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Opinion editor's note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes letters from readers online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.


The Star Tribune March 17 front-page headline regarding a leak at the Monticello nuclear plant turned a respectable newspaper into a tabloid closer to the National Enquirer ("Xcel plant had radioactive water leak"; see also "Nuclear leak 6th-worst of its kind," March 22). Should a leak occur at a nuclear power plant? Of course not. Should a newspaper cause unwarranted fear of one of the safest means we have of generating electricity? Of course not. The glaring headline made it appear that there is imminent and serious risk of harm to the people of Minnesota. The reality is that the risk of even negligible harm to anyone is extremely low.

If the water that leaked from the plant was the only water a person consumed for a whole year, the resulting radiation dose would be about one-third of the natural background radiation dose received by each of us every year. These natural sources (the sky, the ground and the naturally occurring radioactivity in our own body) irradiate us over 10,000 times every second, making radiation a very common part of our environment. The leaked water at Monticello will of course be diluted by orders of magnitude before it ever reaches the Mississippi River or a public well, making any radiation dose a tiny fraction of the worst-case estimate mentioned above. And since radiation is an easy substance to monitor, the groundwater can be monitored to preclude an uncontrolled public exposure, effectively eliminating any radiation dose to a member of the public.

These facts lay bare the extreme divergence between the perceived risk posed by the front-page headline and the actual risk associated with the leak. From a risk perspective, it would make as much sense to have a front-page headline story about a commercial airliner flying at night with a single exterior light bulb burned out. A newspaper is supposed to inform and educate the public. In this instance, the Star Tribune played into the common fear people have of radiation by presenting the story in a manner that made people feel they should be very scared of nuclear power. As a result, the Star Tribune failed its duty as a newspaper.

John Windschill, Aitkin, Minn.

The writer worked in nuclear power for 37 years, including 10 at the Monticello plant as radiation protection manager.


What a non-answer on the tritium spill: "We have definitely heard from folks that they want us to, you know, let them know much faster. And we hear that and we get it," stated Daniel Huff of the Minnesota Department of Health. There should be follow-up questions such as, "Will you let the public know much faster in the future?" or, "Will you disclose why the decision was made to withhold info on the current leak?"

Michael Ching, Apple Valley


Strictness, decades overdue

In regard to the March 15 article "EPA plan strictly regulates PFAS" with the subhead "Officials say Minnesota has head start on curbing the 'forever chemicals'": I wonder what is meant by "head start"? 3M has been dumping the chemicals for 70 years and counting. The chemicals are found in every drop of rain and every snowflake. All the fish and wildlife plus the food we eat has it. It's spread worldwide.

Now the Environmental Protection Agency is going to strictly regulate them. Wow! Talk about being on top of things! It refers to the costs of water systems that deal with PFAS and the burden to many communities. 3M and the other companies like Dupont should be working overtime to develop purification systems, for free, to every community and household affected by these chemicals. Plain and simple.

R.C. Sjolander, Cook, Minn.


Cosby comparison flops

Marshall Tanick's March 22 commentary ("Even Trump foes see hush money case is flawed," Opinion Exchange) is intriguing and thought-provoking. But on further thought his comparison to bills of attainder and his citation to the Bill Cosby case are unconvincing. In passing a bill of attainder, a legislature acted as judge, jury and sentencer. If former President Donald Trump is indicted, Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, would merely be acting as the prosecutor (and with a grand jury having determined probable cause). Bragg's campaign promise to pursue the Trump case bears no resemblance to a bill of attainder except in being a political act. And that appears to be the only parallel to the Cosby case. But the founders would never have limited a prosecutor's freedom of political speech in seeking an elective office because it suggested a citizen should be prosecuted.

The real problem is the politicization of prosecutorial offices, not the campaign promises made. And the true reason to hold off on the Stormy Daniels prosecution is not Bragg's campaign speech but the other pending probes against Trump, which involve more serious crimes, and two of which are being investigated by a federal Justice Department that is removed from politics.

Stan Keillor, Roseville


More than 'nothing'

In their commentary "Why tax-free Social Security doesn't make sense" (Opinion Exchange, March 21) Minnesota House DFL Reps. Dave Pinto, Esther Agbaje, Steve Elkins and Michael Howard state that "Eliminating all taxes on Social Security income would do nothing to help most seniors, because the majority already pay no taxes on their benefits." I am one of the 42% of the seniors who do pay taxes on my Social Security income even though our household income is definitely middle-class. Apparently, these DFL representatives make enough money that the $395 I would save means nothing to them, but it means a lot to me, modest or not! $395 could pay for needed teeth cleanings, an evening out every so often or maybe even a weekend getaway in outstate Minnesota. While the 2022 DFL platform supported elimination of the state tax on Social Security, apparently Gov. Tim Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman et al. no longer feel the need to honor this plank and support our middle-class seniors. They should be ashamed.

Howard Schwartz, Golden Valley


The letter writer of "Lift this burden off seniors" about taxing Social Security leaves out a lot of pertinent information.

Please look at the Minnesota House website, which lists taxation of Social Security benefits. If 85% of the letter writer's benefits are being taxed, as he states, then his income is at least $150,000. He did not indicate where he came up with his determination of "local median income." If his rent has become unsustainable at his assisted-living facility at that level of income (having had a parent living at one of those places, I know this is possible), then he needs to address that with them. And as for being retired for 31 years and having to "dip into his savings" — yes, isn't that what savings are for?!

Catherine LaVine Fuller, Minneapolis


According to some House members, eliminating taxes on Social Security benefits amounts to "Cutting taxes for a narrow band of wealthier seniors." Really, a narrow band? The article states that 58% of seniors pay no taxes on benefits. Are we to believe that the remaining 42% represent wealthy seniors? Or, is it more likely that at least 75% of the taxpaying seniors would be considered middle-income earners who would benefit from the tax cut? If the writers oppose tax cuts for the wealthy, perhaps they'd consider imposing an upper income limit, rather than axing a tax cut that benefits middle-class citizens.

According to most national publications, Minnesota is considered a "tax-unfriendly state," and the fact that we are one of only 11 states that taxes Social Security benefits supports this notion. Of the states that tax benefits, several are in the process of phasing out or eliminating the tax. Time for Minnesota to get on board and give deserving seniors a tax break.

Daniel Buche, Outing, Minn.