LETTERS TO THE EDITORS
Rocking Heavy Metal
To the Editors:
In his article, "Heavy-Metal Nuclear Power"
(November-December), Eric Loewen claims that metal-cooled reactors
produce power and burn up radioactive waste at the same time.
However, he refers only to transuranic nuclear waste. Radioactive
fission products must be considered in any scheme to produce power
safely. The scientific community must fully disclose both benefits
and shortcomings of various energy alternatives.
Walnut Creek, California
Dr. Loewen responds:
Walter John is correct that other radioactive fission products will be
generated, but with half-lives on the order of 30 years. This means that
in about 10 half-lives, or 300 years, it is gone. That is a manageable
waste stream. Can humans make something strong enough to contain the
waste for 300 years underground? Yes. For example, the Great Wall of
China and the pyramids have lasted longer above ground. Drawbacks
can be identified in all energy sources. Heavy metals in coal ash have
no half-life. MTBE in fuels does not degrade. CO2
emitted into the air has a 200-year half-life in the carbon
cycle. The drawbacks of nuclear energy have been identified and