I’m starting this What If thought experiment with a What Is. Specifically, what is the current breakdown of US electricity generation by source, amount, and share? Glad you asked:

_2019 US Electricity by Source.png

My immediate take-away is that nuclear energy is still doing a lot of heavy lifting and the contribution of renewables is rather minor. Now consider:

Do the math: 6,000 square miles of land plus, say, 10 football fields worth of nuclear waste scattered within the 3.8 million square miles that is the United States of America. Seems a minimal price to pay to make faster progress on the climate change mitigation front, protecting carbon-absorbing ecosystems and saving thousands of human lives in the process. Ironically, activists who advocate immediate action and economy-busting measures to avert the imminent “existential threat” of climate change are fairly unified in their opposition to nuclear power.

Something to think about.

* How I arrived at this figure: Undisputed death counts from 26 nuclear and radiation accidents: 126, then I added 4,874 deaths to include the disputed counts in other accidents to bring the total to an even 5,000. The disputed counts were: Chernobyl (UN proposed  45 total confirmed deaths from the accident as of 2008 and the World Health Organization suggested in 2006 that cancer deaths could reach 4,000); Kyshtym disaster (per a 2009 study, up to 55) Windscale fire (UK government estimates at least 33) and Fukushima (none from radiation effects, no increases yet detected in pregnancy-related conditions or cancer rates).

References and Links:

Goodkind, A. L., C. W. Tessum, et al. (2019). "Fine-scale damage estimates of particulate matter air pollution reveal opportunities for location-specific mitigation of emissions." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116(18): 8775-8780. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1816102116

“Chernobyl has become a refuge for wildlife 33 years after the nuclear accident” by Germán Orizaola/ PRI May 13, 2019

“Resilient fuels and innovative reactors could enable a resurgence of nuclear power” by Mark Fischetti/ Scientific American . July 1, 2019.