Nuclear vs Renewables

At the end of 2021 after COP26 in Glasgow it was clear that the current efforts to mitigate climate change (the new name for global warming) were largely ineffective. As a result the world was looking at temperature changes in excess of 1.5°C which was the minimum that we could get away with and not suffer serious disruption. So more drastic action is needed.

In steps the nuclear power industry with the promise of a new generation of reactors which will be safer and cheaper. Governments tended to like this approach for several reasons: 1) there's a big bang for the buck - a handful of large stations can move a substantial amount of electricity generation off fossil fuels in tow relatively short timescale of two decades or so; 2) the money is concentrated in a few hands and in a few projects which makes it easier to account for and manage (hopefully) compared to hundreds or thousands of smaller scale wind farms and 3) it fits well with government thinking where big and glamourous is better.

Being a distributed technology by it's very nature, a network of wind turbines and batteries does not have a single thing a politician can point their finger at and take credit for. That makes it a hard sell as far as getting publicity and backing is concerned, even though it's inherently cheaper, scalable and more reliable - you can upgrade your network as new technology comes along.

What's needed is something in between. Humans are simply inept when it comes to managing nuclear power. We simply don't have the mindset, institutions or capability to reliably manage a technology that has such long term consequences, either in terms of pollution if there is an accident at a power station or in the storage of the waste that the stations generate. However at the same time it's crazy to throw away a technology that does have very long term advantages, particularly when you consider that it's just a stepping stone to running fusion reactors - which after decades of investment have yet to deliver.