o the Editor:
The otherwise sensible "Hard Questions on Nuclear Power" (editorial, May 29) states that reprocessing spent nuclear fuel "could greatly ease the storage problem" posed by such fuel. Reprocessing would actually make the waste problem worse because it would create several high- volume radioactive waste streams requiring storage, treatment and burial. The ill-fated experiment with commercial reprocessing at West Valley, N.Y., abandoned in 1972, vastly increased the amount of nuclear waste and has cost taxpayers more than $1.5 billion for cleanup.
Reprocessing also produces plutonium that can be used in weapons, which is much more costly to store and safeguard than the spent fuel from which it is separated. And since it is not technically feasible to recycle plutonium as fuel more than once, reprocessing does not eliminate the need for a repository for spent fuel; it simply defers it.
EDWIN S. LYMAN
Scientific Director, Nuclear Control Institute
Washington, May 29, 2001