I corresponded with Ms. Corbella in late December of 2009, and given her generally right-of-centre views in print, was surprised to find she had strong disagreements with the right-wing on nuclear power:
Nuclear power is, in my view, utterly illogical if you look at costs alone. It is not carbon free, when you consider the carbon needed for building the plant, mining the uranium, shipping it etc. Factor in storage and it's a disaster. Add in the potential for disaster and it's even more of a disaster.
A source Ms. Corbella's disapproval arises from a book by Dr. Helen Caldicott, "Nuclear Power is Not the Answer" which Ms. Corbella suggested I read. I promised to do so, and if I disagreed, back it up with more research than one can find at books and web sites paid for by the nuclear industry. (Tricky: most information about nuclear power is either from the industry or its harshest critics. Disinterested analyses are hard to come by.)
I believe that I found such material, at least to my satisfaction; the entire matter is so disputed that agreement is forever unlikely.
So for me, the only issue that is new and undecided is whether nuclear energy drastically reduces carbon output per kilowatt-hour generated. This has been taken for granted for some time - the reaction itself produces no carbon - but was challenged by Dr. Caldicott's book.
Dr. Caldicott's book, for the "energy balance" issue, credits that "most of the information" in that chapter comes from the Storm and Smith report. (I couldn't find any information in that chapter that did not come from the Storm/Smith paper.) I found her book irritating in that she quickly deviates away from offering numbers that can be added up in terms of "per kilogram of uranium" and compared to the energy output of the kilogram of uranium itself, to numbers that simply look big and scary but can't be added up. And if they had been added up properly, it wouldn't have helped: she somehow omitted the energy you get out of that kilogram of uranium.
With typical nuclear plants at current efficiencies (better ones are to come) you get about 167 GJ of delivered electric energy out of a kilogram of uranium: over 52 thousand kilowatt-hours, enough for five people for a year. Your upkeep as a member of industrial civilization entails burning 10 tonnes of coal per year, or 200 grams of uranium. (The conversions between joules and kilowatt-hours and all the rest, I have summarized in a page on Energy and Power).
That number can be disputed up or down my several percent, but is mostly conservative. Canada's "CANDU" nuclear plants are all more efficient than that, and newer ones more so.
By comparison, when I summed up of the figures that Dr. Caldicott didn't, I got about 8 GJ/kg of uranium for mining the ore and making enriched fuel from it, if you have rich ores in soft rock. The worst-case, with low-grade ore in hard rock, still only 15 GJ/kg.
But these, alas, are the numbers that even laymen can understand the critique of. Storm and Smith calculated the energy-costs of construction and deconstruction by a model. They took the cost of the work and multiplied by a nation-wide figure for the average energy-consumption per dollar of GDP.
Even I know that nuclear plants are not ridiculously expensive because of the energy that goes into making their steel and concrete and piping; they are expensive because of the human time put into them. Far more design time and checks of designs. Far, far, far more inspection and checking of every weld and wire; far more testing and certification.
It's like assuming that those $400 hammers and $600 toilet seats for which the Pentagon is infamous must have had twenty times the oil and coal expended on their manufacture than ordinary hammers and toilet seats.
The most-independent critique of these calculations - so academically comprehensive as to dwarf Storm and Smith's own effort - can be found on the web here - at an archive for the University of Sydney. It in turn cites similar work by the University of Melbourne.
Anti-nuclear activists unsurprisingly treat all the industry's own studies as propaganda, but that charge is harder to level at University professors.
If you will concede that the University of Melbourne physics department could take a balanced view of the issue, then you may give credence to their many "facts for the public"-style articles at their web site, NuclearInfo.net
They offered critiques of Storm and Smith, and published two rounds, no less, of rebuttal and counter-rebuttal with those authors. The discussion was mostly kept non-technical enough for laymen to follow. Storm & Smith's rebuttals did not convince me of their side.
Vattenfall built the Forsmark nuclear plant, at 3090 MW (3.1 GW) about half the size of Canada's Bruce station, in the 1970's and it produces about a fifth of Sweden's power. As part of an approval process in 1999, they had to submit an "EPD", "Environmental Product Declaration" you will find cited and linked to from the "NuclearInfo.net" page above, and just about every other source that disputes the Storm and Smith study. Unlike the latter, Vattenfall had to actually add up all the inputs - the tonnes of concrete times the energy-costs of concrete, the same with steel and all the other raw materials; the energy-costs of manufacturing raw materials into plant parts, and the construction effort.
The concluded with numbers that are mostly a small fraction of those of Storm and Smith. Most importantly, they added up 8 PJ to to decommission a plant, vs Storm and Smith estimating 80-240 PJ.
It's pretty hard for me to believe that the actual construction effort comes to over 200 crew-years for such a large crew. It's much easier to believe the numbers are in the single-digits for "PJ", perhaps as low as the two PJ that Vattenfall avered (four crew-years!), on top of the 6 PJ energy costs of their plant parts, for a total of 8 PJ.
So, for my summing-up of Dr. Caldicott's numbers, I did use the huge numbers of "petajoules" in the Storm/Smith paper for construction and demolition of the plant - but I used their lower-end estimates because even those are nearly ten times the numbers that practically everybody else agrees upon. And I got about 21 GJ/kg, for a total under 30 GJ/kg of input-energy to the nuclear industry lifecycle, when 167 GJ/kg comes out of it. Even using their numbers, the nuclear industry generates nearly six times as much energy as it consumes. Even if all were carbon-intensive, it emits one-sixth the carbon of a coal plant, one-third the carbon of a gas plant.
Another Wikipedia page one might go to for an overall summary of the issue is the page you get if you search on either "Emission Factor" or "Emission Intensity". It gives the carbon emissions of every kind of power generation. And the intensity for nuclear is given as 65 g/kWh - that is, about 6.5% of the 1000 g/kWh that is the rule-of-thumb for coal-fired power, barely 10% of that for gas. This is a very little higher than the 2%-5% cited by the pages of actual nuclear companies, and it comes from the same University of Sydney study I link to above.
This very low figure for nuclear emissions is undisputed on the "talk" page for the article.
So, I suspect that anti-nuclear activists who must argue their points in open forums, rather than their own books and private web pages, are backing away from the thesis that Dr. Caldicott embraced; it all appears to come from the one paper, and that paper has proven very hard to defend against other studies.