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No panic over nuclear power in the US

The Pew Research Center finds that 52 percent of Americans are now opposed to the increased use of nuclear power, up from the 44 percent opposed before the radiation leakages at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear power plant. 

These numbers can be read as a sign that the Japanese crisis has changed many minds. But it is important to keep the rise in opposition in perspective: a 8 percentage point shift is not huge; given the barrage of panicked coverage (which I wrote about here), you could have anticipated a bigger shift. As the diagram above shows, the support for nuclear power has fluctuated around 50 percent for the past five years. Other polls have reached similar results.

At the same time, it appears that the US regulators are not panicking either. According to a New York Times report, a US Nuclear Regulatory Commission official said that "the nuclear crisis in Japan did not warrant any immediate changes at American nuclear plants." NRC officials have repeatedly said they do not yet have "a full picture of events in Fukushima." The NRC even announced on Monday that it had issued a 20-year license extension to the Vermont Yankee reactor, which is a near twin of Fukushima Daiichi No. 1.

Meanwhile, we are reminded that extracting sources of energy is a dangerous business generally. Just two days ago 45 miners died in Quetta, Pakistan, when a coal mine collapsed - compared to no reported deaths in Japan from Fukushima. In the Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal has catalogued 25 explosions, accidents and other energy-related disasters that have occurred just during the past year alone. As he says, "We need to take nuclear safety concerns very seriously, but let's not forget what the baseline for our energy system is."

One Response to “No panic over nuclear power in the US” Leave a reply ›

  • FYI: I would like to point you to what I believe is an excellent book for better understanding the Japanese events and the US nuclear energy industry.

    “Rad Decision: A Novel of Nuclear Power” culminates in an accident very similar to the Japanese tragedy. (Same reactor type, same initial problem – a station blackout with scram.) The author (me) has worked in the US nuclear industry over 25 years. The book is an excellent source of perspective for the lay person — as I’ve been hearing from readers. There is nothing like it on the market -- I have provided a never-seen insider's perspective on the people, politics and technology of this controversial energy source. Believe me, the real world of nuclear (good and bad) bears little resemblance to what most people think -- and I include in that group most of the journalists, academics and advocates currently chatting away on TV and radio.

    Rad Decision is currently available free online at . (No adverts, nobody makes money off this site.) Reader reviews are in the homepage comments - there are plenty of them. There is also a paperback version available and a PDF download.

    Unfortunately, my media presence consists of this little-known book and website, so I'm not an acknowledged "expert". I just happpen to do the nuclear stuff for a living.

    I believe there isn’t a perfect energy solution – just options – each with their good and bad points. I think we’ll make better choices about our energy future if we first understand our energy present. A view from the inside would really help in this process.


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