Archive for Monday, February 5, 2001

Fuel options

February 5, 2001


To the editor:

Stephen Miller's recent letter about the power crisis was informative and well-presented. Having worked my entire career in the energy industry so far, I'd like to convey a more upbeat outlook for our long-term energy needs.

Fuel cells are one of the cleanest energy-producing devices yet invented, and produce electricity through a noncombustion electrochemical reaction. Affordable fuel cell power units for residential and commercial use are just around the corner, thanks to recent advancements in fuel cell technology. Even more intriguing, hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles should become practical within the next 30 years. Hydrogen is completely non-polluting since the only exhaust is water, and it can be produced domestically without reliance on foreign producers.

For large electric generating plants, nuclear power remains the most sensible option. It produces no greenhouse gases, and safe, long-term storage of radioactive waste has been technologically solved already. There is currently a glut of uranium on the world market, and the anti-nuclear movement has yet to prove any real environmental damage has been caused by U.S. nuclear plants. We've been operating commercial nuclear plants in the U.S. for over 40 years, with no deaths from radiation. Even the 1979 Three Mile Island accident killed no one, and there was no discernible effect on health. Chernobyl's accident obviously caused much more severe problems, but mainly because its reactor was not contained within a massive reinforced concrete structure such as ours are in the U.S.

I only wish our Washington politicians would promote the cleaner power sources such as nuclear and hydrogen, instead of continuing to focus on the polluting fossil fuels as a long-term fix. We'll still need oil, coal and gas for the next few decades, but once the new, cleaner technologies become widely available and more affordable, we won't need fossil fuels and should stop burning them altogether.

Steve Johnson,


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