Letters; December 2009; Scientific American Magazine; by Staff Editor; 2 Page(s)
Terrible Thing to Waste
One of the most important messages in Matthew L. Wald's "What Now for Nuclear Waste?" is that we really have several options for handling nuclear waste. All the options, whether aboveground storage for a couple of hundred years until we decide on the next step, reprocessing fuel to remove the long-lived isotopes to be burned in a fast reactor, or even the original plan for burying spent fuel will have little to no impact on future generations or the environment. There are no plausible scenarios for controlling climate change that do not require use of nuclear energy. Apart from hydroelectricity, it is the only base-load source that does not require burning fossil fuels. For this country, there are no new major hydro sources available. Unfortunately, as Wald notes, the process for deciding how we ultimately handle nuclear waste has been driven largely by politics and not science. It is time, however, that we mature past the disingenuous arguments about nuclear waste as a roadblock to any new nuclear plants and build the facilities we need.
William H. Miller
Nuclear Science and Engineering Institute
University of Missouri-Columbia
In a Parallel Universe ...
It's such a shame the Neandertals had to leave us, as Kate Wong recounts in "Twilight of the Neandertals." Imagine sharing the planet with another race of stocky people like Tolkien's dwarfs! What I can't grasp is why we need to explain them away as anatomically inferior evolutionary dead ends. Maybe in some parallel universe, things went the other way. The Neandertal would be studying our bones and talking about how we were built weaker, had smaller brains, and were poorly adapted to the cold during an ice age. Of course we died out!