Transporting 'hazmat' by rail quite safe, despite accident

The Jan. 24 article "Why railroad safety debate keeps rolling" about the rail accident in Graniteville, S.C., rightly highlights the human tragedy of the incident, but pays little attention to finding the safest way to move hazardous materials that are critical to our nation's physical and economic health.

Statistics compiled by the Railroad Security Task Force show that 99.9968 percent of hazardous materials ("hazmat") sent by carloads arrive at their destination without a release caused by an accident.

Hazmat accident rates have declined 87 percent since 1980 and the potential for a hazmat incident is 16 times greater on the highways than on the rails.

Railroads move chlorine that is used to purify more than half of America's water supplies and in the manufacture of 85 percent of all pharmaceuticals. Railroads also carry weapons and munitions required by the military.

Railroads are required by law to carry hazardous materials, and we carefully factor in safety and security when selecting their routes.

Local communities should not mandate rerouting or ban the movement of these essential materials. The railroad industry shares the deep grief felt by the relatives and friends of the victims as well as the residents of Graniteville.

Together with shippers - who own rail tank cars - as well as regulators and tank-car manufacturers, railroads are dedicated to continual improvements in the design and use of tank cars to improve safety.
Ed Hamberger
President and CEO, Association of American Railroads

Church advertising fractures faith

Regarding the Jan. 24 article: "Churches spar with media over advertising": The news media are right to turn down religious advertising, and churches should support them for their own peace of mind.

Thomas Jefferson recognized the dangers of imposing one's religious views on others, which frequently led to bloodshed and cruelty, notably in Europe.

Advertising thus has the potential for causing increasing fractiousness among church groups, particularly with the growth of politically powerful denominations. Note that televised religious programs are, regrettably, already a form of advertising.

A related concern is President Bush's end run around Congress to give federal money to churches, presumably to help the needy. But that contains the seeds for favoring those who will support him politically. This will cost them their independence and become another source of contentiousness among religious groups.
David Langer
Chappaqua, N.Y.

China's grasp on atomic energy

I hope that many people read the Jan. 20 article "China's risky scramble for oil" and consider its implications for world peace and prosperity.

Battles over a rapidly depleting resource can have a severe effect on all of our lives. However, atomic energy can directly replace oil burning for a wide range of applications - a fact that cannot be stated for any other proposed alternative power.

Though not often discussed, the 50-year history of operating nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers shows that diesel engines can be replaced in both small vessels and large, high-speed vessels.

Fortunately for the world, China's leaders seem to have a pretty fair understanding of the potential uses for atomic energy to reduce their need for oil, and they are pursuing that alternative as aggressively as they are pursuing increased oil supplies.
Rod Adams
Editor, Atomic Energy Insights
Annapolis, Md.

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