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Nuclear power is never safe or economical

I hope Sen. Durbin changes his mind about promoting nuclear energy. The real carbon-free sources of electricity are wind and solar.

Win turbines behind a solar farm. The only real sources of clean, renewable energy are wind and solar, not nuclear, a reader writes.
Win turbines behind a solar farm. The only real sources of clean, renewable energy are wind and solar, not nuclear, a reader writes.
Michael Sohn/AP Photos

I cannot disagree more with the assertion by Sen. Dick Durbin in a recent Sun-Times op-ed that nuclear power is a necessary and viable way to combat climate change.

Electricity production by nuclear power is not, and can never be made, safe and economical.

When nuclear power plants were first touted in the 1950s as a new and safe method for producing electricity, it was said the electricity would be “too cheap to meter.” This is pure nonsense! If it was so safe, why weren’t any power plants built and put on line until passage of the Price-Anderson Act? The law has been amended a number of times and greatly limits the liability of operators of nuclear power plants.

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Anything paid out beyond the limits set in Price-Anderson would take years of lawsuits.

Sen. Durbin wrote “It is past time for Congress to step up and develop a comprehensive, consent-based plan to store nuclear waste.” That’s an understatement. Nuclear waste is stored within a half-mile of Lake Michigan at the now-closed Zion nuclear power plant. Why is it close to the source of our drinking water? Because there is nowhere to ship it! Plans to ship such waste to a depository in Yucca Mountain in the southwest fell through when some improperly stored barrels burst into flames, releasing large amounts of high-level radioactive material.

Who does the senator think will agree to a “consent-based plan” when there is no known method of safely storing these dangerous materials for thousands of years, the time it takes for radioactive decay to make it safe for the environment?

Sen. Durbin argued that “we must ensure the nuclear fleet remains safe and economical,” but nuclear power has never been economical. As far as I know, the last time a permit was approved for a new nuclear plant was during the Obama administration. That plant in Georgia is only about half complete, although it was to be finished by now and the cost is already double the initial estimate.

The current “fleet,” as Sen. Durbin called them, of nuclear power plants were designed and engineered to last about 30 to 40 years. Most of our country’s plants are near that age. Their internal systems are constantly bombarded by radioactive particles, making the metal in the systems more brittle and prone to failure every year. Subsidizing them is a waste of taxpayer money and a dangerous gamble with our lives.

I hope Sen. Durbin changes his mind. The real carbon-free sources of electricity are renewables: wind and solar.

George Milkowski, West Ridge

Let the people vote on a fair and equitable ward map

The Sun-Times editorial board stated that it looks forward to the day when the ward remap process “is driven far more by public input, or fully placed into the hands of an independent remap commission.”

That day already has arrived. It’s here now.

The Chicago Advisory Redistricting Commission is that independent group and it, and its supporters, introduced “The People’s Map” in ordinance form in the City Council Monday. This is not some rogue effort. Provisions already exist in the law for such a map to be considered. By law, if 10 council members now will find the courage to live up to their promises of open government for the people, then that and other maps that win such support can be put before voters.

Indeed, this authorized process occurred after the 1990 census and city voters weighed in.

For more than a year, the commission’s creation has been announced and its work publicized repeatedly. Its open process was outlined at chicagoswards.org. Community groups recommended respected leaders for an independent selection committee whose members conducted more than 50 interviews with candidates from among 430 applicants. That committee chose 13 commissioners and alternates. Those commissioners were trained during open meetings by the Mayer Brown law firm representing CHANGE Illinois, which supported the commission’s creation and work. Commissioners were advised by a nationally recognized demographer.

The geographically and ethnically diverse Chicago Advisory Redistricting Commission took testimony, community-of-interest maps and input from 525 residents. It released the first of two draft maps in September and made revisions based on residents’ feedback before approving its final version of The People’s Map Oct. 1. The commission published its principles months ago and all of its work was advertised in advance in major, local and ethnic media.

The fair and equitable map that adheres to voting rights laws is here. Commissioners sought, whenever possible, to keep communities from being splintered, as incumbents historically have done to protect their election chances.

The commission also was the first to create an Asian majority ward, making history.

The time is now to seize the moment. Let’s use existing laws and processes to get The People’s Map before the people for a vote.

Madeleine Doubek, Executive Director, CHANGE Illinois