Kudos for ‘Back Talk’
Kudos on the excellent interview with John Turturro [May 19], one of the most interesting and thoughtful actors in film and theater today. “Back Talk” is a terrific addition to the back of the magazine.
Cool Hand Nuke
Christian Parenti’s “What Nuclear Renaissance?” [May 12] was interesting and important. A quibble: what happens inside nuclear power plants is not an attempt “to reproduce the process that occurs inside the sun.” On earth we do fission; on the sun they do fusion.
Christian Parenti deems nuclear power dangerously complicated, expensive and linked to weapons. Facts: no life has been lost in US commercial nuclear power operations, whose main emissions are water vapor. At Three Mile Island design safeguards contained the damaged reactor core. Because of that incident, Western plants are operated in fail-safe modes that cannot be bypassed. A Chernobyl-type accident has always been technically impossible with Western plants.
Contrary to Parenti’s implications, US nuclear power output has doubled over the past fifteen years, providing a reliable electricity baseload at competitive prices and with a stellar safety record. Independent US and European scientific associations therefore expect that nuclear power will enjoy increased importance in the future energy mix of the industrialized world. Reflecting similar activities by our global economic competitors, several new nuclear reactors were ordered in 2007 for Texas at about $2 billion each, the cost of an oil platform and a fraction of Parenti’s claim.
Spent nuclear fuel presents difficult “waste” issues only as long as the United States foolishly rejects recycling, demonstrated successfully by France. Applying modern and proliferation-safe nuclear technologies, fuel rods stored at US reactor sites could generate electricity for a few thousand years at present rates, economically and with a minimum carbon footprint. Parenti’s fear of high technology seems deplorably backward.
W. UDO SCHRÖDER