Via Brad Plumer, this might be the most honest, good-faith argument about nuclear power I’ve read in the last, oh, year or so. You can read Max Schulz’s pro-nuclear argument here, and then read the anti-nuclear side by Bruce Smith and Arjun Makhijani.

No surprise, I come down on the anti-nuclear side myself, but at least Schulz doesn’t simply ignore or refuse to acknowledge the real risks of nuclear power (waste, proliferation, costs). And in his reply at the bottom of Smith and Makhijani’s piece, he makes a reasonable argument that Smith and Makhijani are soft-pedaling the costs associated with wind’s intermittency.

But cost is where the nuclear argument always hits the shoals and starts taking on water. Smith and Makhijani:

At first blush, these facts would seem to support the promoters of nuclear energy. But a shortage of low-or-zero-CO2 sources of energy is not the problem we face in confronting global warming. The scarce commodity is money. What will give the biggest bang for the global warming buck? A related question: What other problems may be created in the process of reducing CO2 emissions? [emphasis mine]

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Schulz’s reply is, to my eyes, so weak it’s an indictment all by itself:

… observant readers will note that we use different figures. What gives? As with many points, determining these costs is open to interpretation.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Uh, OK. Thanks for that. Smith and Makhijani use pro-nuclear studies in their article which still quote a higher price for nuclear electricity than is currently available from wind. So you get all the hassles of dealing with radioactive waste, the permanent (if manageable) danger of a reactor failure, if spread globally the inevitable problem of nuclear technology going to countries we don’t like, and you get to pay more to do it.

And with wind turbines, you kill a small fraction of the number of birds killed every year by American cats.

Somehow, the first option is preferred by almost all policymakers, and the second one is seen as a desirable-but-not-feasible scenario for the future.