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Senate was right to approve site for nuclear waste

Re: Creating a new problem, editorial, July 13.

Your criticism of the recent U.S. Senate vote to approve Yucca Mountain as a repository for used nuclear fuel ignores the fact that this vote was the logical continuation of a national policy that has been in place for almost a half-century.

In 1954, when private organizations were first authorized to use nuclear power, Congress made clear that federal authorities would authorize any civilian use, and the final storage of nuclear fuel waste would be the responsibility of the federal government.

Twenty years later, in 1974, Congress specifically charged the predecessor agency for the Department of Energy with the responsibility to construct and operate a facility for the disposal of used nuclear fuel. Eight years later, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 gave specific guidance in the process that should be used in selecting a site.

The Yucca Mountain site was selected through the approved process, and after more than 15 years of scientific study, the site was recommended to the president and was approved. When the state of Nevada objected by vetoing the site selection, it was by law the responsibility of Congress to vote on whether to override that veto and support a continuation of the existing policy. Congress did so in the national interest, with approval in both the House and the Senate.

In order to have a central repository for used nuclear fuel, it is necessary to move the fuel from multiple sites. Contrary to the assumptions of your editorial, and the comments from some critics, the fact is that used fuel has been shipped in this country for decades without a single incident that created a radioactive hazard to the public.

During the past 35 years, the nuclear energy industry has completed more than 3,000 shipments of used nuclear fuel, covering 1.7-million miles, with no injuries, no fatalities and no environmental damage. Europe has already safely moved about as much nuclear material from place to place as would be shipped over the entire active life of the Yucca Mountain Project. Nuclear power provides 20 percent of the nation's electricity, emits no airborne pollution or greenhouse gases and gives us one of the cheapest forms of electricity we have. Securing these benefits requires a permanent, safe and secure site for nuclear waste.

I feel strongly that the senators from Florida voted correctly in support of Yucca Mountain because it is the right choice for the nation and the right choice for the citizens of Florida.

C.S. Hinnant, senior vice president and chief nuclear officer,

Progress Energy, parent company of Florida Power, which

owns and operates the Crystal River Nuclear Plant near

Crystal River

Single storage site is better

Re: Creating a new problem, editorial.

I disagree with your disapproval of Sens. Bill Nelson and Bob Graham's votes to approve the nuclear power plant waste storage facility in Yucca Mountain. A single storage site affords better protection from terrorists. Yucca Mountain is far safer as a location for the thousands of years needed for storage. There, it can be encased in silicon for safety.

True, there will be a danger in transportation, but radioactive matter is constantly being transported. Costs should be borne by the power companies.

Isn't it about time that a public corporation, similar to the Tennessee Valley Authority, is formed for a standardized nuclear power system that provides electricity and reduces pollution for all Americans?

Bruce Marger, St. Petersburg

Nuclear energy makes sense

Re: Nuclear waste transportation.

For more than 30 years I worked for a major utility very much involved in electric generation fueled by uranium. These plants started producing electricity in the late 1950s and in all that time there has never been a dangerous release of radioactive material into the ground or the atmosphere, including the Three Mile Island incident where the plant operated as designed and the only problems were caused by liberal antinuclear journalists who never retracted their statements even after they were proven incorrect.

As to the matter of transportation of spent fuel rods, extensive tests were made by the industry in cooperation with the Department of Energy on the casks that will contain the spent rods. In one instance a flatbed trailer was parked at an angle across a railroad crossing and a diesel-powered train was crashed into it at a speed in excess of 50 miles per hour. This was done many times and not once was the container breached. Containers were abused in every conceivable manner and did not fail. Why are you not aware of this work?

The Yucca Mountain area was chosen from many potential sites because there was no evidence of any disturbance of any kind at the level where the nuclear material will be stored. No earthquakes, no volcanoes, no fault line activity in the last 200-million years. The material being stored is only "waste" because the nuclear power industry was prevented, for political reasons only, from developing a breeder reactor. This type of reactor would use spent uranium available from the power industry for fuel. For every three truck loads of spent fuel used, four truck loads of new usable fuel could be produced. The energy available is greater than all of the oil, coal and gas in deposits known and still to be found.

Nuclear reactors produce no pollution. Uranium is still the smart choice for energy production. We should be building nuclear power plants and breeder reactors as fast as we can. That will stop all of the real polluting done by fossil-fueled generators and will pave the way to the energy source of the future, fusion. But that is another story and until we solve the nuclear problems, it will have to wait until mankind is smart enough to do what is right rather than what feels good.

Joseph F. Hofmann, St. Petersburg

A shortsighted, high-risk project

Thank you for your editorial, Creating a new problem (July 13), in which you point out the shortsightedness and lack of common sense of our senators for voting to approve the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository project. Nuclear waste is one of the deadliest poisons known to humans. And yet, Sens. Bill Nelson and Bob Graham voted for a project that encourages more nuclear waste and puts all of our lives at risk.

It is a sad day when our elected officials refute overwhelming scientific evidence showing that Yucca is unsafe and unsound and side instead with the nuclear lobby and its $13-million in campaign contributions. Shame on Nelson and Graham.

Collin Hu, Clearwater

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