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Volume 96, Issue 2

GRAPHIC:  Also in every issueLETTERS
Upon what meat have you fed that you can…

Fueling the future

President Randel’s column, “How will the world meet its energy demands?” (October/03) is disappointing in two respects: factually and in terms of the future of energy research at the University.

Carbon dioxide need not be produced when using electricity from wind or sun to produce hydrogen (except in producing and installing the wind- or sun-power apparatus.) Nor would a hydrogen distribution system be necessary. Hydrogen generation can take place at the site of use in small quantities with low risk. The “necessary time scale” that worries Randel is relative to the size of the public subsidy of research and development. If hydrogen fuel cells combined with solar or wind generators received a serious fraction of the public subsidy now received by the fossil and nuclear-power industries, and their acolytes in academia, the time scale would not necessarily extend to the next decade. The technology is on the shelf and in production.

Walk down to the Jackson Park Marina, Dr. Randel, and look at the boats with solar and wind generators. These can energize hydrogen gas generators to supply fuel cells. There is an evolution of ideas in energy production, but progress is hobbled by contra-selective factors, not the least of which are memories of glories long since past.

Sheldon W. Samuels, AB’51

Regarding President Don M. Randel’s column: I cannot agree more that nuclear energy is the only hope for ample energy supply in the future. However, from here on his reasoning is somewhat self-serving publicity for Argonne National Laboratories.

Unlike the nuclear bomb, which horrifies everyone, nuclear energy has been proven safe over the past 50 years. (See France, even Bulgaria.) It is a technology that can be applied immediately. Considering the rate of population increase, there is no time for fiddling with “long range” research, which might or might not bring a solution some 100 years from now. Power is needed now.

As to the disposal problem, other nations appear to be able to handle it. I would suggest we put the expended fuel where the military has already exploded literally several hundred atom bombs. How much more polluted can it get?

I also would suggest that President Randel, instead of begging for money, use the prestige of his famous institution to turn Washington’s attention to the global survival of the next generation. The Club of Rome has not been mistaken. The most important responsibility of the University of Chicago is to advise and pressure short-term politicians about the long-range outlook and consequences.

Incidentally, although I did research on energy for many years, I am now retired and have no personal interest whatsoever in the nuclear power industry. But I fear for my children and grandchildren.

John Tucson
Evanston, Illinois

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