The Nuclear Needs of the United States

In the article "A Bad Bargain on Savannah River Nuke Site," Dec. 9, the author states that residents around the Department of Energy's Savannah River Site (SRS) have made a Faustian bargain with the devil, selling their souls in exchange for the economic development the site represents. He also asserts that the plant's K Reactor should not be restarted for tritium production. As one of those local residents, I beg to differ on both counts.

I'm not sure what makes the author an expert on the local people of Aiken County, but I am very familiar with the debate over whether the upgraded K Reactor, built 38 years ago to meet our nuclear arsenal's tritium needs, is needed.

While world peace, at least on the surface, seems near, we still live in a sometimes hostile world. I, for one, am not quite ready for unilateral disarmament. I don't suspect many other Americans are either. That doesn't mean we don't need to scale back our nuclear deterrent to meet changing conditions. We need to do that, and we are. But as we negotiate, we must bargain from a position of strength. Discarding a ready source of tritium would be a reckless gamble. It would severely weaken our position in these negotiations.

The Department of Energy and its contractor, Westinghouse, have worked very hard over the past three years to upgrade the K Reactor - and those entrusted to operate it. It's been a slow, expensive, and cautious process.

As a local resident familiar with many of the people involved, I know the care that has gone into restart. SRS technicians are taking the first tentative steps to bring the reactor into production.

Critics are quick to contend that the K Reactor is only a temporary solution to our tritium requirements. They're right.

However, a better source - the New Production Reactor - is at least a decade away. We've got to get there from here. J. Michael Hosang, Aiken, S.C. Chairman, Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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