Issue Date: September 7, 2009
Nuclear Power & Stradivari's Wood
Two letters in the May 4 issue of C&EN caught my attention. John Weisburger gave a vote for nuclear power but then mentioned the French reprocessing plant (page 6). For his information, the French are using U.S. technology developed in the 1940s and 1950s. Sitting in lonely isolation in the corner of the Savannah River plant is the Barnwell Nuclear Fuel Plant built in the 1970s by a partnership of Allied Chemical and Gulf Oil. The plant was to have reprocessed 1,500 metric tons per year of spent nuclear fuel. President Jimmy Carter killed the project just before an operating license was issued, stopping growth of the nuclear power industry.
I visited the French plant in the late 1980s. The French were so smug! They think the U.S. is nuts!
The other letter was by Thomas Zebovitz about the Stradivarius violin (page 4). Harping on my favorite subject, I recommend "The Chilling Stars: The New Theory of Climate Change" by Henrik Svensmark and Nigel Calder. It contains an interesting commentary about the Strad. At the time they were made, it was near the end of a mini-ice age. The wood used in the violins was dense due to the cold growing seasons. That wood is not available today. I'm sure the correspondent is correct in that much better materials technology for parts is available now.
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