Nuclear plants are secure enough, focus on other industries
Regarding the April 19 article, "Should oldest US nuke plant stay online?": Nuclear plant security is a serious issue, but the true level of vulnerability and risk has realistically been deemed very small. Nuclear plants are defined as hard targets, as specified by the FBI, and poor sites for terrorists to focus on. They are defended by well-armed, well-trained guards, even without the enhanced standards which are now in place.
Analyses have demonstrated that crashing a jetliner into the containment building of a reactor is not likely to breach the concrete structure, and thus there would be no great consequences. Spent fuel pools have even lower profiles than does a reactor, making them exceptionally difficult to attack.
Where there is failure, and where there should be real concern, is the myriad other industries where dangerous and toxic materials are routinely handled in very large quantities. For example, chemical plants, whose sabotage can have widespread consequences, are much less well defended than are our nuclear power plants. It is easy to get diverted by the fantastic, while the mundane is what is truly dangerous.
Joseph R. Stencel
Skillman, N.J. Research professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering, Rutgers University
Regarding the April 6 article, "Rocky mountain sigh as slow-lane life speeds up": The challenge for Lake City, Colo., and other special places in the Rockies struggling to grow is to protect the "goose that lays the golden egg" - the beauty of the land.
Much of the land is public and belongs to all Americans: national forests, parks, wildlife refuges, and areas overseen by the US Bureau of Land Management. Once upon a time, it seemed that these lands' main economic value was the copper, trees, oil, and gas that could be extracted. Today, these industries produce less than 4 percent of the income in the Rockies.
The public lands are worth much more as a lure to tourists, retirees, and entrepreneurs whose work can be performed anywhere in this high-tech age. The income that many new residents earn from investments or retirement is fueling growth in high-wage industries such as finance, real estate, healthcare, law, and management. Moreover, many businesses have discovered that the region's scenery and quality of life help them attract a first-rate workforce.
Regrettably, the federal government is promoting too much logging, mining, and oil and gas drilling on our lands. The results include scenic damage, loss of recreational opportunities, air and water pollution, and greater threats to fish and wildlife. This administration should heed the advice of Theodore Roosevelt: "The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired, in value."
Denver Economist, The Wilderness Society
I find it curious that David Ronfeldt's March 27 Opinion piece, "Today's wars are less about ideas than extreme tribalism," managed to analyze the "extreme tribalism" underlying contemporary conflicts without once mentioning patriarchy or male dominance, which seems from many accounts to be a motivating force behind tribal resurgence. Ask any Afghan woman struggling to establish female education about the "egalitarianism of the tribe." Is this RAND's brand of political correctness?
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