Major changes need to be made to our power generation system. Coal and oil need to be completely abandoned. Gone, done, over. But what to replace it with? We can phase over to solar, wind, waves, etc. but getting there directly is gonna take awhile. We need to convert about 15 years ago.
The fastest way to get major cleanish power is nuclear. Sure, there's toxic waste, but at least that can be kept localized. That is to say that the waste stays in one place instead of blowing all over the place.
The big question is how to do it. How do you get safe nuclear power and how do you get it to go away so we don't stop there but push on to even cleaner supplies? I think most of our problems can be solved by making sure that the government runs all the plants. I'll explain why.
1) Safety in design.
Talk to the French. Talk to the Japanese. Talk to the US Navy.
The French are already mostly switched over to nuclear power. Their plants are pretty safe, too.
The Japanese are heavily into nuclear power, too. But that's due more to being an island with few natural resources and the fact that it's really hard to bluff people who've been nuked about the dangers of radiation.
The US Navy has had a nuclear program for several decades with nearly no accidents. no significant unclassified accidents anyway. In a pinch they can back a battleship up to a small city and keep the lights on. They wanted me to be a nuclear engineer on a sub. I'm just not a military fella.
These three can help design the safest nuclear plant possible. The Navy can tell us how to operate and secure them the best.
2) Safety in operation.
Corporations are all about profit. Get the most money for the least work. Most any American nuclear power plant you go into shows signs of cut corners. By keeping them in the hands of the government and/or military they're gonna be working to keep them safe and charge the public only what they need to.
I know that many government organizations are slackers and screw ups. FEMA used to be one of the pride and joys of the federal government until Mad King George cut their funding and stuffed them into Homeland Security. The point being that when it's important they can do it right. And while we'll want the Army securing the plants we'll want the Navy inspecting them.
3) Moving on.
Part of the reason... strike that, most of why it's proving hard to move away from a petrol based economy is because there's huge profits in gas and oil. If we move to nuclear then the big money will be there and moving away from that will be the challenge. But by keeping the profits low there'll be less resistance to switching to renewables.
I know that a lot of people think that privatized everything is better. Competition and market forces and all that. In some cases it is, but in many cases it's not.
CNN was a good news agency before Fox and MSNBC came along. Now they sacrifice news for ratings. Competition hurt our ability to get informed. Meanwhile the BBC, a government funded news agency, remains one of the best in the world.
Hiring soldiers for Iraq is proving to cost us more by at least a factor of 10 above using the Army or Marines.
My office is full of boxes from when the Government Printing Office privatized their warehouse. Truckloads of boxes just started showing up here one day.
The base is full of handymen who were brought on as contractors after the old handymen were fired. They don't know where stuff is or the history behind the various problems and they cost more money.
Our health care system is one of the most technically advanced but functionally worst in any developed country. We're also about the only one who doesn't provide universal healthcare.
In fact, most things that have been privatized have wound up costing more and being worse than when run by the government.