Nuclear power is needed for space explorationYour 1950s...


January 02, 1997

Nuclear power is needed for space exploration

Your 1950s horror films headline aside, the true risks from the use of nuclear-fueled power sources in space are negligible ("Nuclear menace in outer space," Dec. 8).

We have no choice but to use nuclear power sources.

The sun's energy is just too weak out beyond Mars and would require the use of football field sized solar panels which would be too heavy to launch, or chemical batteries which are too short-lived.

The current technology for safely containing the plutonium power source has been vastly over-tested through simulated launch pad explosions and unintended re-entry to assure that the plutonium will never be released to the environment.

It must withstand a Challenger-scale accident and remain intact and retrievable.

It is also designed to come roaring, red-hot, into the atmosphere, striking a granite wall on earth and not leak.

This level of safety has to be demonstrated to the satisfaction of an Interagency Safety Review Panel for each mission.

And finally, the president of the United States must approve every individual launch.

The use of plutonium-fueled space probes has brought us back the spectacular pictures of Saturn, Jupiter and the other outer planets, helping us further understand our solar system and our own earth.

If we are to continue to make progress toward gaining a foothold in space, the use of nuclear energy is essential.

R. H. Cooper Jr.

Knoxville, Tenn.

The writer is the manager of the nuclear power program at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Air bag use requires rules

What are the messages that need to be delivered about air bags and safety?

Properly used seat belts and child car safety seats (including booster seats) are the first and best methods of protection for everyone in the vehicle. Because people sitting in the back seat are farther from frontal impacts, if they are properly restrained, they generally suffer less severe injuries than front seat occupants.

Anyone sitting behind an air bag needs to follow certain rules. The occupant must be as far from the air bag module as possible; he must always wear a properly fitting lap and shoulder belt; he must always be facing forward, and he must be sitting upright and not leaning over.

Adults have a hard time following these rules. Do we honestly think a 4- or 5- or even 10-year-old can sit still for any significant length of time? These are just some of the reasons why we want the smaller, more fragile bodies of our children -- specifically those who weigh less than 100 pounds, are under five feet and are younger than 12 -- to ride properly restained in the back seat.

Deborah Baer


The writer is president of the Maryland Child Passenger Safety Association.

Medical incinerator is polluting dinosaur

The Sun (Dec. 28) reports the non-news that Phoenix Services Inc. has reduced emissions at its Hawkins Point medical waste incinerator with much-needed management changes and important expenditures on pollution control equipment.

To their credit, they seem to be operating the incinerator as cleanly as they can. But in spite of Phoenix's purportedly gallant efforts, the facility, which is by far the largest medical waste incinerator in the country, remains a polluting dinosaur.

The Sun's article notwithstanding, the incinerator operators are terribly mistaken in thinking that this record of ''improvement'' somehow justifies their request that medical wastes from out of state be imported to be burned in our community.

Indeed, confused City Council members Stukes, Reisinger and Handy should be working to reduce toxic emissions in their council district, rather than sponsoring the company's legislation which would result in further pollution of our air from burning other people's medical waste.

Terry J. Harris


State workers are 'toothless tigers'

Gov. Parris Glendening has granted Maryland state employees weak, non-binding collective bargaining. The workers seem satisfied. But they shouldn't be. Collective bargaining without the right to strike is a "toothless tiger."

It is utterly incomprehensible and totally ridiculous that Maryland's business community should go to court to block this "toothless tiger."

How shamelessly anti-worker can you get? Who would want to come to Maryland now?

Harry E. Bennett Jr.


College trustees got what they wanted

As I recall, the trustees of the Community Colleges of Baltimore County wanted to create a chancellor-led system, so that one person could provide vision and leadership for the community colleges.

The board hired an experienced and expensive consultant, recommended by people the trustees trusted, to help them understand how to go about creating a system. Then they ignored several important recommendations made by that consultant.

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