- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 25, 2002

Burma needs reform before any 'doors' are opened

In his May 21 Op-Ed piece, Ken Adelman argues that it is time for the United States to "Open the doors to Burma.".
Pro-democracy leader and Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest on May 6. But she has yet to reach any agreement with the Burmese government, which means that there is still no promise of democratic change in Burma. Mrs. Suu Kyi said that her party continues to support economic sanctions and boycotts on tourism and foreign investment for the time being.
Mr. Adelman seems to believe that the Burmese military regime is reforming. Perhaps he is not aware of the following, disheartening facts:
Burma made its statement about Mrs. Suu Kyi's release through a Washington public relations firm to the foreign media services. But there has been no official announcement inside Burma. There is no news about the release of Mrs. Suu Kyi in the military-controlled media inside Burma.
From the above facts, we must conclude that the regime is only trying to satisfy foreign governments especially the U.S government. Its attitude toward the people of Burma, however, remains unchanged, and abuses and atrocities against the people of Burma continue.
The regime said in its statement that it has released 600 detainees in the past few months. Three hundred and forty of those released were not political prisoners.
There are still several hundred political prisoners languishing in the jails of Burma. Most of them have been imprisoned for more than a decade. While recently in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the regime's home minister, Col. Tin Hlaing, said that there are no political prisoners in Burma.
We appreciate that Mr. Adelman understands the problems facing Burma, such as poverty, the rising rate of malaria, infant mortality, drug abuse and AIDS. It is obvious that we, the people of Burma, need the help of the international community to solve these problems. But when the current Burmese military regime assumed power in 1962, it magnified these problems greatly. Unless the political system is changed, the international community will not be able to aid the people of Burma effectively.
Before we "open the doors to Burma," it must experience political reform.

AUNG DIN
Washington

Aung Din is a fellow at the Free Burma Coalition.

Nuclear false alarm

In his May 22 Commentary column, "Set-up for a nuclear disaster," Martin Gross makes numerous inaccurate, uninformed and inflammatory assertions about security at nuclear power plants. For example, Mr. Gross' claim that nuclear power plants are "virtually undefended" against a terrorist attack is simply false. For more than 25 years, nuclear power plants have been required to maintain strong defenses against attacks. The security at nuclear power plants far exceeds that at other civilian facilities.
His claim that "our nuclear plants are no more secure than they were before September 11" also is false. In fact, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) placed the 103 nuclear power plants on the highest level of alert immediately after the September 11 attacks, and it has overseen the implementation of a large number of enhanced security measures in the subsequent months. Our licensees have spent many millions of dollars on additional security since September 11.
Mr. Gross' claim that I thoughtlessly have opposed the federalization of security at the plants is misleading. All five NRC commissioners have given the matter careful consideration and ultimately unanimously opposed federalization because it would not serve the national interest. There would be serious command-and-control problems if security were placed under federal management while safety remained the responsibility of the private operator. These functions must be integrated. Moreover, the guard force at nuclear plants, in contrast to that at airports, is stable and well-trained and has served effectively.
Mr. Gross asserts that anti-aircraft defenses are deployed at French nuclear power plants, which simply is untrue. Although any decision about anti-aircraft defense must be made by the Department of Defense, the commission recognizes the serious challenges surrounding the decision to attack aircraft. Just imagine the consequences if a nervous defender with an anti-aircraft missile were to decide to shoot down an airplane that simply had drifted off course.
Your readers may have been alarmed needlessly by Mr. Gross' irresponsible commentary.

RICHARD A. MESERVE
Chairman
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Rockville

Nuclear facilities safe against terrorist threat

Martin Gross' armchair assessment of nuclear power plant security is refuted by the evaluations of security professionals who have visited the nuclear power plants that provide electricity to one of every five U.S. homes and businesses ("Set-up for a nuclear disaster," Commentary, May 22).
In a speech Monday to the Pennsylvania Press Club, the state's homeland security director, Earl Freilino, said of Three Mile Island's defenses: "I would hate to be the terrorist that tries to attack that facility."
Similarly, the then-director of the New York State Office of Public Security, James Kallstrom, emerged from a tour of the Indian Point power station in December and described the facility as "an extremely safe place."
Nuclear power plants were among the most secure industrial facilities in the United States before the September 11 terrorist attacks, and they are even safer today. Robust steel-and-concrete structures surround the reactor, in addition to several other physical barriers that protect the reactor fuel. Also, 5,400 expertly trained personnel nationwide maintain high levels of security against terrorism around the clock.
Since September 11, protective steps taken at nuclear power plants include increasing the size of our paramilitary security forces, extending plant security perimeters and solidifying our coordination with state, local and federal law enforcement and intelligence authorities.
The nuclear industry will continue working with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and state and local officials to ensure that the 20 percent of U.S. electricity supply generated at nuclear power plants continues to be produced safely.

RALPH E. BEEDLE
Senior vice president and chief nuclear officer
Nuclear Energy Institute
Washington

U.S. should continue to pressure murderous regime

Ken Adelman's Op-Ed piece on Burma gets the history correct the stolen democratic election of 1988 and the continued oppression of the National League for Democracy by the dictatorial military regime in Burma but he gets both facts and solutions wrong ("Open the doors to Burma," May 21).
Mr. Adelman states that "[the United States had] cut off imports of Burmese textiles that accounted for 40 percent of Burma's exports to the United States and furnished the bulk of Burma's hard currency." In fact, not only have we not cut off these exports, but they have actually increased dramatically in the past two years and continue to grow.
Mr. Adelman's call for new engagement would directly contradict the policy called for by Aung San Suu Kyi the heart and fountainhead of the democracy movement in Burma who upon her release insisted that both aid and new investment to Burma remain suspended until the military junta demonstrated further steps toward reform.
By calling for engagement now, Mr. Adelman plays right into the hands of a murderous regime, which, far from being punished for "past behavior," is shown today to continue to use brutal forced labor with apparent impunity.
Far better for those concerned about the advance and consolidation of democracy in Burma to keep the screws tight and honor the calls for continued pressure by those who are on the front line of the struggle.

BARBARA SHAILOR
Director, International Affairs Department
AFL-CIO
Washington

Yucca Mountain and the GAO

Most of your May 24 Business story on the hearing that took place before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was newsworthy and relevant to congressional action on the approval or rejection of Yucca Mountain for nuclear waste disposal. The headline "GAO questions Yucca data," however, was not news. The General Accounting Office witness at the hearing merely summarized a GAO report issued in December and did not even update her testimony to reflect the statements by Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham before the same committee the previous week, which differed from her testimony.
As to the inference that Yucca Mountain "might lack the capacity" to store all the (high-level) nuclear waste that exists now and that is still being added by ongoing nuclear power generation, that is hardly news to those familiar with the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA), which set up the repository disposal program. The NWPA places a statutory cap of 70,000 metric tons on the repository. Undersecretary of Energy Robert Card at the same hearing said that the Yucca Mountain site has the physical capacity to accommodate all the present and expected future waste if Congress chooses to lift the limit.

BRIAN O'CONNELL
Director, Nuclear Waste Program Office
National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners
Washington


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