The Future of Nuclear Power

The opinion-page column ``American Opinion on Nuclear Power,'' Jan. 4, correctly identifies some misperceptions about nuclear energy. Although nonelectric energy use has declined nearly 20 percent since 1973, electricity use has increased 55 percent, and this trend seems likely to continue. The easy success in conservation of nonelectric energy is no excuse for failure to beef up the nation's electric-generating capacity to accommodate the inexorable growth in demand. Renewables won't contribute much to electrical production, but their contribution will also be needed. Natural gas and oil should be reserved for heating and vehicle fuel.

Not only is demand increasing, but much of the existing capacity is worn out, inefficient, or environmentally unsatisfactory and should be replaced by nonpolluting nuclear plants or advanced-technology coal plants.

R. M. Campbell, Cohasset, Mass.

The article contains the unsubstantiated assumption that our energy future demands the use of more nuclear power. This is doubtful, considering that even after 40 years of heavy government promotion and subsidy, nuclear energy still makes up only around 5 percent of world energy supplies. Far more realistic is an energy future based on improved efficiency and the use of renewable resources such as sunlight, wind, and living plants. The author apparently does not understand why nuclear power has been ``successful'' in some countries and not in others. The relative openness of political systems is a primary reason. France and Japan traditionally have formulated their energy policy by centralized government fiat. In contrast, the US has offered a greater degree of public participation.

The economic competition nuclear has had to face in countries such as the US also led to the abandonment of nuclear power as a new generating option. Such economic litmus tests have only recently been undertaken in other countries. Time and time again nuclear power has been found to be far more costly than alternatives.

Furthermore the nuclear programs in France and Japan are nowhere near as healthy as the author implies. In France, widespread opposition to nuclear waste dumps has forced that country into a one-year moratorium to address the growing public outcry. In Japan, public opposition has made it nearly impossible to site nuclear power plants in all but two of the country's 47 prefectures. Both countries are seeing their nuclear consensus crumble.

Nicholas Lenssen, Washington, Worldwatch Institute

Chickens vs. sheep In my opinion, Danziger chose the wrong animal for his cartoon ``The 102nd Congress Faces the Gulf Crisis,'' Jan. 7.

For weeks now, I have had a strong image that won't go away of a legislature of sheep, representing a nation of sheep, blindly and thoughtlessly following a mildly demented shepherd into a sandy wasteland where there can be no victory, only death, destruction, and despair.

Donald J. Clark, Scarborough, Maine

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