July 11, page 17: International Chemical Investors' plan to purchase five Rütgers Chemicals businesses was described incorrectly. The businesses are Rütgers Chemicals' fine chemicals divisions in the U.S. and Germany, Rütgers Organics GmbH (material protection), the performance chemicals division of Rütgers Organics Corp., and Rütgers CarboTech GmbH. The fine chemicals divisions have been renamed WeylChem Corp. and WeylChem GmbH, the performance chemicals division has been renamed Nease Corp., and Rütgers CarboTech GmbH has been renamed CarboTech AC GmbH.
I found "The Nuclear Hot Potato" to be an interesting story (C&EN, June 6, page 32). I personally favor nuclear power, and I hope that the issues with it can be resolved.
I was surprised, however, by a couple of items in the story. The first was that even if Yucca Mountain opened in 2010, enough commercial fuel will have been spent by then to exceed Yucca Mountain's total 70,000-metric-ton capacity (with 54,000 tons existing today). I was also surprised that a Nuclear Regulatory Commission official interviewed says that it is "simply uneconomical to reprocess spent fuel in light of the cheap price of U.S. uranium and the high costs and complications in reprocessing, as well as the proliferation and security concerns." Surely we need a long-term plan, we need reprocessing, and we need to understand the environmental aspects of all energy alternatives.
A lot was made in the article about interim storage sites. It has since been reported that Sen. Pete Domenici, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources, has called the House proposal "totally inadequate." While he is open to considering interim storage, Domenici has said that "you can't start a program of that importance with $10 million and a paragraph." Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, minority leader, is the ranking Democrat and called the House proposal "half-baked." It does not sound like interim storage will be coming soon.
The House Government Reform Committee has announced that it will issue a subpoena for the key individual in a controversy over e-mails written between 1998 and 2000, which discuss making up names and dates, keeping two sets of books, and using "fudge factors" in documenting quality assurance on U.S. Geological Survey research. Since USGS work involved contributing research and data for computer models that predict how water might infiltrate mountain cracks and pores under varying climate conditions, that would seem to be important.
Yucca Mountain is in a moderate earthquake zone. Las Vegas in the future is looking to draw water from Central Nevada. More than 70% of Nevada's 2.4 million inhabitants live in Las Vegas. The C&EN article notes that the potential peak exposure is likely to occur in 300,000 to 480,000 years. (I did not know that either.) These are not easy safety issues; one can thus better understand why Nevada lawyers are having success. This will be a "hot potato" for years to come.
Gordon L. Nelson
I must take issue with physicist James MacKenzie's pessimistic belief that nuclear energy isn't ready to play a role in achieving our long-term goal of energy independence. In fact, nuclear energy is poised to make major contributions over the next decade.
NuStart, an 11-company consortium of nuclear power companies and two reactor manufacturers, recently formalized an agreement with the Department of Energy to test the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) combined construction and operating license process and to complete the designs for new advanced nuclear power reactors. NuStart is expected to submit a license application to NRC in 2008. After a comprehensive review by NRC, the two construction and operating licenses could be issued as early as 2010, with a new plant beginning operation by 2015, if not earlier. In addition, two other consortia are preparing to sign similar agreements with DOE; similar results are expected, with the construction of more new nuclear plants by the middle of the next decade.
A streamlined licensing process, standardized nuclear plant designs, and nuclear provisions included in comprehensive energy legislation working its way through Congress are strong indicators of the significant role for nuclear energy in providing a vibrant, environmentally sound future for the nation.
Ralph L. Andersen