Nuclear waste gets a bad rap

Joe Sheridan's June 1 letter, regarding your May 18 editorial "Energy 105," claims that because of nuclear waste, only a complete idiot would expand the use of nuclear power.

The idiocy associated with nuclear waste is the property of those who fear it. Unfortunately, thisfearhas become a pervasive part the American psyche, and is possibly the biggest hoax that has ever been perpetrated on a large body of people.

The fact thatnuclear waste lasts for hundreds of thousands of years or that it can be deadly if you swallow it or wallow in it does not mean that you could really ever do that.The public is surrounded by hundreds of substances that are deadly: We simply avoid them.Nuclear wastes are some of the easiest to avoid - in fact,a member of the general public could not come in contact with them if he set out to do so. That was true when we first started generating them, it is true now, and it willlikely be true 100,000years from now.

As a nuclear safety analyst, I have been baffled for decadesover how we let this unwarranted fear run rampant through the country. Its time we were re-educated.It would be tragic in today's energy crisis if we gave up such a viable energy source simply because we were ignorant of the truly minuscule risk of its wastes.

Bryce Johnson Saratoga, Calif.

Change coming in South Africa?

What a grim portrait of the Alexandra Township outside of Johannesburg Nicole Itano paints in her April 25 article "South Africa mends safety net for elderly"! It's hard to believe that things could have gotten worse with freedom than they were during the bad old days of apartheid!

During the late fifties and early sixties, I lived in Pretoria and got to know many African journalists and political leaders, whom I would go to Alexandra to interview.The streets were seas of mud, withpotholes which nearly swallowedthe car, and the homes were the shacks described by your correspondent. One doesn't think of people freezing in Africa, but the 6,500 ft. elevation of Johannesburg makes it very cold at times.

Let's hope that the new revitalization project will work wonders.These people have worked long andhard to achieve independence, and they deserve more than freedom has been able to give them thus far.

Edmund A. Bojarski Rusk, Texas

Bee more accurate!

A few corrections would help John Gould's otherwise charming May 18 essay on beekeeping. There are two genders, not three, in the honey bee colony. In addition to the males (drones), the colony has a reproductive female (queen), and many females which usually do not lay eggs (worker bees). Colonies may have several queens when preparing to swarm (colony fission) or when a young queen is reared to gradually supersede her failing mother.

When the queen takes her mating flight, she does not fly straight up. Instead she flies a considerable distance, perhaps even a mile, to a "drone congregation area" where she mates with a dozen or more drones from other hives in the area. She is not followed by drones from her own hive. Mating with close kin would cause serious inbreeding problems for the bee colony. The drones in her colony are not killed after the queen mates. They continue their daily flights to drone congregation areas, where they attempt to mate with queens from other hives.

The sex of the queen's offspring is determined, not by diet, but by whether the egg is fertilized (creating a female) or unfertilized (male). Newly-hatched female larvae grow to become either queens or workers, depending their diet: royal jelly or worker jelly.

Thomas C. Webster Frankfort, Ky. Apiculture Research and Extension Specialist, Kentucky State University

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. All submissions are subject to editing, and must include your name, mailing address and phone number. Mail to One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, fax 617-450-2317, or e-mail oped@csps.com.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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