Nuclear power in US: public support plummets in wake of Fukushima crisis
The massive earthquake that threatened a meltdown at Japan's Fukushima I nuclear plant has dramatically eroded public support for building new nuclear power plants in the US, throwing into question the "nuclear renaissance" hailed by industry advocates, new polls show.
A new Civil Society Institute/OCR poll conducted last week shows that a majority of Americans now favor halting new federal loan guarantees to support reactor construction. At the same time, most respondents also favor removing the federal indemnification in the event of a nuclear accident.
Other surveys also show a serious weakening in support for nuclear-power development. While Gallup found 62 percent support for nuclear energy last March – the highest since the polling firm first asked the question in 1994 – support for new nuclear power has now dropped to 44 percent, a new USA Today/Gallup poll shows....
Similarly, a new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press release Monday shows 39 percent now favoring more nuclear power while 52
percent oppose it – matching a September 2005 low in support for nuclear. Last October, a Pew poll showed 47 percent favored promoting the increased use of nuclear power and 47 percent opposed.
“The American public clearly favors a conservative approach to energy that insists on it being safe in all senses of the word – including the risk to local communities and citizens," Pam Solo, founder and president of the Civil Society Institute, the Newton, Mass.-based nonpartisan think tank, said in a conference call. "These poll findings support the need for a renewed national debate about the energy choices that America makes."...
- Most Americans said they favor kicking away nuclear-industry supports. Even though President Obama has asked for $36 billion in new loan guarantees on top of $18 billion already approved by Congress, 73 percent of Americans said they do not “think taxpayers should take on the risk" of construction loans for new nuclear reactors. The same proportion favor “a shift of federal loan-guarantee support for energy away from nuclear reactors” toward wind and solar power.
- Some 73 percent respondents favor congressional review of a 1957 law that indemnifies nuclear-power companies from most disaster cleanup costs. Instead, Americans would hold the companies “liable for all damages resulting from a nuclear meltdown or other accident,” the survey said.
- Slightly more Americans (76 percent ) are also now “more supportive than … a month ago to using clean, renewable-energy resources – such as wind and solar – and increased energy efficiency as an alternative to more nuclear power in the United States.”
- Meanwhile, 51 percent support “a halt to the United States extending the operating lifespan of its oldest nuclear reactors." Owners of dozens of aging nuclear power plants – among 104 reactors nationwide – are seeking 20-year operating permit extensions.