Nuclear Waste | Letters | Chicago Reader

Nuclear Waste 

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To the editors:

I am writing in response to Scott Mervis' article "Nuke Lite" in the March 30 issue of the Reader. I can't understand the tone the Department of Energy (DOE) takes with the waste created by nuclear power. The DOE doesn't want to take responsibility for waste but still proposes to build a passive nuclear plant. The DOE awards $50 million for research on innovative nuclear power but conveniently sits idle on the question of disposal. The DOE presumes an increased demand for clean, efficient nuclear power in the 90's but doesn't want the responsibility of finding a stable 10,000 year storage site. The logic of that statement doesn't exist.

Politicians treat nuclear waste as a dead issue. The government relegates the predicament to the states who then stop the issue in court as seen in John Morgan's February 1990 article in Scientific American. Which will assume the burden of the decommissioning of a plant such as the Shippingport reactor near Pittsburgh which will cost $98 million? William Murphy, the man in charge at the DOE of shutting down private reactors, must deal with 70 commercial plants whose licenses expire in 2015.

The DOE uses propaganda techniques to distract the consumer from the lasting waste concern. No one is content with the atmospheric havoc created by carbon dioxide emissions, however the DOE shifts emphasis onto a popular immediate environmental issue, global warming. The DOE would rather solve the problem by burying the spent rods in concrete containers. Unfortunately as Angie Watson pointed out in the April 90 Illinois Issues, cement has a useful life of 500 years while solid metal radiation lasts for over 10,000 years. The DOE's priorities should instead focus on renewable nuclear alternatives like: solar energy, geothermal, wind and hydropower as outlined by Mark Miller in the July 25, 1988 Newsweek. The DOE can find the solution in original ideas instead of shelving wastes for future generations to deal with.

Meanwhile utilities will continue to store high level wastes on the same site where they are produced. The DOE plans to litter the country with miniature reactors complete with a temporary dump. The DOE may have solved the production problems but the maintenance issue will always remain.

Eugene F. Amante


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