On first glance, the BP oil spill seems like a good reason to push for more nuclear power, says Mark Gimein at Slate's The Big Money. Nuclear doesn't pollute the air, and it certainly doesn't "turn our beaches black." But, when you look deeper, the real lesson from the BP disaster is that "things go wrong, in unexpected ways, at unexpected times, to catastrophic effect," no matter how many levels of "failsafe" mechanisms we install. Which is why this disaster is a compelling argument against nuclear power. Imagine if Deepwater Horizon had been a nuclear reactor. Here, an excerpt:
"The near meltdown at the Three Mile Island plant did a lot to sour Americans on nuclear power, but Three Mile Island was a disaster that didn't happen. The safety systems and protocols worked. The plant shut down.
"On the Deepwater Horizon well, the safety systems didn’t work....
"For all the attractions of nuclear, there remains the looming question of what happens if things go wrong. Nuclear power suffers from what you can think of as a paradox of catastrophe: The worst-case scenario is so terrible that we are actually less able to quantify it and consider its ramifications than we are with other potential disasters. We implicitly recognize this in the laws governing the nuclear industry, which cap the industry’s liability for an accident at $10 billion.
"Everybody understands that in the event of a real nuclear catastrophe, that would be a drop in the bucket."