In Pursuit of Alternative Forms of Energy

While I generally appreciate your thoughtful editorials, I am deeply disturbed by the editorial "High Nuclear Hurdles," Feb. 24, claiming that nuclear power can make a greater contribution to humanity's well-being in the future, and that the federal government should continue to channel money into "safe" reactor designs.

Nuclear energy never will be a clean source of power; the wastes produced are among the most toxic known, and we have already consigned future generations with the enormous debt of having to manage nuclear-waste storage. Nuclear power generation requires massive government subsidies, and the danger involved requires a centralized bureaucracy for both operation and waste handling.

Energy research money should be channeled into the solutions that the author of the editorial thinks won't solve the world's energy needs: solar and conservation, along with clean-burning fuels such as hydrogen. Conservation includes everything from efficiency improvements in lighting and electrical appliances to energy codes in buildings, and revamped urban design criteria, which reduce the need for individual transportation. Lifestyle and social habits cannot be separated from energy and environmental issues. To think that any technology will solve the problems created by an expanding population is dangerous. Max Licher, Sedona, Ariz.

Once again no one has touched on the real challenge of nuclear power: How to neutralize atomic waste. You speak at best of the impossibility of "re-use," then we're off and running for proper waste storage. It is inconceivable that commercial and government funds have not been widely allocated - in the United States, Russia, Ukraine, Japan, and Europe - to solve this problem. This would be a proper activity to channel through the United Nations. To all of those who say that there is no solution, I say th at the solution lies somewhere back within the problem. Ruth Rosborough-Larocca, Fresno, Calif.

Your coverage of the energy scene in the Science and Technology page articles, Feb. 24, is clear and correct, but you overstate the role of solar and wind energy. At the moment there are approximately 15,000 wind turbines in California, covering some 27,000 acres. The total generation is about 1.2 percent of the total electric needs of California. The large-scale manufacture of photovoltaic devices will present some environmental problems, such as the problem of safety in the fabrication of photovoltaic devices.

The management of chemicals on the scale required to produce significant electrical power will impede this technology. Richard C. Hill, Orono, Maine Mulroney's Canada left behind

Regarding the editorial "Mulroney's Departure," Feb. 26: I must protest the interpretation of Brian Mulroney's accomplishments as Canada's prime minister. While Canada's deficit did indeed fall from 8.5 percent of the GDP in 1984 to 4.5 percent in 1990, this trend came to a halt thereafter.

Mr. Mulroney's handling of the Quebec issue also received kind words. History will question this deep reliance on Quebec nationalists for support. His ability to make decisions for the whole country was limited at best. Finally, the premier's two adventures at appeasing Quebec's demands ultimately failed because they would have emasculated English Canada. The results have been an embittered nation that is deeply divided. Canada was confident and whole when Mulroney arrived on the scene. But he departs le aving a shattered federation without direction. Gordon Mackey, Pembroke, Ontario

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