Yesterday, the NY Times had an article about US funding for 2 new nuclear plants in Georgia (the state, not the country). I am cautiously optimistic about this project, while at the same time dreading it. I have long been a supporter of nuclear energy, since the science behind radiation is much more well understood than the interactions related to climate change. However, I believe that supporters need to be clear in what nuclear energy is, and is not.
In so much as it is used to replace or prevent construction of coal burning (or probably natural gas as well) power plants, this is a good idea. However, nuclear energy is not emissions free. Concrete is associated with large quantities of CO2 emissions, and uranium mining has its own environmental drawbacks based on how it is performed. More importantly, there is no federal repository for nuclear waste. Instead it is collecting at the individual nuclear power plant sites across the US.
Regarding overall CO2 emissions, I am a fan of nuclear because it can provide low emissions baseload power. That is, they can run essentially 24/7. They are highly reliable as well, and are not intermittent (nor do they have the associated problems with intermittent). Perhaps one day, in a few decades, other alternatives might be cost effective and reliable, such as storage, but until then, we need something that can reduce baseload emissions in a (fairly) clean manner. And, I believe, that nuclear power is the best way forward…. for now.