There are great potential gains and great potential costs with nuclear power....
Nevertheless it is possible that nuclear fission should be considered as a transition fuel
My bold. I agree with the general statement in that there are clearly potential benefits as well as potential costs. And that nuclear should be considered. This is what I have stated many times. As I pointed out a few days ago I "used to be" an advocate for nuclear. Part of the reason that I am now adamantly opposed to nuclear is from the years I spent on TheOilDrum reading and participating in very high level technical discussions on energy technology and risk benefit issues. While I do not claim to be highly technical in that I am not a PhD level physicist or engineer I was a practicing engineer for a long time and I do have a lot of experience in practical real world applied risk analysis (so I do have expert level credentials in that area). I was a systems level type of professional who was expected to understand and take into account variables from a wide range of fields (not all scientific as we also needed to understand political issues and human nature).
So back to the fundamental reason I am opposed to nuclear. It is NOT that I do not recognize that it has potential (more the advanced and yet undeployed generations vice the current versions) but I professionally cannot escape considering the risks as well. Without going into excruciating detail I oppose nuclear because to me the risks far outweigh the possible gain. Intense advocates of nuclear power almost never will even discuss the risks and this is one reason I fight with them so much. They do not have a balanced approach and often seem to seek to hide from inconvieniant facts.
There is no question that the existing nuclear power structure is inherently dangerous. Chernobyl, Fukashima, Three-Mile Island, nuclear waste storage as examples of this danger. Accidents happen. Cleaning up nuclear accidents is monstrously difficult. Chernobyl, 25 years later, is still going to cost tens of millions more and will likely need work for the rest of this century. New studies just out indicate significant adverse effects of the radiation on the ecosystem down to the microbe level. Fukashima is still not under full control and we have no idea what it will eventually cost or what the total damage will be. It could still get away from us and get worse. Cleanup will take at least 40 years if nothing further bad goes wrong which is not certain. In the next 40 years there will almost certainly be at least one and maybe two more accidents with this generation of technology to add to the above burden of costs. Waste storage is a subject so well known to have huge controversy I don't feel a need to go into it other than to say it is a cost requirement which will last hundreds of years.
When we look at the EROEI numbers for nuclear from cradle to grave and consider the above issues it points to a huge problem in determining the worth of nuclear power. We actually are completely incapable of calculating an EROEI for the existing nuclear infrastructure because we still have no idea what the costs will be. By the time you add in the costs of cleaning up Chernobly, Fukashima, the next accidents to come, and the storage issue - plus its potential problems out several hundred years, it is highly possible that the eventual EROEI for the type of deployed nuclear we have now will be below 1. In other words we will have been better off never having built any of them in the first place. And the future would be much safer.
There can be no disagreement that we are currently in a declining EROEI situation which constrains tightly our flexibility to use resources to deal with problems while at the same time adjusting to a rapidly growing population, degrading infrastructure, harder to get and scarcer mineral resources, rising carbon emissions, and so on. The financial system is way out of balance and heading in a negative direction due to that declining EROEI and rising requirements of growth and population. And then we have the big gorilla named AGW sticking his head up which will overwhelm any and all other factors.
It is almost impossible at this point to be able to allocate the funds and resources required to deal with the clean up and shut down of the current nuclear infrastructure - a hard requirement. The buildout of a fully renewable power infrastructure for the world is also likely impossible due to our inability to find the wealth, resources and political will required. We have almost no choice but to spend the wealth and resources required for the basic infrastructure needed by the 2+ billion people we are going to add to the worlds population by 2050. We have to allocate significant wealth and resources to maintaining the infrastructure for the 7 billion people we have now. Global politics and resource conflicts make the global system less efficient I think we all will agree and they are going to get much, much worse over the next few decades. AGW is going to get much, much worse over the next few decades. Water supplies, top soil, arable land, ocean acidification, deforesting. The list goes on and on and does not stop and just gets worse over time. This is what being way over the carrying capacity of the Earth means. It is a pure example of being unsustainable.
It is clear that we are out of time and huge bottlenecks are approaching. How in the above environment are you going to be able to find the resources, wealth and political will to develop, build and install a new generation of nuclear power generation facilities? Such a process would take at least the same number of decades as the proposed buildout of the renewable power infrastructure and much of the same wealth and resources. It is highly unlikely that you can do both at the same time.
It is highly unlikely that the wealth, resources, and political will exist to manage this transition. And the risk of attempting it is HUGE. The reason I answer in the negative is that the risk far outweighs the gain so we dare not attempt to solve our problem that way. It is off the table as an option.
The core problem to solve is raising the chances of human survival as high as possible. If we do this then all the other things we love become more likely to also be possible in the future (like our love of the structure of civilization - I am not sure I share that love but I am trying to look out for you). We can consciously choose to give up layers of civilizational complexity and reduce our resource consumption, carbon emissions, population and lots of other things and manage the downward transition still, but not for much longer if we keep delaying. Remember the really valuable developments of human culture are not in ANY WAY delivered by industrial civilization and one could make a good argument that industrial civilization degrades those cultural accomplishments. So the value of our very complex industrial civilization is way over rated.
I advocate for the path that reason indicates is the best path for our survival and the eventual achievement of our human potential.