In response to what looks like an increasingly big mess at the Fukushima Daiishi plant, Gino throws his lot in with the hippies, Barry wants us to do the math, and Yglesias wants to defend nuclear power but doesn't want to be the "pro-nuclear guy".
Actually, I think all of this points to one thing.
The difference between nuclear power and coal is this: nuclear power has very infrequent, but very real and very scary negative externalities. Coal has negative externalities that are less scary, but that are a sure--and constant--thing. The main reason that coal costs so much less than nuclear is that the real, full cost of fossil fuel consumption is not actually born by the producers.
There needs to be a carbon tax.
We can't nuke our way off fossil fuels. But we can level the playing field for nuclear and other renewable resources by bringing the price of fossil fuel-derived energy in line with its actual cost.
Prices change behavior, which is why I sit in an apartment that is rarely heated above 65 degrees in the winter. If my power bill was half the price, I'd be sitting here in shorts and a T-shirt instead of jeans and a sweater.