- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2001

NRDC's steam shows analytical meltdown

The Washington Times' March 18 special report "Energy needs may spur rebirth of nuclear power" pointed out some of the benefits of generating electricity from nuclear power. Unfortunately, the last word was left to a special-interest group that has always opposed development of this technology. That group is the oddly named Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). (If they successfully "defend" a resource from being put to use, is it still a resource?)

The NRDC suggests that nuclear power pollutes indirectly because the electricity to enrich uranium comes from coal plants. If this were a real concern, shouldn't they promote plans to replace those old coal-burners with cleaner, safer nuclear plants? They don't so maybe it's not the fossil plant emissions that really concern the NRDC.

The NRDC complains of harm from using the water of rivers and bays to cool nuclear power plants. If this were a real concern, why single out nuclear plants? Oil- and coal-burning power plants are cooled the same way as nukes so maybe it's not the water temperatures that really concern the NRDC.

Although other inconsistencies can be found in the brief remarks of the NRDC spokesperson, the prize for chutzpa must go to this claim: that local opposition to new power plant construction makes nuclear power unattractive. If this were a real concern, why have NRDC supporters worked for decades to sow fear and mistrust in any community that stood to gain a nuclear facility? This is a problem of their own making so maybe it's not the costs and shortages imposed on consumers by anti-nuclear obstructionists that really concern the NRDC.

No, the agenda of the NRDC shows more clearly in their works than in the words they weave. The rest of us can be grateful to the men and women who harness nuclear energy to produce electricity for us economically, safely, and with less impact on the environment than any competing source of power.




Kit Kennedy of the Natural Resources Defense Council made several comments in your special report, "Energy needs may spur rebirth of nuclear power," which I just couldn't let pass without comment.

First, you paraphrase Ms. Kennedy as stating that "nuclear is not emissions-free because huge amounts of electricity from 'dirty coal-burning plants' must be used to enrich uranium fuel." This reasoning strikes me as being a bit circular, since it is opponents of nuclear like herself who have stuck the rest of us with these "dirty" plants. In France, where 80 percent of their grid is nuclear-powered, the dirt is less widespread. Ms. Kennedy also chose not to comment on the reactor technologies such as Canada's CANDU design, which uses natural uranium and therefore requires no enrichment.

Ms. Kennedy states that "the cooling systems in nuclear power plants that suck up water from nearby rivers and bays, heat and then discharge it, killing billions of fish eggs and fish larvae." If Ms. Kennedy were at all familiar with the steam cycle, she would understand that every generating station using a steam supply to turn a turbine requires a cooling water supply.

Anti-nuclear activists found themselves losing the public debate on nuclear power years ago when they tried to use reason. Today, Ms. Kennedy and the tiny minority she represents are using a combination of junk science, scare tactics and legal maneuvering to make the implementation of nuclear power as difficult as possible. Let's hope that the latest power crises finally convince people that electricity isn't produced inside a wall socket.


Morro Bay, Calif.

Army spitting bullets at 'snide' attack

On behalf of the United States Army, I am writing to say how disappointed I am by the editorial cartoons appearing in your newspaper for the last two weeks that ridicule the chief of staff of the Army.

Certainly, senior officials in the government are fair game for criticism, but your paper clearly crossed the line of good taste by printing cartoons that do not offer anything to the public debate but only engage in insult. Your snide personal attack on Gen. Erik K. Shinseki in the context of the beret controversy not only trivializes his lifetime of selfless service and sacrifice as a professional soldier but also is disrespectful to the other soldiers who serve our great nation.

It is unfortunate that the editorial staff of The Washington Times chose to express their views in such an offensive and demeaning manner.


Acting secretary of the Army

Department of the Army


Black and blue over black and tan

I was distressed to read two letters concerning the Army's black berets that are critical of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki ("Readers see red over black beret fiasco," March 18). These letters reveal a profound lack of understanding of military matters and military people.

William J. O'Brien suggests that Gen. Shinseki made the decision to have the Army wear black berets because he "clearly values his own career over the best interests of the Army." Gen. Shinseki is a four star general, the highest military rank achievable. He has already reached the acme of his career. He aspires to higher things, but for the Army, not for himself.

Fewer than 2,000 soldiers are assigned to the 77th Infantry Regiment (Ranger) and authorized to wear the black beret. This is a minuscule portion of the Army's total military strength of over 1 million 480,000 in the active Army, 350,000 in the Army National Guard, and 200,000 in the Army Reserve. This episode illustrates to a degree the problem with special units that become so elite they forget they are part of a larger organization. It is significant that the hue and cry was raised by former Rangers that left the Army and not by Rangers remaining in the service of the nation. Rangers still in military service appear to understand and support their chief of staff's determination to improve the Army and will wear their new tan berets with pride and distinction.

Ernest W. Lefever suggests that Gen. Shinseki "doesn't understand the close tie between unit morale and the wearing of distinctive symbols." He is wrong. Gen. Shinseki does understand the important importance of distinctive symbols. That is why he decided to have all of his soldiers wear a black beret, and that is why he wants them to be able to wear their black berets starting with the Army's birthday on June 14. The Army needs to make clear its determination to uphold the warrior virtues and a high standard of ethical behavior so that it can attract and retain the right kind of young people. The black berets will help do that.

Mr. O'Brien suggests that the "good people are leaving the Army." That is not true. The good people are staying. People who leave the Army for more money or an easier life simply do not live up to the soldierly virtues. Those who continue to serve despite overwork, shortages, and problems are the true patriots who will come through in the future to wage and win the nation's wars.

Gen. Shinseki is to be commended for his innovative efforts to enhance the morale of the Army and transform it into a fighting force fit for the 21st Century. He is a true leader and epitomizes the Army values of duty, honor, and country.


U.S. Army (retired)

Burke, Va.

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