An enduring mystery, to me anyway: Why do conservatives (regardless of partisan affiliation it seems) just love, love, love nuclear power? I mean, this is the icon of big government. An industry that literally could not exist without original and ongoing welfare on a scale that actual humans have never benefited from: The Manhattan Project was, proportionally speaking, multiples more expensive than the Apollo Program. Some 20% of US industry in the early 1940s was tasked with developing the first nuclear weapons, from which the modern industry still derives it's chromosomes.
Imagine, for a moment, if we spent 1 out of 5 dollars alleviating poverty in this country -- roughly $200 billion today. The mind does kind of boggle, even to a lefty like me.
And I don't understand why even some leftish people are warming to nuclear, when you see a chart like this (via The Oil Drum):
Look at that chart. Military uses of uranium weren't matched by civilian commercial uses until the mid-1970s. It's certainly fair to say that at least half of the nuclear industry's history has been exclusively military, that is: the production of weapons with sufficient power and number to irrevocably destroy human civilization.
Look, if you had said to me in the mid 1970s that we needed to begin a crash program to get off of fossil fuels, I'd have supported the French program, more or less: massive investments in state-run, standardized nuclear facilities. But this isn't the 1970s, and technology is already eclipsing nuclear technology. Efficiency is cheaper than coal. Wind is cheaper than nuclear. Solar is catching up quickly -- by the mid-2010s, it should easily be cheaper than nuclear.
And if we wanted to make the market fair, we'd ask the nuclear industry to do two things it simply cannot afford: take care of it's own waste, and insure its own reactors. Currently, the state does both these jobs for the nuclear industry, but refuses to provide similar subsidies for the renewable industry. But adding these costs to already-expensive nuclear power would basically price the industry out of the market (obviously, not something that worries me too much. I would, as a compromise, accept state insurance of renewable power.)
Or, to rephrase: nuclear power is something that cannot survive without massive government interference in the market, ad infinitum.
And yet, nuclear power is a kind of totem to conservatives on energy issues -- largely, I suspect, because it annoys the left. Talk about global warming, and some idiot is likely to say to you "oh, then I guess you hippies shouldn't have protested all those nuclear plants, huh?" Well, yeah. Between two bad options (coal and nuclear) on the one hand, and an actual good option (efficiency, renewables) on the other, we would like humans to choose rationally.
This is an issue I keep coming back to. I'm genuinely confused as to why nuclear has any backers in North America anymore.