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The danger of relying on nuclear power plants

Norman Meadow's commentary promoting nuclear power over wind energy as a solution to climate change leaves out serious unsolved problems that wind does not present ("Nuclear blows away wind," Feb. 1).

Huge piles of highly radioactive waste are sitting all over the world in vulnerable spent fuel pools lacking containment structures or backup generators. The Japanese government was considering an evacuation of Tokyo in the event of an explosion at one.

As we expand our reliance on nuclear power, we also expand this Achilles heel of the nuclear industry. Fukushima led to hot spots of radioactivity as far as 158 miles away.

While Mr. Meadow talks of exaggerated fears of small doses of radiation from accidents, would anyone choose to raise their children in an area contaminated by radioactive cesium with a half-life of 30 years?

Recently 28 of 442 exported food samples tested by the Food and Drug Administration were found to be contaminated. Chernobyl may have led to as many as 900,000 deaths worldwide.

Decades ago, a Sandia National Labs report for Congress estimated tens of thousands of deaths would occur from a worst-case nuclear accident, which would also be costly and chill the expansion of nuclear power plants. Three Mile Island, a former Nuclear Regulatory Commission member said, "taught Wall Street that a group of NRC-licensed reactor operators, as good as any other, could turn a $2 billion asset into a $1 billion cleanup job in about 90 minutes."

Mr. Meadow's goal of a carbon-free society is correct. In addition to wind, we need solar; we need smart grid and infrastructure and we need greater efficiency. We need lifestyle changes leading to less energy use.

We can get to zero this way, and nuclear can be a transitional source of energy while we are gearing up renewable energy sources. But what we don't need are more nuclear wastes, more nuclear accidents, more dirty mining of uranium or more sources of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium waiting to be stolen and used against us.

Gwen L. DuBois

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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