I’m not being rude, as the vast majority of my life I was anti-nuclear out of sheer ignorance as well! There are 4 other reasons people are anti-nuclear, but from personal experience I this first one is the most powerful! As the Scientific American article says:
1. Ignorance: This simple reason remains remarkably pervasive. I am not trying to sound preachy or elitist here but reading two or three books would greatly benefit people who have a gut reaction against nuclear energy. The whole set of beliefs about any kind of radiation in any proportion being harmful, about nuclear plants releasing large amounts of radiation (when in reality they release fractions of what everyone naturally gets from the environment), about nuclear waste being a hideously convoluted and insoluble problem (the problem is largely political, not technical) can be dispelled by reading some basic books on radiation and nuclear energy. The most important revelation in this context is how, in our daily lives, we face risks that are hundreds of times greater than those from nuclear energy (transportation, air pollution etc.) without being nonplussed.In the half century during which almost 500 nuclear power plants have been steadily humming and providing energy to millions, there have been only two serious accidents – Chernobyl and Fukushima – one of which was a truly rare event and the other was entirely preventable. The number of deaths from these two accidents are a small fraction of the number from almost every other energy source, not to mention from indoor and outdoor pollution arising from chemical and fossil fuel sources. In addition coal-fired plants emit much more radioactivity than any nuclear power plant. The small casualty rate from even the two worst nuclear accidents in history attests to the generally outstanding record of nuclear safety all over the world and in the US in particular. The large-scale adoption of nuclear energy in the US has been thwarted more by political inertia and gut fears rather than by a sound assessment of the costs and benefits. The high costs are mostly capital and have stemmed from unrealistic standards and layers of bureaucracy. If you typically think of problems like waste reprocessing or disposal that on the surface seem like insurmountable technical difficulties, delving deeper will usually reveal that the real issues are political and social. Nobody thinks that waste disposal and making nuclear plants failsafe are trivial issues, but deeper investigation almost always reveals that the situation is much better than most people think and that the principal opposition has been human, not scientific.There’s several objective books that presents a balanced view of the topic. As a starting point I would recommend Richard Rhodes’s article in Foreign Affairs and his book Nuclear Renewal which talks about the extensive and safe deployment of nuclear energy by countries like France. Samuel Glasstone’s timeless classic Sourcebook on Atomic Energy is still excellent on basics, so is Bernard Cohen’s book. Gwyneth Cravens’s very informative “Power to Save the World” is particularly noteworthy since Cravens was vociferously against nuclear power before she educated herself and found herself in favor of it; it’s a remarkable example of how someone can change their mind in the face of evidence. Another informal, breezy and excellent treatment is Scott Heaberlin’s A Case for Nuclear-Generated Electricity: (Or Why I Think Nuclear Power Is Cool and Why It Is Important That You Think So Too). For those who are ok with a slightly heavier dose of science, I would strongly recommend David Bodansky’s Nuclear Energy. In addition there’s some very promising new technologies on the horizon in the form of advanced new-generation reactor designs and new thorium-based fuel cycles. These developments are geared toward increasing safety (both passive safety and proliferation resistance) and efficiency and reducing cost. Liquid fluoride thorium reactors are especially noteworthy in this regard and Richard Martin’s “Superfuel” does a very good job of explaining their function and advantages. The main obstacle to the testing and use of these designs is again political rather than scientific.