The Downside of Nuclear Energy

Friday, April 21, 2006

Patrick Moore ["Going Nuclear; A Green Makes the Case," Outlook, April 16] is wrong to assert that Japan's technology for extracting plutonium from spent nuclear fuel is "new" and that it can make it more difficult for terrorists or rogue states to make nuclear weapons.

That technology is little different from that used by North Korea and other states to produce plutonium for weapons. The difference -- that plutonium is mixed with uranium -- is worthless as a security measure, because the mixture is as easy to steal and process into nuclear bomb components as pure plutonium. The International Atomic Energy Agency categorizes this mixture as "direct-use" bomb material that must be safeguarded as rigorously as plutonium.

The proliferation potential of reprocessing cannot be remedied with a minor technical fix.

EDWIN S. LYMAN

Senior Staff Scientist

Global Security Program

Union of Concerned Scientists

Washington

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Patrick Moore is wrong.

Nuclear generating plants are not benign. They use vast quantities of water, an increasingly scarce resource. For example, a plant in Georgia consumes 33 million gallons a day, returning 24 million gallons of heated water to the river, where it forms a thermal plume that alters the river ecology.

Future electric generation also should not rely on big baseload plants. It should combine locally produced bioenergy with solar, geothermal and wind power. The "intermittent and unpredictable" generation of electricity by solar and wind power, as Mr. Moore described it, can be mitigated by producing hydrogen locally and storing it in fuel cells to be used as needed.


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