People keep praising nuclear as the way out of out climate and energy problems but I’m not convinced. So this is a quick list of well known problems, which I will expand as more come to mind.
a) Expense. The new cheap small reactors which people talk about, don’t seem to have been built yet in anything resembling commercial operational conditions. Real reactors which are under construction appear to keep going up in price. They also regularly have price blowouts, and require taxpayer subsidy.
b) Finding a location. Few people want them built near them or, if they are neutral, near cities where they are vaguely economical. If we put them in the desolate outback, hardly anyone will voluntarily go to work there, and the power loss through cables may become significant. Reactors also need water for cooling, so we are not going to put them in the outback, probably on the coast, which may significantly change coastal ecologies.
c) They seem to take a long time to build, although there are massive divergences in the figures people give (5 to 25 years!). Certainly anyone who says they can be built quickly and safely is probably being optimistic. Hinkley Point in the UK which is probably a fair comparison with anything that would be built here in Australia, is both massively over budget, and quite late.
d) Accidents may be rare but when they happen can be catastrophic. Insurance companies will not cover them, because of this unlimited risk. So taxpayers are up for even more expense, and may have little input into safety when they are built by private companies using cost cutting to make money (as they won’t be responsible for insurance).
e) Disposing of waste. No one has yet solved that problem, for all time, yet.
f) Expensive electricity. The promised price of electricity from the UK’s yet to be built reactors is far greater than that of renewables or coal now.
g) When a reactor gets old, it has to be decommissioned. This can be a very expensive and dangerous process, with large amounts of radioactive waste. It is rarely added to the cost of use, because the cost is most likely borne by taxpayers. As usual costs are socialized and profits privatized.
h) They require massive amounts of concrete which is currently a source of greenhouse gases. There are reputed to be new concretes, but I’ve no idea how good they are at supporting this kind of use.
i) Thorium reactors. Nice idea but it has apparently failed once before i Germany, and does not currently seem to be in use anywhere. So we are probably looking at 20 to 30 years before they become commercially available, even if we were doing any research into them – which we don’t seem to be.