To clean the lens, you could try using a dvd-lens-cleaning disc. They have little brushes which clean the lens. You can get them at your local computer store or online. Some people like them, some think they are bad for the laser. I have used them in the past with no problems. It may help you. Some people also use a q-tip with some isopropyl alcohol, and reach into the drive(or disassemble it, but trying to reach may be easier) and lightly brush the laser lens.
Yes, you should be able to burn to the disc, unless it is of such poor quality that the drive cannot read it. Disc quality can vary within a spindle of same-MID discs, but unless they are complete garbage, you should get something to write, even if it is a coaster. So that would point more towards a dirty lens problem, or some driver/config problem, not a firmware problem. The contradiction is if the lens were dirty, you'd have trouble with all phases of reading and writing to any disc. That is why using discs which are known to be of consistently good quality is important. You/we are still not sure if you just got a batch of very bad discs. have you tried burning one of these discs in another system?
Try cleaning the lens first. Try lending a discs to a friend to do a test burn for you. If that fails, can you post a Nero Infotool output. It's in the toolkit. Run the tool, then click the diskette icon in the infotool toolbar and save as a .txt file, making sure all 8 boxes are checked. Attach to post using the 'manage attachments' button in the 'go advanced' reply window.