The great thing about the dry cask storage is that the casks do include shielding and you can stand right next to them, give them a hug, and be just fine. There is no possible way for any animal or insect near the cask to pick up any contamination and transport it. The waste at Hanford is not contained in storage casks plus there is contamination in the dirt. This contamination is what the animals pick up and transport.
Spent fuel is actually quite stable and does not readily disperse in the environment. Combine that with the insane engineering that is incorporated into the casks and there is little danger of contamination spreading from the spent fuel.
You then talk nonsense about your magical electric grid. I say it is nonsense because any grid that has that kind of storage would be magical. There is no provision for large scale storage of excess electricity on our grid. Now, we have the technology to build storage, but that would increase the cost well above your quoted 9 cents. In addition, you would have to increase your solar capacity to charge the storage. Typical figures indicate that if you wanted a solar grid you would have to install 4-5x the generation that is required (ie. you want 1000 MW you need to install 4-5000 MW capacity). Again, there goes your 9 cent figure.
Just for an idea of the cost of storage, look at the battery system in Fairbanks Alaska. It is 2000 sq meters, 1300 tonnes, 400 MW, and will provide enough power for 12,000 homes for 7 minutes. All for the low cost of $35 million.
This use of fertilizers to aid plant growth is the big problem. Fertilizers come from fossil fuels. Converting fossil fuels to fertilizers to be used to grow plants to be converted to fuel is a lot less efficient use of energy, land, water, etc. than just using the fossil fuels as fuel directly
Aside: this is one of the reasons I like electric vehicles. We have the technology to put them on the road today and then we only have a few large, stationary fossil fuel "engines" to focus on instead of millions of small mobile ones.
There is a wonderful article that has been written on the inefficiency of biofuels pdf warning
Somehow though, I think these kinds of changes would be hard to push through. The best that I can hope for is that copyrights terms will be limited to 20 years max and then after that will be allowed for free release for "non-incidental use" but that any commercial use would still be subject to royalty payments. While that would still suck, it would at least be an improvement.
There is no way we can morally demand countries like North Korea and Iran not develop nuclear weapons unless we do all in our power to eliminate all nuclear weapons.
When it comes to countries with nuclear weapons I imagine an old West saloon scene after a gun fight has broken out. Bullets have been fired, many of the customers have pulled their guns and all is still as everyone is looking around the room waiting to see who is going to fire the next shot. In the calm, people are beginning to realize that everyone drawing their guns is a bad idea and will only result in chaos. Those that have their guns drawn are trying to keep everyone else from drawing and just adding to the tension. Since those with guns drawn don't completely trust each other they won't put their own guns down, but as signs of good faith they are starting to remove bullets from their cylinder.
Right now, this is about where the world is at. Those with nuclear weapons realize that it really isn't a good idea to have every country pointing nuclear weapons at each other. If we can convince those without nuclear weapons to not develop then we can work on reducing our own inventory. I agree that it seems hypocritical for the US to have nuclear weapons and tell another country that it can't, but I think it can be agreed that the fewer nuclear weapons that exist, the better off everyone will be.
Religion is a lot closer related to the social sciences and as such isn't tested the same way that we would test a hypothesis in chemistry of physics. The real test of religion is, do my beliefs make me a better, happier person? If so, then the test comes back positive then I can say that the religion is good for me. Even if at the end of my life I were to discover that my religion was completely false and that there was no God I would still be glad that I practiced religion. Having a set of ethics that I subscribe to, encouraging me to treat others kindly, to be a good parent, to be honest, to work hard, complete with a support group has made me a better person.
Religion doesn't have to be a repressive organization. If the religion is trying to get you to adhere to certain standards out of fear of some punishment then the religion can't possibly make your life better. However, if the religion develops in you love for your fellow humans and all creatures and makes you want to be better out of love, then it is a good thing.
Sorry for such a long response but I get tired of the non-religious classifying religion based on the few loud-mouths that seem to crop up on TV or the internet. Religion doesn't have to make a mockery of proper science since both are addressing different questions. And yes, I am an actively religious scientist.
As nations increase their standard of living the demand for energy will only increase. Nuclear is the best option we have to provide clean, affordable energy.
For us as consumers it is better to save energy. It costs less and the money is spent improving our homes and our lives directly.
I agree that we should not be wasteful in our energy usage, but why should I have to give up some comforts that I enjoy just because we are too afraid of the unknown (nuclear)? I enjoy having a home that gives my kids room to run. It is nice to be able to run a dishwasher to do my dishes for me. It is really nice to have a clothes dryer for all of the laundry that inevitably comes with having young kids.
Nuclear can supply us with inexpensive, clean energy. Everyone talks about the extensive nuclear subsidies, but the subsidies are nothing compared with what renewables get. And it is nothing compared to the indirect subsidies that coal and natural gas yet by not having to deal with their waste stream. The very fact that nuclear plants are able to be reasonably competitive in price (current low natural gas prices aside) is absolutely amazing considering that nuclear plants are paying a "tax" to cover the cost of waste disposal. In addition nuke plants are required to maintain a decommissioning fund to cover the cost of cleanup when the plant shuts down.
Compare that to coal, gas, and renewable sources. Coal and gas emit tons of pollution freely. There are abandon wind and solar farms where the owners just walked away leaving their crap to pollute the land. Yet these costs have never been added into the subsidy calculation.
If we want cheap, affordable, clean power then nuclear is the only way to go. Unfortunately the public is largely ignorant about the realities of nuclear and instead has been fed a steady diet of Hollywood and environmentalist propaganda that over hypes the terror potential and completely misses the boat on even the most basic technical points.
We also have a Congress and NRC that includes a bunch of ignorant louses that also fail to grasp a basic understanding of the way a nuclear plant works or the actual effects of radiation. The result is insane regulations that cause plants to spend millions and millions of dollars on safety equipment to protect from 1-in-a-million type scenarios. They are able to push through endless regulations but can't manage to assess and promote new technologies in reactor design and waste management to deal with the real problems that do currently exist.
The science and technology is there to make nuclear a great asset. Unfortunately we are stuck with ignorant politicians and public that are driven by smarmy propaganda and hype.
Contrast this now with waste from commercial power plants. Waste from commercial plants is in a solid form and almost all of it is contained in zirconium rods (steels and other materials have been used to fabricate fuel rods, but these are not common and are no longer in use). The UO2 fuel form is quite stable, just look at Pena Blanca in Mexico, it has large deposits of uranium oxide exposed to the elements and yet it is still there after millions of years. The waste is actually one of the points that people should be arguing in favor of using nuclear energy. The waste is extremely regulated and so the nuclear plant operators have to make sure that they contain all of their waste. The waste form is stable, and despite all of the politicizing, we can contain waste for the duration of its hazardous life. How many other industries have such stringent controls on their waste streams and have their hazardous byproducts become less hazardous with time?
As some of these issues have arisen the question of the viability of vitrification has been raised. However, they are so far along in this plant that it is nearly inconceivable that they would scrap the project and start again with a different technology.