A great opinion piece here (skip the first 4 paragraphs though…boring!) about the whole cost of nuclear energy versus fossil fuel energy. Consider this:
A 1,000-megawatt coal plant is fed by a 110-car coal train arriving every day. A nuclear reactor is replenished by a single tractor-trailer bringing new fuel rods once every 18 months. Over the course of a year, the coal plant will release 400,000 tons of sulfur and fly ash. Some of this ends up in landfills, but most escapes into the atmosphere where it kills 30,000 people annually, according to the E.P.A. Then there’s the carbon dioxide—seven millions tons annually from each plant—which is the principle cause of global warming.
By comparison, the “wastes” of nuclear power can once again be contained in a single truck. I recently watched one of these spent fuel assemblies being lifted into the receiving room at France’s nuclear reprocessing center in La Hague. It is an eerie sight—the most radioactive object in the solar system emitting double what you would have received standing at ground zero in Hiroshima. Yet a three-foot wall separated us, and the emissions didn’t even register on our badges. More than 95 percent of the spent fuel rod can be recycled. That is why France is able to store all its “waste” (from 30 years of producing 75 percent of its electricity) beneath the floor of a single room.
I’ve read more than a few articles by nuclear scientists who all agree that even the spent nuclear fuel is easily recycled (given some upfront investment in plant design), taking the half-life of the waste from 10,000 years to somewhere around 300 years. The technology to reclaim energy from this waste is also improving all the time, but the bottom line is that it is a trifle of mostly harmless waste compared with the tons (literally) of toxic waste we spew into the atmosphere every day from coal-fired plants.
This seems like a no-brainer to me. What do you think?