangerous substance I know of has been and is continuing to be produced, and it lasts thousands upon thousands of years. This is not an exaggeration; it's the simple truth (and if you don't believe this, stop reading).
I have heard two arguments in rebuttal. The first one goes something like this: "Don't worry, someday the scientists will figure out how to convert this stuff and reuse it and/or render it inert." Maybe so. I'm not an engineer, and I don't have a crystal ball, but I think that's just plain irresponsible. With something as dangerous as nuclear waste, you figure out how this will be accomplished before you start making the stuff because, well ... what if it turns out you're wrong?
OK, I remember seeing an article or two claiming that such a technology already exists, at least "on paper." Again, maybe so. I'm not qualified to have an opinion on whether the scientific explanation they put forth is sound or not. But if so, we should be shoveling money into it and, again, stop producing the stuff unless and until we have the process in place.
The second thing I hear is equally shortsighted: "Don't worry, we'll keep it all in big, thick cement containers tucked away in safe places." Really? For thousands upon thousands of years? Am I just a sappy old sentimentalist for caring about the people who are going to be here long after I'm gone? You don't need a crystal ball to know that over the span of these thousands of years, records will be lost, mistakes will be made in container maintenance and the storage sites will undergo dramatic physical changes because that's how Mother Nature works. People will die.
So go ahead and make your arguments. I'll concede that everything you say is correct, but so what? They're all trumped by this single issue.
On second thought, I won't concede everything. Another thing that knots up my shorts is when I'm told that wind and solar won't do it because the sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow. Well that's what batteries are for. Duh.