Nuclear power is attempting a revival worldwide. After the melt-down of the Chernobyl Reactor #4 in Ukraine in 1986, the public perception that Nuclear Power “is safe” was all but destroyed. But the public has a short memory. The triple melt-down at the Fukushima power station in Japan in 2011 has only slowed this trend slightly.
That is because there is a new group of advocates that believe that Nuclear Power is the only thing that will “save us” from Global Warming, as carbon fuels are phased out. This is not true, of course, but it is a position being put forward in the media. Some of these new reactor designs reduce the problems of weapons-grade material being produced and sold illicitly, as well as increase the fundamental stability of the designs. But there are a number of other Nuclear technologies that do not use nuclear fission processes. Some of these could even be considered “safe nuclear” technologies.
The simplest of these technologies is Radio-Luminescence. Until the 1970’s, a self-glowing paint with small amounts of Radium in it was available at hardware stores. It was used to make watch dials glow in the dark. This material could be painted on photovoltaic panels (solar cells) to produce electricity 24 hours a day for 15 years!
Besides that, small nuclear batteries, called Beta-Voltaic Cells, have been demonstrated. With proper research and development, these could be developed into a useful energy source.
In spite of the public debunking back in 1989, advances in Cold Fusion continue to be demonstrated and developed under the new name of LENR, or low energy nuclear reactions.
Even Hot Fusion by Electrostatic Containment, patented and demonstrated in 1967 by Philo T. Farnsworth, remains a promising but neglected technology.
There are also a number of newer types of nuclear reactors. This general class of technology remains the least safe of all the nuclear power methods, but must be mentioned here because it is a form of energy available from Nature. The safest of these is the Uranium Nitride Reactors.
Advances in fission reactors are not covered here. The environmental dangers associated with the mining, refining, and clean-up of Uranium, Thorium, and Radium remain a cost to be amortized into the final energy product. If these technologies ever have to compete in the market, without government subsidies, based on their real cost, it is doubtful they can compete with other alternatives.
The following link takes you to an article that presents a comprehensive overview of the developing nuclear power options as seen by the industry.