Gauging effectiveness of nuclear-waste containment
Your June 30 article "Asia hungry for nuclear power" recognized the major increase in greenhouse-gas emissions and global warming that would accompany the use of carbon-based fuels to meet growing global energy demand and highlighted broad worldwide interest in the nuclear alternative. It heralded nuclear energy as a "clean" energy alternative, even while noting three areas of concern: operating plants safely, preventing nuclear-weapons proliferation, and dealing with nuclear waste.
The first two issues are major concerns in their own right. But making only a passing reference to the nuclear waste that's being generated at an increasing rate - and that will have to be safely disposed of and monitored for thousands of years - biases the argument in favor of the nuclear option.
If countries have solutions to the serious issue of waste disposal, these must be reviewed. If no solutions have yet appeared on the horizon - which seems to be the case - isn't the Monitor doing a disservice by extolling the virtues of a "clean" nuclear option while relegating the issue of the disposal of the pernicious and persistent radioactive castoffs of this technology to a mere footnote?
Asian nations have avoided making nuclear power a symbol of ideology and are moving forward with what they see as an important and safe addition to their energy resources. They wisely do not perceive the linking of nuclear power to problems with uranium and plutonium stockpiles. In fact, the vast majority of this material was produced for military programs, particularly in the former Soviet Union - a group of nations that now collectively have the largest stockpiles of nuclear-weapons materials in the world.
The "mountain of radioactive waste" that your article refers to is dwarfed by the billions of tons of hazardous waste released into the environment each year from use of fossil fuels. Unlike nuclear wastes, these are not contained at all. All technologies are advanced by learning from past mistakes and applying this knowledge to reduce future risks. Nuclear power is no exception.
The next generation of plants, already being built in Asia, are even safer and more efficient. Built here, they will help us to achieve energy independence while reducing the impact on the environment. We can advance only if we build upon our hopes, not irrationally focus on the negatives.
Reactor engineer, MIT Nuclear Reactor Lab
Regarding your July 1 article "North Carolina's gambit to bring Internet Age to rural areas": A significant impediment to rural telecommuting is a tax penalty certain states have imposed on interstate telecommuters. New York, for example, requires that nonresidents who work for New York businesses primarily through telecommuting - but occasionally go to the office in New York - pay taxes on 100 percent of their salaries, even though a substantial part of the income was earned at home in a different state. But since a telecommuter's home state may also tax the income earned at home, thousands of telecommuters nationwide are threatened with double taxation.
If telework is too expensive, citizens of rural communities won't be able to afford the new technology being offered. Draft federal legislation currently circulating in Washington would prohibit states from burdening rural interstate teleworkers with double taxation. If the federal government truly wants to promote rural economic development, it must bar states from standing in the way and enact this legislation.
Nicole Belson Goluboff
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