Re "Storing Nuclear Waste Over the Long Haul," letters, May 27: Ted Russell Neff misrepresents the commercial nuclear waste disposal problem and the energy benefits of gasohol. The radioactive leaks at Hanford are the unfortunate legacy of a quick and dirty disposal project, using thin-walled, ordinary steel containers, in the early days of the Cold War when the highest priority was producing more plutonium for more bombs.
The Yucca Mountain project for the disposal of commercial nuclear waste has spent over $3.6 billion to ensure that the spent fuel will be completely isolated for hundreds of thousands of years. Tens of millions of dollars have been given each year to the state of Nevada and local communities to support their scrutiny and oversight of the program. All of this money comes from the nuclear waste disposal fund, supported entirely by a small tax on nuclear power ratepayers.
With respect to renewable energy sources, the U.S. Department of Energy has been spending nearly $400 million a year on research and development for over 20 years with little to show for it. The ethanol additive that we are forced to pay for in our gasoline provides a nice benefit for corn farmers, but more energy is consumed in the distillation process than is provided in the product.
The suggestion by Kevin Petersen that we should go ahead with nuclear power on blind faith that we will solve the waste storage problem puts the cart before the horse. There is no credible evidence that the problem is even solvable, let alone that we will have a solution any time soon. In the meantime, we have a storage problem with nightmarish potential.
Nuclear power at this point is ill-conceived and unnecessary. We can get all the energy needed without it, and we should put special emphasis on conservation and clean energy. Nuclear has been touted as clean, since it has no smoke-belching stacks, but the "tailpipe emissions" in the form of nuclear waste prevent nuclear power from being a truly green source. If people are so convinced that a solution is in the offing, let them develop the solution and then come back and ask for nuclear power.