A comment that I had put on a Greenpeace weblog Here is a modified and editted version of my comment.
Chernobyl was bad and not a good thing. But not making improved nuclear plants is a mistake. The alternative for the past 30 years has been to make more coal plants and use more oil.
Coal kills thousands every year from mining accidents and pollution. It increases global warming. Hundreds of thousands die in the fight over oil. So the long term 4000 and current 50 death toll from Chernobyl is small. New technology can make nuclear plants that are cleaner and are designed to not fail with a meltdown.
Thorium plants are needed to be fast tracked to start helping with the problem. Existing nuclear plants need to be expanded and some more built. Thorium will also need some time to ramp up, we will also have to make due with some carbon sequestering a portfolio of solutions.
Consider the big picture and all of the risks involved. There are plenty of risks in the status quo. The status quo is coal and oil. What are the real risks of a new generation of nuclear power ? What are the risks of using more coal?
Solar and wind are great but they are not ramping up fast enough. The world will need 2 terawatts more power generation over the next 20 years. Will the US, China, India and Europe go into recessions by allowing power shortages? Will those who could profit in the billions by making that power not choose to do so?
Get real. To feed the machines of commerce we all drive cars every year. Every year 1.2 million people die worldwide in car accidents. Almost 50,000 per year in the USA. The real costs of keeping the world economy rolling barely register. Millions die every year and the world does not blink.
Let us make practical and pragmatic choices. Since the economy will keep rolling and the new power generation will be made. We will keep moving around in some kind of vehicles. There will be 8 billion + people and the reality is that they will want not just a current US lifestyle but one that is even better. Let us make the best of it.