The Downside of Nuclear Energy Letters to the Editor - 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.


Senior Staff Scientist

Global Security Program

Union of Concerned Scientists



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. Further, it will take six to eight years to build a nuclear plant -- at a cost of more than $5 billion -- before any electricity is generated. Utility companies heavily invested in coal-fired plants won't be about to close them, either.

With a modicum of political will this nation could embark on a massive program of conservation to flatten the projected demand curve for energy.


Savannah, Ga.

The writer hosts a Web site promoting solar energy.


The only thing that is "green" about Patrick Moore these days are the dollar bills lining his pocket from corporate interests. Even more disturbing than labeling him "green" are his outrageous claims about nuclear energy.

Nuclear energy is dangerous. In 2002 the reactor at the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor, Ohio, came within days of a major accident that could have rivaled Three Mile Island.

Nuclear energy also is expensive. The last plant built in the United States took 23 years to construct and cost nearly $8 billion.

Further, every dollar spent on energy efficiency and renewable sources is seven to 10 times more effective at displacing global warming gases than a dollar spent on nuclear energy.

By exploiting his early ties to Greenpeace, Patrick Moore portrays himself as a prodigal son who has seen the error of his ways, but he is really a spokesman for the nuclear energy industry.



Executive Director



Patrick Moore quoted the U.N. Chernobyl Forum as saying that only 56 people died as a direct result of Chernobyl, but 5,700 of the "liquidators," or workers who cleaned up the acute effects of the accident, have died, and the incidence of thyroid cancer in the most contaminated region has increased ninety-fold since the accident, according to New Scientist magazine. The Ukraine Ministry of Health says that 125,000 people living in the contaminated areas have died, and physicians are reporting large increases in congenital deformities in affected areas.

The just-released "Other Report on Chernobyl" predicts 30,000 to 60,000 excess cancer deaths over the coming decades. Much of European agriculture also will remain contaminated with radiation for hundreds of years as 40 percent of Europe was contaminated with fallout.



Nuclear Policy Research Institute


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