Letters to the Editor: Nuclear energy may not emit carbon, but it isn't 'clean'

·3 min read
All 107 nuclear reactors in the United States are inadequately protected from terrorist attacks, according to a Defense Department-commissioned report released Thursday, August 15, 2013. The report by the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project at the University of Texas at Austin, warns that the current security required of civilian-operated reactors fails to safeguard against airplane attacks, rocket-propelled grenades and more than a small handful of attackers. A statement accompanying the study listed units in coastal areas that it said are vulnerable to attacks by boat, including PG&E Corp.'s Diablo Canyon plant in California. (Joe Johnston/San Luis Obispo Tribune/MCT) ** OUTS - ELSENT, FPG, TCN - OUTS **
The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in San Luis Obispo County is scheduled for decommissioning in 2025. (Joe Johnston / San Luis Obispo Tribune)

To the editor: Steven Chu and Ernest Moniz are both professors who served as U.S. Energy secretary. They have more science credentials than most mortals. I am none of those things.

Yet, I was concerned when I read in their piece advocating for the continued use of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant past the planned 2025 decommissioning that they referred to the electricity it produces as "clean."

I recognize that they did so in order to differentiate nuclear from energy sources that emit carbon dioxide. However, the lack of carbon emissions notwithstanding, can nuclear energy truly be called clean?

There is the not-so-small matter of spent nuclear fuel. Where does it go? Where will it go? It's currently in a cooling pool on-site. Owner Pacific Gas and Electric has requested permission to develop a dry cask storage system on-site; it did not estimate how long the spent fuel would be stored there.

Spent fuel is radioactive for a very long time. Whichever way you store it, if anything compromises the containment, the danger is released.

Carbon emissions or none, it is misleading to refer to nuclear energy as clean, especially when it comes to its impact on the environment.

Elise Power, Garden Grove

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To the editor: I was energized by the piece on the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. It reminded me of the sad situation at our local San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

First, we have a major carbon-free power generation facility that is being decommissioned. Second, we have, residing on the bluffs immediately above an important beach, large quantities of nuclear fuel considered to be waste but that could be recycled multiple times for reuse for further nuclear power generation.

France, which produces more than 70% of its energy in nuclear power plants, uses a technology developed decades ago in the U.S. to recycle its nuclear fuels.

But here we are in the U.S., stumbling along trying to figure out how to reach our decarbonization goals. Where is our imagination? Our vaunted innovation? Go figure.

Dennis Lees, Encinitas

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To the editor: Currently the state of California is gambling that the "Big One" does not happen before the 2025 shutdown of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which is located a mile from a fault. Think back to Japan's nuclear disaster caused by a major earthquake.

These authors do not live downwind of this potential disaster. There are other measures to meet our climate goals.

Vickie Guagliardo, La Crescenta

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To the editor: The authors list the benefits of nuclear power. But a fair and honest discussion of nuclear power should also discuss and acknowledge the challenges and downsides as well.

We must not forget Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima, and the tragic lessons we learned.

William Uselman, Corona del Mar

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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