To the Editor:
The authors of a recent letter to the editor propose that electrical generation by greenhouse gas emitters must be replaced by “zero-emission” sources, such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, and geothermal, and that there are health and safety concerns posed by nuclear power plants.
While these are admirable goals, and wind and solar should be further pursued, we are all probably aware that wind power only generates electricity when there is wind, and solar only when the sun is out. Until some method of storing that energy is developed, neither of those two sources will completely serve as base-loaded supplies.
Geothermal is good for heating only, not electrical generation, and additional hydroelectric is not viable because there are no adequate run-of-the-river sites left in the U.S.
The authors challenge the “zero-emissions” claim of nuclear power proponents by citing the mining and preparation of uranium as producing “lots” of greenhouse gas. The same measure should then be applied to wind and power sources.
The mining, manufacture, and disposal required for these sources, especially the rare metals found in solar cells, also produce “lots” of greenhouse gases, as well as toxic materials. In addition, there is a much larger landmass requirement.
To compare a nuclear power plant to an atomic bomb and to state that the process is the same as that which occurred after atomic bomb tests is simply ludicrous. It is akin to stating that forest fires are the same as wood-burning fireplaces because the same mechanism is at work, or that electricity is as dangerous as lightning.
The statement that some radioactivity is “routinely” released into the local air and water from storage at nuclear plants is false. To clarify, radioactivity is not stored at nuclear power plants, spent fuel elements are stored and, yes, they are radioactive but safely stored. There have been no instances where the storage of these elements has constituted a health hazard.
Where the letter loses its credibility; however, is when citing a study in what would appear to be a respectable third-party journal. Further investigation shows that the study was self-authored by the letter writer and the journal is the publication of the writer’s organization, of which he is the executive director.
Peer reviews have not validated the writers’ claims and eight state departments of health refused to validate the claims. A National Cancer Institute Study released in 1991 found no general increase in death rates around nuclear power plants.
Until there is a way to store the energy made by wind and solar, nuclear power is the best zero-emission source to supply the base requirement for electrical energy. Decades of safe generation by nuclear power plants in the U.S. shows this to be true.