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Thursday, July 21, 2011: South Korea, nuclear disasters, more wind power

South Korea’s comeback

I was among a group of Korean War veterans invited to revisit as guests of the South Korean government. We found it difficult to equate this beehive of a country with the war-ravaged Korea we knew as soldiers. In a span of 60 years it has transformed itself into one of the “Little Tigers” of Southeast Asia along with Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

This country of nearly 50 million in an area slightly larger than Maine, has become an industrial powerhouse ranked 11th worldwide. Its capital, Seoul, is abuzz with the energy of a highly educated work force. No street people or beggars are visible. Unemployment is 3.6 percent.

Its economy is geared to exports as Hyundai and Samsung Industries will attest and is the world’s largest builder of super tankers and container cargo ships. High speed trains bring everyone within an hour’s ride of home or workplace. The government provides Internet access to schools. Not surprisingly, its citizens enjoy a 98 percent literacy rate.

The Americans were honored guests at a war memorial ceremony when the president of the South Korean Republic awarded us Medals of Freedom.

We vets are not alone in admiring this phenomenon. The Olympic Games selection committee voted South Korea for its 2018 Winter Games. The world will once again (since the 1988 Summer Olympics) hear the roar of this Little Tiger as its maturity in the family of nations.

Paul A. Lucey
Old Town

No safe nukes

It is impossible to design, test and train as the BDN suggests (“Decision Meltdowns,” editorial, July 18) for unprecedented nuclear disasters like the one at Fukushima because no one can predict a disaster like that and regulators routinely say that is it not necessary anyway because these events are impossible.

Which of course they are not.

Regulators in the U.S. are as useless as those in Japan to do anything about the loss of coolant system power outages, with entire station blackout, because they only require 8 hours of backup power. Fukushima proved much longer periods are needed and so are offsite, ready-to-go generator trucks which would have high priority to get to the plant — even through evacuation traffic.

U.S. nuclear workers would be scrambling for car batteries, too, in such an accident as Fukushima.

And the new NRC guidelines do not solve these problems at all.

Nancy Allen

What about Bangor?

Congratulations to the folks at Penobscot Community Health Center and the Brewer School Department for securing the federal grant ($234,862) to continue the important job started five years ago in Brewer’s two school-based health clinics (BDN, July 16). Offering onsite, quality, dental and mental health care at their school leads to better academic outcomes.

Where does the Bangor School Committee stand on pursuing the same for our students? How about a response from the school board?

Paul Ouellette

More power, not less

Where do opponents of wind power think future electricity will come from? This is a sincere question: I’d really like to know what they think.

As a nation we’re still getting about half our energy from coal which is terribly destructive to mine, causes thousands of deaths and serious disease each year through pollution, has a finite availability and is a leading cause of global warming.

Opponents wax poetic about the tragedy of wind farms destroying Maine’s pristine landscape but the reality is that we’re at the end of the northeast transport zone and receive pollution from upwind states. Our waters are polluted and women of childbearing age and children aren’t supposed to eat freshwater fish. In addition, there is currently enough carbon in the atmosphere to cause about a 3-foot rise in sea level: as a coastal state this should concern us.

Just because we can’t see this pollution doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Natural gas is often touted as the salvation but studies are showing that besides the risk of polluting drinking water supplies (caused by “fracking”), outputs peak quicker than expected and financial ROIs are lower than anticipated. In addition, fugitive emissions can negate any advantage gas offers over coal in terms of carbon pollution.

Are we so closed-minded that we need to have seawater lapping at our back door or have to endure rolling blackouts before we take serious steps toward obtaining more sustainable energy supplies? We need more wind power, not less.

Frank John

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