Uranium Fuel is a Finite Resource
Uranium is a metal that must be extracted from the earth. Unlike sun and wind, our supply of uranium is finite. We’ve already mined the most accessible sources, and at current rates of use, all cost-effective sources of uranium will be exhausted in about a century. Plutonium (which is synthesized in nuclear plants) is sometimes substituted for uranium, but it’s one of the most toxic substances on the planet, and increased use dramatically increases the risk of nuclear weapon proliferation.
Nuclear Power Plants are Uniquely Threatened by Climate Change
All nuclear plants require constant and massive amounts of water to cool their superheated cores. Besides contributing to thermal pollution of lakes, rivers, and bays, the plants simply can’t operate if their coolant water becomes too warm or is unavailable due to drought. Many nuclear plants are located at or near sea level and will be increasingly threatened by severe weather and sea level rise. (The Fukushima disaster happened when catastrophic flooding knocked out their cooling systems, resulting in a meltdown.) There have also been several instances where nuclear plants have had to shut down during heatwaves. This is absolutely a concern as our ocean and air temperatures continue to rise.
Severe Weather Events Raise Concerns
In 2011, flooding of the Missouri River enveloped the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant in Nebraska. Nearly every nuclear power plant in this country is located next to a body of water, many in tornado, earthquake, or hurricane-prone regions.
We still haven’t solved the issue of waste storage
Nuclear waste remains radioactive for millions of years. The half–life of Uranium 238 is 4.5 million years. No one has figured out how to sustainably store radioactive waste for the tens of thousands of years required for public safety.
The nuclear storage debacle at Yucca Mountain has left us with about 70 de facto unsecured, long-term nuclear waste dumps around the country, as nuclear plants are left with on-site dry cask storage and spent fuel pools, a costly and dangerous non-solution. Nuclear countries in Europe have not fared much better, despite having 60 years of experience trying to grapple with this problem.