One of the alternatives for the burning of fossil fuels is to generate heat and electricity via nuclear energy. It was one of the most promising, so nothing can go wrong, right?
(picture replaced on 2016-09-28 to show the actual Fukushima Daichi plant, not Chiba Oil Refinery on fire)
The sources of nuclear power--and with it, nuclear catastrophe--are radioactive elements. Strontium-90. Plutonium-239. Iodine-131. Cobalt-60. Caesium-137. Elements that, if left alone in a Life After People, can make the environment toxic for thousands if not millions of years.
So, in this alternate scenario, no one brought up nuclear energy. Instead, what the engineers conjured up is ion energy, energy coming from the fourth element of the universe--plasma, supercharged gas particles.
Will an energy system based on plasmatic rather than nuclear energy avert the issues of radiation burns/poisoning? Will there still be any dangerous radiation at all, in the event of a major accident? While we're at it, which gas would be the best to ionize into the desired energy?