Follow Europe's Lead on Nuclear Waste
As mentioned in "An Undisposable Controversy" (Feb. 3), the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada is the right place for an interim facility to store the United States' spent nuclear fuel. Research is increasingly convincing that Yucca Mountain will be suitable for a permanent disposal repository, and therefore the fuel will likely be going there regardless.
Its appeal as a permanent facility also makes it appropriate for temporary storage. It is remote, has an arid climate, already exists as a federal site, and has a long history of nuclear activities.
Antinuclear groups maintain it would be preferable to leave the spent fuel at 110 nuclear plants around the US, but this is no solution. Neither is shuttering the plants - they provide more than 20 percent of US electricity and account for nearly 90 percent of CO2 reductions from electricity production since 1973.
Nations such as France and Sweden are storing nuclear waste in central facilities away from populated areas. Storage in one facility instead of at scores of reactor sites doesn't lessen the amount of radioactivity. But it does greatly enhance safety and security, and it decreases the cost to ratepayers.
Your article reports that some utilities running out of on-site storage space and faced with other obstacles are working to establish privately run storage sites in Utah and Wyoming. Considering the years of delay, it's little wonder they're losing patience.
Our national interest, however, lies in establishing an interim facility at Yucca Mountain until a long-term facility is complete. The House and Senate each have passed bills with the same objective: to move ahead on removing spent fuel from nuclear plant sites and storing the waste in the Nevada desert. It is time for the Clinton administration to acknowledge the logic of this decision.
Leo M. Bobek
Director, WPI Reactor
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
When the barrel runs dry
Your editorial "Future Car" (Jan.21) regarding so-called greenhouse gases is irrelevant. Growth of auto usage in developing countries is irrelevant. Even accelerated development of electric or hybrid cars cannot significantly alter what is soon to come.
Worldwide oil production is likely to peak and begin to decline within the next 15 years. More and more people will be chasing fewer and fewer barrels of oil. Usage will decline, as will CO2 emissions. It won't matter how many government programs or taxes are initiated today - the limits of that natural resource will solve the problem for us. Current oil reserves can only be pumped so fast, and we've already been failing for years to discover new sources as fast as we use reserves.
As soon as supply fails to keep up with demand, prices will begin to escalate beyond the reach of most of the poor and middle classes. The world will have to come to grips with a much greater problem than the over-hyped monster of global warming: how to replace the natural resource that has had the greatest influence on technological growth in this century, and which underpins almost every sector of every industrialized nation.
Unreasonable stance on Iraq
It was not the best of news to read in "The News in Brief" (Feb. 3) that a survey indicated many Americans support the proposed airstrikes against Iraq. After watching TV reports about "patience wearing thin" on Iraq, one might conclude that there is little reasoning done in Washington anymore. After all the wars that have been fought, we haven't yet learned that you can't change people's ideas with weapons.
It is devoutly wished that President Clinton and the UN could muster as much enthusiasm for enforcing promises made at Dayton and bringing Bosnian war criminals to justice. Couldn't we in America stop flexing our superpower, missile muscles, and try some real thinking instead?
Shirley R. Hanning
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