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Arguing for Burial

I am writing in response to Brice C. Smith’s April 30 opinion column titled “Death Mountain and Mobile Chernobyls.” Smith’s argument is incomplete and alarmist. The truth is, storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain is the safest alternative to leaving it at aboveground temporary storage facilities across the country. Currently, instead of Smith’s “mobile Chernobyls,” the United States harbors 78 potential “stationary Chernobyls” in cooling pools and other storage facilities at these above-ground sites, collectively containing 40,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel. While Smith is rightly concerned that moving nuclear waste creates targets for terrorists, it’s commonly assumed that it is much easier to hit a stationary target than it is a moving one.

Smith completely ignores that, assuming Congressional concurrence to go forward with further study, there remains a rigorous, public technical review and licensing process before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that must be completed before nuclear waste can be stored at Yucca Mountain. The facts are that the Department of Energy recently issued an exhaustive EIS on the Yucca Mountain site, which supports the alternative of disposing spent nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain ().

Smith’s column unfairly criticizes nuclear fuel as an “environmental catastrophe” and a burden to future generations to clean up. Too often, opponents of nuclear energy overlook the burden we place on future generations while creating possibly irreversible damage to the environment, by the extensive, ongoing consumption of fossil fuels. Nuclear energy remains the most cost-effective form of clean power, and it is alarming that intelligent people are calling for its retirement. Are we to give up on the realization of Einstein’s peaceful vision for his famous equation, e=mc2? Too many people ignore the benefits to humanity that can be reaped from Einstein’s work, and instead focus on the tragedies that have occurred because of its abuse.

Colleen Horin ’05