Nuclear power: pros and cons

It was encouraging to read the well-balanced series ``Nuclear power: losing steam?'' Nov. 2-4, reminding us of some of the unresolved problems facing nuclear power today. Stockholders have investments to protect, ratepayers have costs to worry about, and everyone should be concerned with the serious environmental problems posed by nuclear power. It is sad that the nuclear industry is still stubbornly trying to rebuild public support for nuclear power. This is in spite of recent Harris polls showing public opposition to nuclear power to be near 80 percent.

Instead of squandering $7 million on pro-nuclear advertising, the Council for Energy Awareness should be spending that money researching the radioactive waste storage problem.

Incredibly, after more than 20 years of commercial nuclear power, neither the industry nor the government has decided what to do with the radioactive waste that must be isolated from the environment for 250,000 years.

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Thank you for helping to bring the public out of its deep sleep regarding nuclear power issues. As the writer of the series said, ``For the average voter, nuclear power is not a hot issue.'' It should be hot, as it is going to haunt us for generations to come. Sally Heuer New Berlin, Wis.

In focusing on the industry and its critics, the series of articles on nuclear energy's future overlooks a critical voice in the debate - that of the professional scientific and engineering community. It is facile to suggest, as nuclear power critics often do, that the opinion of professionals are coincident with the industry because of self-interest. In addition to the high level of integrity in the professional community, surveys show that scientists and engineers outside of the nuclear discipline overwhelmingly continue to support the need for the expanded use of nuclear power.

Too often the future of nuclear energy is presented as a battle between the ``public interest'' and ``the industry.''

Yet, energy experts are in widespread agreement on the importance of nuclear energy as a source of vitally needed electricity that can mitigate the serious problems of atmospheric pollution, strategic and economic concerns of rising oil imports, and the need to sustain the reliability of our electricity supply system. Theodore Besmann Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Your series on nuclear power failed to mention an important reason for continued interest in this power source. In contrast to coal and oil, nuclear power does not contribute to either of two serious environmental problems - the ``greenhouse effect'' of carbon dioxide and acid rain. The contribution of power plant use of fossil fuels to these problems, as compared with other sources such as automobiles, is still under study. But there is no question that the contribution is a major and, importantly, a continuing one as a normal part of power generation. Environmental damage from nuclear power plants, on the other hand, results only from badly mismanaged accidents.

Admittedly, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl were dramatic; the environmental and human damage of the latter was severe. But those responsible for nuclear power policy must balance these accidents against the flooded cities and climate changes from the ``greenhouse effect'' and the dead forests and lakes caused by acid rain.

Pollution from nuclear power generation can be reduced or eliminated by a better plant design and better personnel training. Pollution from fossil fuel combustion is inevitable and continuous. Joe H. Clark Woodcliff Lake, N.J.

`Official' hunger In response to Melvin Maddocks's column ``Can hunger be hunger if it is not `official'?'' Nov. 4: Because a problem exists does not prohibit legitimate questions as to its extent and the efficacy of the means being used to solve it. Moral blackmail by advocacy groups seeking more money to solve their particular societal deficiency has reached epidemic proportions.

The mere existence of a tin cup does not prove that its holder is entitled to a contribution.

Surely, in the name of simple common sense, government officials as well as members of the public should be able to question the validity of demands of increased funding without being subject to derisive epithets that they lack ``sensitivity'' and ``compassion'' for the poor. John R. Carter Earlysville, Va.

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