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Bothered by Winner

I know Richmond Renaissance was concerned about its public image, but I was surprised that Style went so low as to make one of their master string-pullers Richmonder of the Year ("The Negotiator," Jan. 1).

It is noteworthy that Mr. Bates directs so much downtown development, representing millions and millions of dollars in taxpayer money, and it is also noteworthy that I do not recall any citizens voting him into office.

Your article completely glossed over the huge opportunity costs that Mr. Bates' schemes have cost the citizens of this city. The money that has gone into these white-elephant development schemes ($50 million 6th Street Marketplace, $200 million Canal Walk, $100 million Convention Center, now a proposed $100 million Arts Center) might have been better spent on neighborhoods and citizen services. (When are they going to open that train station?)

My own opinion is that the civic and corporate leadership that Richmond Renaissance and Mr. Bates represent has failed Richmond. Perhaps I will feel differently if any of Mr. Bates' schemes actually make a return on their investment, but in the meantime my thoughts are with the young, mourning widows and mothers of the East End and South Side.

Scott Burger

Nuclear Engineer Responds

As an experienced nuclear engineer, I could not help but notice several inaccuracies both of fusion research and current nuclear power technologies in "The Fusion Solution" (Back Page, Jan. 8).

1) Mr. Carleton claims that the Bush Administration does not support fusion research or the re-entry into the ITER project. The United States dropped out of ITER in 1999 under the Clinton administration. Fusion researchers I have talked with are much happier with the support they have received from the Bush administration.

2) Mr. Carleton claims that fusion can generate electricity without creating any toxic waste. There is no energy source that does not have some toxic side effects. Even solar energy requires more materials processing (including toxic waste from the manufacture of photovoltaic cells) and greater land disturbance for the same electric capacity as a fission power plant.

3) Mr. Carleton expressed concern over the current management of high-level radioactive wastes and claims that inevitable leakage will excessively harm the public health. While nuclear waste is certainly not a breakfast food, it is handled safely at nuclear power plants across the nation. As far as long-term storage, we know from the 2 billion-year-old natural reactor at Oklo that high-level radioactive wastes have been isolated for extremely long periods of time even where significant amounts of water were present.

4) Mr. Carleton claims that shipping of nuclear spent fuel is highly dangerous and that the containers are poorly tested. One can see from the tests shown at www.sandia.gov/tp/SAFE_RAM/FULLSCL.HTM that the spent-fuel containers are tested under extreme conditions and they provide excellent protection of the public.

5) Mr. Carleton concludes that nuclear fission is a "dangerous dinosaur" method of producing electricity and that nuclear fusion should be the focus of nuclear energy activities. While fusion research is important and the United States should rejoin the ITER program, fusion is not around the corner. Several technological and economic hurdles remain for the commercialization of fusion.

Finally, I never claim that nuclear fission power is a perfect or complete solution to our energy problems, only that its place in the energy mix should be based on information not misconception. I would encourage anyone interested in the activities of the nuclear profession or having questions to contact the Virginia American Nuclear Society at local.ans.org/virginia/.

Robert S. Margolis, PE, PMP

Editor's note: For more information on this subject check out the Science Museum of Virginia's Funsten Lecture series. The first of these free lectures, "Putting the Genie Back in the Bottle: Nuclear Non-proliferation in the New Millennium" is Wednesday, Jan. 29, at 7 p.m.; the second, "Science and Security in an Age of Terrorism" is Wednesday, Feb. 5, at 7 p.m. Free Call 864-1400 for information.

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