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Public should know about nuclear power
Letter to the Editor
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Published: 3/14/2009 12:01 AM

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Turbines vs. nuclear? I am posing this question to readers of the Daily Herald because most people are ill-informed about both sources of energy.

The use of wind as an alternative form of energy is gaining favor in many parts of the country, as it is here in Lake County, as "going green" is now being linked to the utilization of clean and efficient sources of energy such as wind. Libertyville trustees have agreed to amend the village code to allow wind turbines to generate electric power. The Lake County board is likewise looking into having a wind farm in Newport Township that would cover up to 380 acres with up to 10 wind turbines.

Have Libertyville trustees or the Lake County board heard of the unintended consequences of building windmills? The New American summarizes these interesting and alarming findings from the Caithness Windfarm Information Forum: (1) 39 incidents of blade failures that have been known to travel over a quarter mile; (2) 110 incidents of fire that require 30-story ladder trucks; (3) 60 incidents of turbine failure and tower collapse; and 13 incidents of "ice throw" with human injury.

It is ironic and defies logic that the proposed Newton Township wind farm is to be located only miles from the premature 1998 shutdown of the dual nuclear power plant at Zion. The site was an extremely low-cost and carbon-free, already-built source of massive amounts of electricity here in Northern Illinois. It remains unclear why Exelon replaced the steam generators at the Bryon and Braidwood nuclear sites in Illinois but refused to do so at the Zion site to likewise keep it operable.

Anti-nuclear crusaders are still spreading fear mongering. The Zion site received its share of bad rap during its years of operation. Among them is that nuclear power releases dangerous amounts of radiation into the atmosphere and bodies of water, that reactors are subject to terrorist attacks and that transporting radioactive materials exposes people to unacceptable risk. All are dead wrong.

Washington D.C.-based Heritage Society attributes the problems surrounding nuclear waste "as purely political and not one bit technical." Heritage also views nuclear's track record on safely as better than wind's and better than most. The proposed Lake County wind farm would generate up to 15 to 20 megawatts of energy. Each Zion reactor produced 1,000 megawatts of energy when in operation from 1973 to 1998. While the life expectancy of windmills is about 20 years, nuclear power plants have an 80-year life span. In addition, nuclear plants do not fail customers. They run at high capacity without being subjected to whether or not the wind blows.

Upsetting to learn was that Obama's $3.6 trillion budget for 2010 provides for the research and development of clean energy technologies such as solar and wind, but nothing for nuclear energy. Nuclear certainly qualifies as a clean and green source of energy!

Call your Illinois legislators. Especially connect with Sen. Michael Bond who is a co-chairman of the Illinois Nuclear Energy Commission. Educate them about the need to reopen the dual Zion nuclear site.

Nancy J. Thorner

Lake Bluff