Nuclear-reactor problems

In the letters column, March 2, a writer from Aiken, S.C., responding to the Opinion page article "A Bad Bargain on Savannah River Nuke Site," Dec. 9, extols the efforts of the Department of Energy (DOE) and of Westinghouse to restart K-reactor at the DOE's Savannah River site.

Whether or not stockpiles of tritium are necessary in this post-cold-war world, the author has clearly misrepresented the safety and status of K-reactor. In December 1991 this reactor had to be shut down because of a tritium leak from a malfunctioning heat exchanger.

As a result of this leak, tritium levels in the Savannah River were 2 to 3 times higher than drinking-water standards.

The author correctly states that many Aiken residents are supportive of the DOE, Westinghouse, and the continued production of tritium. In fact, the reactor, had it been successfully restarted in December, would have been "on line" only until this autumn, at which time it would have been shut down in order to connect it to a new cooling tower.

However, as a former Aiken resident myself, I can vouch for the fact that there are also many who are skeptical of the ability of the DOE and Westinghouse to safely run this aging reactor and are convinced that many safety issues have been ignored. Christopher Dunn, Downers Grove, Ill.

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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