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A powerful nuclear debate

August 11, 2008

Re "Not-so-bright ideas," editorial, Aug. 7

As a researcher who worked for Westinghouse during the early days of nuclear power development, and then later for a company that reprocessed spent nuclear fuel elements for further use, I can assure the writer that nuclear power is as safe a source of energy as many other alternatives on the market.

Unfortunately, the prejudice against nuclear power plants, dating to the Carter administration, has left us with just about 20% of our electrical power derived from this source, in contrast to France at more than 80%.

Nuclear power alone cannot solve our energy problems. But it should be a key component in any discussion of alternatives to oil, natural gas and coal.

Nelson Marans

Silver Spring, Md.

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The Times is way off-base lumping nuclear power with expanded offshore oil drilling.

We have two problems: The world is running out of oil, and it shouldn't burn what it does have if it wants to curb global warming. Any solution is going to be expensive and time-consuming. Nuclear power shouldn't be singled out for criticism.

Wind power will require enormous amounts of dedicated land and investment in those goofy propellers to even make a minimal impact. Similarly, effective use of solar power will require intense technological development to improve efficiency. We could burn more coal, but unless we learn how to practice carbon capture and sequestration, that will just dump more carbon into the air.

The one thing we do know how to do now is to make safe, clean nuclear plants. We know how to transport and store the waste safely, and we know how to protect the facilities and secure the nuclear fuel. We must have a sense of relative risk here: Three Mile Island was not a "disaster." Hurricane Katrina was a disaster, Chernobyl was a disaster, and global warming will be a disaster if we can't get past our knee-jerk fear of nuclear power.

Ken Feldman

Chino Hills

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John McCain's pronouncement that nuclear power is inexpensive is belied by the industry's own figures. The most recent price tag is about $14 billion for two new reactors in the East, and an admission that up to $200 billion -- and taxpayer-backed loan guarantees -- may be needed to jump-start this 50-year-old industry. Maybe if McCain paid more attention to the reactors in his own backyard, he would have a better understanding of the costs, benefits and risks of nuclear power. Palo Verde Unit 3, near Phoenix, is one of the worst-performing nuclear plants in the country, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Placing our scarce resources in a nuclear revival may end up draining our energy budget without producing adequate energy supplies.

Rochelle Becker

Executive Director,

Alliance for Nuclear

Responsibility

San Luis Obispo

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Re "McCain touts nuclear plan at reactor site," Aug. 6

As McCain advocates the building of 45 nuclear power plants in the U.S. by 2030, I was curious about where he intends to put them. If he were to list the exact sites, it would help sharpen the debate as to whether this is really an option or one that just sounds good on the campaign trail.

Michael Olson

Pasadena

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