The article "Nuclear Empowered" by Westinghouse CEO Aris S. Candris (Feb. 22 Forum) reads more like an infomercial than an op-ed piece and is just as rife with empty rhetoric and misdirection as the efforts of the late-night TV shills.
For starters, Mr. Candris states that "nuclear energy is the only source of electricity that produces no greenhouse gases," which would be true if the uranium that fires the reactors materialized out of thin air. As it is, uranium must be mined and mining entails cutting down trees, building access roads and digging the ore from the ground, all of which utilizes equipment that runs on fossil fuels. So, the process of generating nuclear energy does, indeed, produce greenhouse gases.
But more significantly, Mr. Candris sloughs off the most crucial issue surrounding nuclear energy, the disposal of nuclear waste, with a throwaway phrase that nuclear energy "manages 100 percent of its waste stream," which begs the question as to whether the "managing" is done well or poorly. A typical nuclear reactor produces 20 to 30 metric tons of nuclear waste per year, mostly in the form of plutonium-239, a very deadly, radioactive substance with a half-life of 24,000 years and a toxicity that lasts 240,000 years. That is a very long time indeed, especially when viewed from the perspective that the earliest human civilizations trace back only some 6,000 years, and we consider all the changes that have occurred from the time of ancient Babylon to the present day. If Mr. Candris has figured a way to manage 100 percent of the nuclear "waste stream" a quarter of a million years into the future, 20 and one-half millennia after all of us alive today have shuffled off this mortal coil, I wish he would share that secret with the rest of us.
Mr. Candris says that "three-fourths of Americans now favor expanded use of nuclear power for electricity generation." This may be true, but that is only because most Americans expect that the resulting nuclear waste will be buried in somebody else's back yard, and not theirs. If they ever dreamed that they and their descendents would be the ones sitting atop the glowing spent fuel rods and such, I suspect that their support would melt down faster than the reactor core at Chernobyl.