When operated by human beings, nuclear fission is a bad technology. It is the equivalent of handing a credit card to someone with expensive tastes and no self-control. While it could theoretically be used responsibly – if the people in charge can resist their more harmful temptations – in practice, it is likely that will not happen.
Regardless of who runs nuclear power plants, they will skimp on maintenance, cut corners, cover up problems, and keep running the things after they have ceased to be reasonably safe. There will be lots of accidents the public never knows about, and companies and governments will lie about the seriousness of all accidents serious enough to attract outside scrutiny.
At the same time, humanity is running a calamitous risk by continuing to rely on fossil fuels. If nuclear power reduces how much coal, oil, and gas are burned, it may play an important role in keeping the amount of climate change humanity experiences to a moderate level.
Human institutions may be ill-equipped to run nuclear plants safely, but human beings are perhaps even less willing to accept restrictions on their use of energy. There should be no mistake that humanity is gambling on the future of the species, by continuing to burn fossil fuels with abandon. Compared to that, the risks of nuclear power look more moderate.
It’s a monster of a technology – ugly and menacing – but it may be one of the less bad options for humanity going forward. Of course, that reflects just how troubled the future of the human race might be.