Tom Horton's op-ed in praise of Norman Meadows and nuclear power presented inaccuracies ("Time for greens to embrace nukes," May 22). Climate change is a crisis that necessitates phasing out fossil fuels, but relying on nuclear power to replace them is neither possible nor safe.
Nuclear, like wind, does need backup. Last week 20 of the 104 plants in the U.S. were at zero production including: Calvert Cliffs reactor offline twice this month with malfunctioning steam valves initially; Harris in Raleigh, weakness in vessel head, out since May 15; Palisades, leaking storage tanks, out since May 5th ; San Onofre's two reactors, premature tube wear, out for over a year; Fort Calhoun, safety violation since flooding, out since April, 2011. Kewaunee in Wisconsin was recently shut down for good and will cost an estimated $1 billion to decommission. Votle in Georgia, the one new plant since Three Mile Island disaster, is years away from completion if ever (in nuclear power there is a historic completion rate of 50 percent).
In the United States there are 70,000 metric tons of nuclear waste with no permanent home and meanwhile the taxpayers will end up paying over $22 billion to the utilities for housing this waste. Nuclear power requires enriched uranium for fuel and creates plutonium waste, the ingredients for nuclear weapon proliferation. In Japan, there are 160,000 refugees from Fukushima, and they will probably never be able to return. Fish have been recovered off the harbor that have 7400 times the permissible levels of radiation. Children cannot safely grow in an environment contaminated with radioactive cesium where repeated ingestion of contaminated food, soil and water is a recipe for cancer.
Wind farms can be located so they don't necessitate cutting down forests nor interfere with migratory paths. Wind does not create deadly emissions when accidents occur. According to a 2011 Union of Concerned Scientists report, wind is cheaper than new nuclear. Yes, we need to curb our gargantuan usage. Decreased consumption, increased energy efficiency, wind and solar, with back up from geothermal, hydropower, and biomass will get us to zero coal, zero nuclear, minimal carbon dioxide.
Dr. Gwen L. DuBois
The writer is a member of Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility.