Americans Becoming Aware of Health Risks of Nuclear Power
One year out from the on-going Fukushima nuclear disaster, and despite government efforts to sugar-coat the spreading risks of radioactive fallout, increasing numbers of American apparently are not believing the hype. They have very real and deep concerns about their health and the environmental effects of nuclear power and the overall safety of the nuclear power plant down the street.
Survey: Americans Not Warming Up to Nuclear Power One Year After Fukushima
By Civil Society Institute, Newton, MA; and ORC International
Posted: 11:02am on Mar 7, 2012;Modified: 11:07am on Mar 7, 2012
WASHINGTON, MARCH 7, 2012 — Contrary to Industry Predictions, Reactor Disaster Seen As Having a "Lasting Chill" on Perceptions;
It's Not All Fukushima: 3 in 5 Americans Less Supportive Due to Woes of U.S. Nuclear Industry in Last Year.
WASHINGTON, March 7, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --One year after the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear reactors in Japan, Americans continue to want to keep the brakes on more nuclear power in the United States, according to a major new ORC International survey conducted for the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute (CSI).
To gauge any shift in public attitudes, the new survey was benchmarked to an earlier poll carried out by ORC International in March 2011 for CSI. Conducted February 23-26 2012, the new survey of 1,032 Americans shows that:
Nearly six in 10 Americans (57 percent) are less supportive of expanding nuclear power in the United States than they were before the Japanese reactor crisis, a nearly identical finding to the 58 percent who responded the same way when asked the same question one year ago. This contrasts sharply with pre-Fukushima surveys by Gallup and other organizations showing a 60 percent support level for nuclear power.
More than three out of four Americans (77 percent) say they are now more supportive than they were a year 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." This finding edged up from the 2011 survey level of 76 percent.
More than three out of four Americans (77 percent) would support "a shift of federal loan-guarantee support for energy away from nuclear reactors" in favor of wind and solar power. This level of support was up from the 74 percent finding in the 2011 survey.
In response to a new question in the 2012 survey, more than six in 10 Americans (61 percent) said they were less supportive of nuclear power as a result of reports in the U.S. during 2011 and so far in 2012 of nuclear reactors that had to be shut down due such factors as natural disasters, equipment failure and radioactive leaks.
About two thirds (65 percent) of Americans now say they would oppose "the construction of a new nuclear reactor within 50 miles of [their] home." This figure was roughly the same as the 67 percent opposition level in the March 2011 survey.
Pam Solo, founder and president, Civil Society Institute, said: "It is clear that Fukushima left an indelible impression on the thinking of Americans about nuclear power. The U.S. 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. These poll findings support the need for a renewed national debate about the energy choices that America makes."
Peter Bradford, former member of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, former chair of the New York and Maine utility regulatory commissions, and currently adjunct professor at Vermont Law School on Nuclear Power and Public Policy,said: "This survey is another piece of bad news for new nuclear construction in the U.S. For an industry completely dependent on political support in order to gain access to the taxpayers' wallets (through loan guarantees and other federal subsidies) and the consumers' wallets (through rate guarantees to cover even canceled plants and cost overruns), public skepticism of this magnitude is a near fatal flaw.The nuclear industry has spent millions on polls telling the public how much the public longs for nuclear power. Such polls never ask real world questions linking new reactors to rate increases or to accident risk. Fukushima has made the links to risk much clearer in the public mind. This poll makes the consequences of that linkage clear."
Pollster Graham Hueber, senior researcher, ORC International, said: "I would summarize these findings as follows: We see here a lasting chill in how the public perceives nuclear power. The passage of one year since the Fukushima nuclear reactor crisis in Japan has neither dimmed concerns in the U.S. about nuclear power nor has it made Americans more inclined to support an expanded federal focus on promoting more nuclear reactors in the U.S."
Robert Alvarez, senior scholar, Institute for Policy Studies, where he is currently focused on nuclear disarmament and environmental and energy policies, and former senior policy advisor, U.S. Secretary of Energy, where he coordinated the effort to enact nuclear worker compensation legislation, said: "Nuclear power remains expensive, dangerous, and too radioactive for Wall Street. This survey shows why the industry has no future unless the U.S. government props it up and forces the public to bear the risks."
OTHER KEY SURVEY FINDINGS
72 percent of Americans do not "think taxpayers should take on the risk for the construction of new nuclear power reactors in the United States through billions of dollars in new federal loan guarantees for new reactors." This level of opposition was nearly identical to the 73 percent opposition level reported in the March 2011 survey.
Nearly four out of five Americans (78 percent) would favor Congress reviewing a 1957 law indemnifying nuclear power companies from most disaster clean-up costs. Instead, Americans would hold the companies "liable for all damages resulting from a nuclear meltdown or other accident." This figure is up 5 percentage points from the 73 percent support level seen in 2011.
Over half (52 percent) of Americans living within 50 miles of a nuclear reactor do not know "what to do in the event of nuclear reactor emergency," such as "the evacuation route and what other steps to take." (That figure is unchanged from the 2011 survey findings.) The 2012 poll indicates that nearly one in five (18 percent) of Americans say they live within 50 miles of a nuclear power reactor.
Over half (51 percent) of Americans would now support "a moratorium on new nuclear reactor construction in the United States," if "increased energy efficiency and off the shelf renewable technologies such as wind and solar could meet our energy demands for the near term." This support level was little changed from the 53 percent level seen in the March 2011 survey.