The retirement today of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth is a welcome development for people who live downwind of the plant. But decades, maybe even centuries from now their descendants will still need to monitor its precarious legacy.

That’s because the United States still has no long-term storage plan for spent fuel from its half-century enchantment with nuclear energy. Funding for the proposed Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada has been halted, and no other sites are currently under consideration.

For the foreseeable future, then, radioactive materials produced in southeastern Massachusetts will stay in southeastern Massachusetts, in specially designed stainless steel canisters. Holtec International, which is awaiting Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval to purchase Pilgrim from Entergy and is responsible for the plant’s decommissioning, said the canisters have a life expectancy of hundreds of years.

Spent fuel, by the way, has a half-life of many thousands of years.

It’s an all-too familiar story, and one that humans in general and Americans in particular seem not to find a lesson in.

Focused on short-term benefits, we fail to give due attention to long-term planning, infuse our plans with a heavy dose of wishful thinking or worse: omit from our calculations inconvenient facts. We leave it to our children and our children’s children to deal with the fallout, sometimes literally, of our decisions.

As the Midwest is besieged by epic tornadoes and floods, the administration in Washington continues to downplay and even deny the role of fossil fuel emissions in climate change. The New York Times reported this week that the National Climate Assessment, a scientific analysis of the state of the planet updated every four or so years, will henceforth not include worst-case scenario projections that could tend to cast our present reliance on oil and gas in a negative light.

Proponents of nuclear power have long tried to position it as clean energy because it is not carbon-based, conveniently glossing over a whole different problem, the long-term disposal of radioactive residue. Faced with the certainty of rising sea levels, how long will Plymouth remain a safe place to store these materials?

In the search for safer forms of energy, there is a now a rush to embrace wind power. We urgently need to find alternatives, and wind holds much promise as a reliable, renewable source.

There are legitimate concerns, however, about the potential impacts on birds, insects, fish and other sea life. In deference to future generations, let’s take a long, hard, scientific look before we leap and make plans that will make our grandchildren proud.