It's a good thing that you have asked Joan King not to write too often about nuclear power. Otherwise, you would have to contend with my constant attempts to explain to her how power plants work and why her arguments are misguided. Since you printed her column Tuesday, I trust you will honor my response.
Ms. King points out that nuclear plants generate large amounts of heat. She does not seem to understand that all steam-electric power generation (coal, oil, natural gas or nuclear) generate about the same amount of heat. The most modern of these plants utilize hyperbolic cooling towers to remove this heat so that it does not warm nearby bodies of water. This heat comes from the condensation of spent steam after it has passed through and driven the turbines that turn electric generators that produce the power we all demand. This phenomenon is not unique to nuclear plants.
Ms. King criticizes the operation of French nuclear plants. France generates about 75 percent of its electricity via nuclear plants. These plants are some of the most efficient and effective in the world. France has done a marvelous job of setting a worldwide standard of excellence in nuclear plant operation.
And what's more, France processes its spent nuclear fuel into harmless waste just as we could in the United States if the government would undertake to do so. Spent fuel processing has proven to be too expensive an enterprise for American business to build. A government processing plant could serve all of the more than 100 nuclear plants operating in the U.S.
Nuclear power in America has proven itself to be safe, reliable, clean and cost effective during the last four decades. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved licensing for new standardized plant designs. This will allow future nuclear plants to be constructed on time and within budget at a cost competitive with their coal-fired counterparts that generate so much hot carbon dioxide gas.
There is no doubt that we should maximize the use of renewable energy sources: wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, etc. These approaches will not, however, support an expanding economy in America. Large base-loaded electric generating stations are required for this purpose. We rarely read about these facilities because they quietly do their job day in and day out to support our economy and quality of life.
America needs to wean itself from dependency upon fuels supplied by unstable political entities. Use of nuclear technology (which utilizes uranium fuel readily available in the U.S.) will help us to do so. Let's make our energy decisions based on facts and not on alarmist emotional appeals.
William D. Rezak
City's water rate hike takes advantage of us
In January 2004, the Gainesville City Council was convinced by our water department that the way to save water was to increase rates. It appeared to me then, and still does, that our water department simply wanted a rate increase and more income.
Apparently, it was too complicated to impose a systemwide increase because of county customers, so the water department's solution was to just raise the city rates by increasing the sewer rate, using the somewhat illogical reasoning that those of us using the most water were using the sewer more.
That logic is full of holes. Most people using more water than the amount required in-house are watering plants and lawns and filling swimming pools. That water goes nowhere near the sewer. My sewer charge went, from one month to the next, from $1.95 to $3.25, a 67 percent increase. My friends in the county who are not on sewer saw no increase at all, though they irrigate their lawns and fill their swimming pools.
After many complaints, the council then decided that those using city water for outside irrigation could have a separate meter and pay not a sewer charge, which was an acknowledgement that the "increase sewer use" theory was probably not valid.
Unfortunately for many, the installation costs were more than $3,000 in some cases which, at the time, made such an installation only marginally economically feasible.
Now we are faced with another increase in our sewer rate, from $3.25 to $4, another 23 percent increase, plus a graduated increase in regular water rates that could add another 30 percent-plus increase for top-end users, with no opportunity in that rate increase to save money over previous charges.
I used the city's "calculator" on its Web site and discovered if I use even 1 CCF (748 gallons) of water, my rate will still be increased.
In my opinion, city council members have allowed themselves to be convinced that taking advantage of the law of supply and demand is an opportunity to increase revenues, much like the oil industry.
And, you know, I've never seen a government tax hike or rate increase come down.
Notice all the new trucks and equipment on the streets? At a time when the economy is still headed down, seems like our representatives ought to be looking for ways to help us through the crisis, not make a profit from it.