Re: Half-Life Is Beautiful?

Dear Editor:

Embracing nuclear power in an attempt to avoid the global-warming implications of reliance on coal is like taking up heroin to avoid an addiction to crack. While disregarding the known greenhouse-gas costs associated with mining, milling, constructing, and decommissioning of nuclear plants, Umbra Fisk parrots the industry-driven myth that renewable energy sources like wind and sun will not produce enough energy to be a viable option. But this assumes a demand met by other, more polluting sources and massively disproportionate subsidies for nuclear and other dirty fuels. It is uninformed to contend that because wind and sun can’t be stored we should return to the toxic horrors of nuclear power.

The hydrogen fuel cell enables us to store the sun for a cloudy day and make the wind blow everywhere. Hydrogen is the miracle renewable energy [we have] been waiting for to meet the total power requirements of our nation without overheating the planet or being forced to endure further damage in the form of increased cancer, mutations and birth defects from the noxious scourge of a radioactive future. And the only emission from the burning of hydrogen fuel is water, pure enough to drink.

If even a fraction of the public funds used for developing a new generation of nuclear reactors and securing and disposing of nuclear waste was devoted to hydrogen production from clean renewable sources, we could abandon coal entirely in a matter of years. And no terrorist has ever attacked a windmill.

Alice Slater

President, Global Resource Action Center for the Environment

New York, N.Y.


Re: Half-Life Is Beautiful?

Dear Editor:

Just read [Umbra’s] article on nuclear energy and I was disappointed not to see a cost comparison of all the different energy sources.

I might be persuaded to reconsider nuclear energy on global-warming grounds, but if nuclear energy is so great and so cheap, why aren’t private entrepreneurs lining up to build nuclear power plants instead of gas-fired power plants? My understanding is that without massive government subsidies, nuclear power would be prohibitively expensive compared to other energy sources after taking into account all the construction, insurance, uranium mining, and waste-disposal costs.

Adam Zielinski

Portland, Ore.


Re: Half-Life Is Beautiful?

Dear Editor:

I’m impressed and intrigued by [Umbra’s] recent thoughtful and thought-provoking article reconsidering the role of nuclear power to minimize global warming. I, too, am reevaluating my long-held visceral aversion to nuclear fission. I would also note that ecological luminary James Lovelock has recently emerged as a nuclear advocate.

If [Umbra’s] next column on this topic could include suggested books, articles, and websites for those of us literate greens who’d like to better educate ourselves on recent work and debate in this area, I would be immensely grateful.

Howie McCausland

Bristol, Vt.


Re: Half-Life Is Beautiful?

Dear Editor:

I read with interest [Umbra’s] recent response to a reader’s question about nuclear energy. [She] focused on climate change as the only fossil-related problem large enough to cause [her] to reconsider [her] previously held negative feelings about nuclear power. [She] is not the only environmentalist to express this position.

My question: What about all the other nasty stuff — besides carbon dioxide — that is produced when we burn coal, oil, or gas? Does [she] realize that nuclear fission reactors do not produce anything that contributes to acid rain, smog, micro particles, or mercury poisoning of waterways?

As a former nuclear submarine engineer officer, I am amazed that there are not more environmentally minded people shouting from the mountaintops that we need energy sources clean enough to operate inside sealed containers. After all, we have had that technology for more than 50 years!

Rod Adams

Editor, Atomic Insights

Annapolis, Md.


Dear Editor:

I’ve subscribed to Grist a long time now and really enjoy reading it. In fact, it’s terrific! Well done to everyone involved. But, I’m not at all impressed by your “Great Ice-Scape” competition. I can’t imagine that I’m the only one who sees it as hypocritical that the top prize will nicely bump up the winner’s emissions of ice-melting and world-warming gases for the year. For all the articles that Grist has published about climate change and melting glaciers, how can Grist give away a prize that gives the finger to the Kyoto treaty and all your loyal readers who make daily sacrifices to reduce their CO2 emissions? Shame on you!

You should instead give away a top prize that helps reduce the winner’s CO2 emissions. Sure, a tree, a bicycle, a solar panel, or a wind turbine might not sound half as exciting as a trip to Iceland, but at least we’d all have a cool, clear conscience in years to come!

Colm O’Brien


Dear Editor:

I look forward to your magazine. I find it very informative, but I am baffled by your trip to Iceland. How can you offer such a prize? I always assume we include animals/wildlife in [the environmental] category. As inviting and beautiful as Iceland is, to my understanding they are still whaling and that makes them someone to be boycotted, not patronized. Please consider another locale for the prize.

Kristen Collins