- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 5, 2005

Beefing up the border

In response to the article “Mexico border watch expands” (Page 1, Monday), I would like to say that Andy Ramirez, chairman of Friends of the Border Patrol, has bought a great deal of credibility by naming Joseph N. Dassaro as adviser to the group. He is highly respected as a 13-year veteran Border Patrol agent and head of the local union.

Mr. Ramirez and his group are undertaking a difficult and dangerous task. It is hoped that the government will recognize the frustration that has caused concerned citizens to take on the job the government has shirked.

I hope it won’t take a disaster on the border to alert the officials responsible for allowing millions of illegal aliens to surge over our borders. We must see that the Border Patrol has enough agents and the resources necessary to do its job, to secure our borders.

BYRON SLATER

Border Solution Task Force

San Diego

Debating abstinence data

In her opinion column “Abstaining on abstinence data” (Commentary, Monday), Mona Charen bitterly complains about the lack of press coverage given to a report evaluating the Best Friends Foundation’s abstinence-only-until-marriage program, which was published recently in the conservative Journal of Adolescent and Family Health.

In her piece, Mrs. Charen questions why this research, which was conducted by a known conservative researcher and appeared in the journal of an ardent abstinence-only proponent, did not receive the same press attention as recent peer-reviewed research on virginity pledges conducted by two highly regarded scholars from Columbia and Yale universities and published in the respected Journal of Adolescent Health.

Mrs. Charen should be careful in what she wishes for. The scant media attention given to the evaluation of the Best Friends program probably was a blessing in disguise for Mrs. Charen, because it meant that the many serious flaws of the evaluation were not fully aired.

For example, the evaluation measured participants’ behavior for just a brief period of time; failed to account for the girls who dropped out of the program; and made no attempt to uncover other key factors influencing reported behaviors, such as the encouragement of the girls to tell one another. I doubt this is what she wanted reported.

Mrs. Charen’s column underscores the great tragedy of hypermoralists. To them, scientific data is just another opinion and should be regarded only if it suits their conservative agenda, regardless of whether it improves the health and well-being of our citizens.

Thankfully, this is not how public health works and not how we determine what works best to help young people make responsible decisions.

BILL SMITH

Vice president for public policy

Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S.

Washington

Hybrid technology 101

You are to be complimented for your Friday AutoWeekend section, with its photography and classic-autos feature. Last week’s treatment of the Toyota Highlander Hybrid sport utility vehicle (and other hybrids) requires clarification (“Toyota’s hybrid SUV delivers power, mileage,” April 29).

The basic purpose of hybrid technology is to give the gas engine more flexibility and not necessarily to increase its horsepower. The hybrid takes advantage of the electric motor’s smooth starting torque, and therein lies the confusion. Torque, or twisting force, is not directly related to horsepower. The standard gas engine necessitates a transmission arrangement to supply adequate torque when starting from rest or to accelerate, and its horsepower supplies speed. Power may be converted to torque and the speed with which the torque is applied, but torque cannot be converted to power; i.e., the two concepts are entirely different. Power is measured in horsepower (or watts), and torque (or leverage) is measured in pound-feet, i.e., “leverage.”

Theimprovementin mileage occurs because of added flexibility, permitting the gas engine to function well while using less power.

EDWARD ABRAMIC

Washington

Yucca Mountain is safe

Joseph Strolin’s letter in response to my Op-Ed column (?The Yucca Mountain scandal,? April 22) on the proposed geologic nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada amounts to so much hand-waving to distract readers from the glaring contradiction in the position of the anti-nuclear environmentalists and Nevada politicians who have joined forces to stop the site.

Quite simply, they would have us believe that burying our nation’s nuclear waste under 1,000 feet of rock in an isolated desert mountain poses unacceptable risks, while continuing to store it as we do now, above ground in sites located in cities and towns across the country, does not.

Mr. Strolin writes from the governor’s office in Nevada to say that water will move “very rapidly” through the rock some 1,000 feet above and below the repository and that the containers holding the waste “won’t last long.” Compared to what, continental drift?

He doesn’t give any time frame, but two decades of study by the U.S. government have determined that it would take thousands of years for water to carry radionuclides from the repository to the “accessible environment” in the nearby, sparsely populated Armagosa Desert. (There is no risk to Las Vegas or any other large city).

This could only happen after a breach in the containers holding the waste, the degradation of the waste itself (some of it, contra Mr. Strolin, vitrified into glass, all of it in solid form) and failure of all the other engineered barriers, which Mr. Strolin neglects to mention.

The government estimates the highly corrosion-resistant containers to be good for 10,000 years. Peak exposure in the Armagosa Desert, some hundreds of thousands of years in the future, would still be less than the natural background radiation in many parts of the United States today.

In addition, present plans allow for the repository to be monitored for up to 300 years before it is sealed. If the natural and engineered safeguards are indeed prone to the kind of systemic breakdown Mr. Strolin seems to be suggesting, we would have three centuries to identify the problem and remove the waste.

Nevada’s proposed alternative to the Yucca repository is to continue to store our nuclear waste in some 131 locations in 39 states across the country, where it is kept in shallow pools or above ground in lead, steel and concrete containers.

Some 161 million Americans live within 75 miles of one of these sites, which are often in densely populated areas and almost always next to rivers or large bodies of water. The idea that this “solution” is safer than storing our waste 1,000 feet below rock, near the Nuclear Emergency Support Team at Nellis Air Force Base, simply doesn’t pass the guffaw test.

For that reason, Mr. Strolin writes as if a small number of questionable e-mails by a few scientists working on Yucca constitute a full-blown conspiracy that compromises decades of work by hundreds of highly credentialed scientists and professionals.

As stated in my original Op-Ed column, those e-mails are being investigated and should be, as it is vital that people have confidence in the integrity of the process. Short of any major revelations, the government case for Yucca is solid, the national interest in perusing a deep geologic repository for our nuclear waste is vital, and the project should go forward.

JOSHUA GILDER

Bethesda

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