It's interesting to watch the different arguments from pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear forces. The pro-nuclear forces point out that building all new power plants as 100% renewable in the near future is not practical but a mixture of renewables and nuclear is. They go on to point out the relatively high rate of deaths from coal power (such as direct deaths in coal mines, and indirect deaths from air pollution) per unit of power generated, compared to the few deaths from nuclear. They may even then point out that petroleum power in general has a poor safety record compared to nuclear worldwide
The anti-nuclear crowd, meanwhile, either focuses on a tiny number of accidents like Chernobyl and a couple of problematic, but non-lethal, old reactor designs (like the 1970 pebble-bed reactor mentioned by the parent), as if costly problems are unique to the nuclear industry. After all, why pay any attention to accidents, deaths or cost overruns in fossil-fuel power when we can simply make every single new power plant a renewable power plant? Never mind that not every place in the world has plentiful sunlight or wind. They then move on to the only argument about nuclear that is actually fair--that it often costs more than renewables.
Nuclear faces political and popular opposition, often due to outdated opinions based on a few unsafe reactors from the 60s and 70s (did you know that Fukushima reactor 1 was built before Chernobyl? Or that there is another nearby reactor
run by a more safety-conscious company that survived the tsunami?). This opposition and regulatory uncertainty increases costs, plus reactors are traditionally built with the "craftsman" approach where every reactor is large, somewhat unique, and built on-site. It seems to me that costs could be reduced greatly if nuclear reactors were mass-produced like trucks (small reactors seem to work great for nuclear subs!) and distributed around the country from factories, and if they used passive failsafes to make uncontrolled meltdowns "impossible" so that outer containment chambers could be less costly.
But the public opposition is no small barrier to overcome. Remember how a Tesla car makes nationwide news whenever a single battery pack is damaged and catches fire, even though there are 150,000 vehicle fires reported every year in the U.S.
? You can expect the same thing with small modular reactors--barring some terrible disaster, all sorts of problems with petroleum power plants will be scarcely noticed, while a single minor nuclear incident will make nationwide headlines. Surely this makes potential nuclear investors nervous.