Excellent discussion, and I learned a lot. A few comments. I probably dismissed the safety concerns about radiation leakage at the Yucca site too readily, but political opposition from Nevada politicians still seems to be the crucial factor holding it up.
Nuclear reactors are getting safer, and newer ones have much smaller risks of meltdown. This seems to me to be an important reason for the United States to continue to build nuclear plants. This would speed up the rate of innovation, which would not only improve American safety, but also that in less developed countries as well since they would have access to safer reactors.
I do not tend to support the President’s proposal for the government to assume liability of the risks from nuclear reactors-that would create too much of a moral hazard. However, I do believe it makes sense to sharply cap damages, especially punitive damages, from the harm caused by reactors. I advocated this type of cap more generally in an earlier entry on this blog.
Even though the United States does not reuse its nuclear waste, a growing number of nations with nuclear weapons evidently are able to get enough plutonium. To me, this weakens the case for the ban on reusing this waste in American plants.
The widespread exaggeration of the “normal” risks of nuclear energy has not stopped the United States from relying on nuclear powered submarines and stockpiling of huge quantities of nuclear weapons, nor has it prevented many other equally democratic nations, such as Sweden and France, from making far greater use of nuclear power to generate electricity. Perhaps this fear can be significantly reduced through greater education about its safety, evidence showing this greater use in some other democracies, and the significant role of nuclear power already in the United States.