Letters to the editor
A vote for Yucca Mountain
I just read your article "Coming around the mountain, " (December 2000). You are the first reviewer that I have seen that draws attention to the fact that the Yucca flats, Yucca Mountain and Jackass flats have been used for over forty years for the testing of Nuclear Devices. I had the occasion to train out there personally in 1987. I attended the Radiological Emergency Response Operations Training sponsored by FEMA. My first day out there I was taken by an aerial photo of Yucca Flats and Yucca Mountain and I took it for photo of the moon because it was so riddled with subsidence craters. I have a photograph of the Sudan crater where the tested the use of nuclear devices for excavation purposes.
The whole debate is mindless. It is already a long-term storage facility for high level nuclear waste in totally unsealed blast chambers from all the underground testing. It is already a high security federal installation. I think the truth in the debate does not lie in the site as much as in the problematic transportation question seeing that Mercury, Nevada is so close to Las Vegas - and the ignorant position that the status quo can persist indefinitely. Already several utilities have had to modify their licenses to change the stacking protocol for spent full to increase storage capacity beyond the original permitted design limits.
I am disturbed about this waste of time and money and the reluctance to make the hard decision to store the stuff somewhere, and by far Yucca Mountain for many reasons is the best place. In actuality, the best thing to do would be to reprocess the spent fuel, remove the poisons, consolidate the waste to only the poisons and the make more nuclear fuel, which is what some other countries do. Of course, that would increase the enrichment of plutonium in our reactor fuels.
Although I haven't finished reading Lisa Rademakers' article "Coming around the mountain" yet, I couldn't help but notice a glaring error that many people outside nuclear circles would probably miss. In the second paragraph of the section "Running out of room", you state, "Spent fuel contains plutonium and emits radioactive isotopes (radionuclides)..." It should have stated that spent fuel emits radiation, instead. Many people confuse the terms radiation and radioactive material and probably don't care. But I think it is important to use these technical terms correctly because there is always someone out there (anti-nuclear wackos) looking for those errors in order to trip you up.
Rick Latsch, CHMM
Great article for Environmental Protection magazine! I find it comical that on a recent tour of the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant, we were told numerous times that there is no such nuclear waste storage site problems. We were told that the small amount of waste generated from all existing power plants could be stored on-site for the life of the plant and the half-life of the waste - what a joke!
Brent D. Hoffenberg
I really enjoyed the Manager's Notebook article in the November 2000 issue of Environmental Protection. The four bullets regarding the fate of the planet were particularly insightful. I really liked the third bullet about band-aid solutions to problems. I thought I was the only person who was going nuts over how "microscopically" we manage environmental protection in many respects. Mr. MacLean is right - adjunct pollution control equipment (PCE) is not such a good way to go.
Does the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) really have a clue here? We think we have protected the environment by forcing companies to install huge, resource consuming PCE on their facilities to scrub out a few ppm of VOCs in an effluent air stream. What have we gained by adopting this environmental control technique? If we summed up all energy consumed by PCE in this country in order to control harmful pollutants (ozone depleters, human health threats, smog precursors, etc.) it would be amazing to see how much energy is consumed while we scream for more energy conservation to stretch out our limited resources. Yet, EPA pats themselves on their backs when the "silver giants" are installed to control something.
High and dry in the 21st century?
I read Angela Neville's timely article, "From the editor," in Environmental Protection (November 2000). My friend used to own a lemon grove in Arizona. In line with your discussion of water use should be water rights. Farmers in Arizona (and elsewhere) have water rights to 'x' gallons of water for their land. Some water rights authorities require an amount of water to be used each year at risk of losing that amount.
If a farmer didn't need the amount he was allotted, didn't use his annual 'share,' it could be used elsewhere. Water rights should be restructured so farmers don't lose their water rights or an annual water allotment if they don't use the maximum they're allowed each year.
I'm certain this water usage situation is not unique to Arizona. How do "we" proceed to better water use and allay farmer's fears that if they don't use it, they'll lose it?
Water conservation hits home
This is in response to the Editor's Note, "High and dry in the 21st century," (November 2000).
Until people in developed countries (including ourselves) consider taking a shower maybe every other day or less often the world's water problems will not go away. This simple suggestion is just one of a thousand that I could give you about conserving drinkable water on a daily basis.
I am an environmental professional and love to read your magazine which gives some valuable insight into what the current environmental issues of the day are.
The challenges that need to be undertaken to combat the water crisis are not going to be met in time by international special interest groups but rather, in everyone's home and work place. There needs to occur a fundamental shift in thinking about what we are entitled to every day. If I think that I am entitled to a 10 minute shower, 0.5 gallon bottled water, a stop at the car wash, a super green lawn, every day of the week, no amount of new technology is going to keep up with mine and my kids demands for drinkable water because we don't have the discipline to curb our consumption of it. It's just like pitching a conservation idea to the local sewer authority about using low-flow toilets in all new housing. As long as there is tax money to pay for a newer, bigger, and better treatment plant, where is the incentive to do otherwise? Keep up the good work.
Opening our eyes to "blind environmentalism"
This in response to the Editor's Note, "America, home of the wild," (December 2000)
I find it illustrative that the only two Web sites you encouraged your readers to visit are left-leaning and non-critical of the Conservation and Reinvestment Act bill and the Endangered Species Act. It would be more beneficial to your readership if you encouraged critical thinking concerning environmental issues instead of blind acceptance of environmental crisis predictions and the accompanying big government solutions. If your readers want the other side of this (i.e., the cost in human suffering due to blind environmentalism), I suggest www.heartland.org, www.nesare.org, and www.cei.org.
We hear so much about the AIDS epidemic in Africa - it is politically correct to "care" about this issue. What about the malaria epidemic? It kills hundreds of thousands of innocents each year. DDT will improve this situation but the environmentalists can't admit that "Rachel Was Wrong." Critical thinking as citizens of the world, not just people who owe their paychecks to reducing the NO_x levels in an urban area would be more beneficial in the long run. Dr. Wilson misses the point of what the folly actually is.
Susan Harms, Ph.D., CIH, CSP
This article appeared in the February 2001 issue of Environmental Protection, Vol. 12, No. 2, on page 8.
This article originally appeared in the 02/01/2001 issue of Environmental Protection.