Jonathan C. Halpern: Nuclear not answer

May 9, 2014 

The writer of the April 27 letter “ Nuclear is the future” sought to perpetuate the fiction that nuclear energy is clean and efficient. In fact, huge amounts of fossil fuel are used in its production.

First, more energy is used to build a nuclear power plant than the facility will generate in 200 years. Few of them last more than 30. But that is not all. Now we need uranium, which occurs in tiny concentrations in nature. So tens of thousands of tons of rock must be excavated with diesel-powered machinery and transported on a diesel-powered train to a refinery, possibly close to a coal-fired electrical plant. There the rock is ground and melted to extract the uranium. But there’s more.

Only one isotope of uranium splits easily, so all of the others must be separated and discarded. More fuel burned, more electricity used. Then the refined U-235 has to be packed into pellets.

Finally, diesel-powered trucks or trains must carry the uranium to energy plants. As for the waste produced, not to worry. Not enough voters live in rural Nevada to matter.

Jonathan C. Halperen

Raleigh

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