To the Editor.
—I hate to argue with a former classmate, but Dr Orient's letter in the April Archives (1983;143: 843-844) comparing the relative risks of controlled nuclear fission and fossil fuels as energy sources is disingenuous in omitting all reference to one of the central problems of nuclear power plants—their long-lived, lethal waste products. The costs and difficulties of managing those wastes make nuclear fission energy a much less attractive option than it seems when those factors are ignored. Nuclear wastes have not been a major problem to date because the number of reactors in operation has been relatively small, but news reports on the storage problem have already begun to appear. Construction of enough nuclear plants to supply even a substantial fraction of the world's energy requirements would necessarily entail a several-fold increase in the volume of nuclear wastes, and hence in the magnitude of the waste-disposal problem.
Burris JF. Toxic Byproducts. Arch Intern Med. 1983;143(12):2334–2335. doi:10.1001/archinte.1983.00350120136035
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