Surveys Find Japanese Crisis Has Affected Opinion of Nuclear Power

The nuclear reactor crisis in Japan has triggered a strong response among Americans, according to a major survey conducted one month after the crisis began on March 11 at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

The survey, conducted by ORC International for the Civil Society Institute, found that a majority of Americans would freeze new nuclear power construction, stop additional federal loan guarantees for reactors, shift away from nuclear power to wind and solar power, and eliminate the indemnification of the nuclear power industry from most post-disaster cleanup costs.

Also according to the survey, a majority of Americans living near nuclear power plants are ill-equipped to deal with a major disaster. Fifty-two percent of those living within 50 miles of a nuclear reactor do not know what to do in the event of a reactor emergency.

More than half of the respondents support a moratorium on new nuclear reactor construction in the United States if increased energy-efficient systems and renewable technologies, such as wind and solar, could meet energy demands in the near term. Seventy-four percent support a shift of federal loans for energy away from nuclear reactors in favor of wind and solar power.

Nearly three out of four Americans would favor Congress reviewing a 1957 law indemnifying nuclear power companies from most disaster cleanup costs. Instead, Americans would hold companies liable for all damages resulting from a nuclear meltdown or other accident. Also, 76 percent said they are now more supportive after the incident to use clean, renewable energy and increase energy efficiency as an alternative to more nuclear power. Nearly half now say they are “much more supportive” of relying on more clean energy and energy efficiency than they were before Fukushima.

In another poll, administered by Harris Interactive, respondents indicated a shift in opinion on the matter from a poll conducted three years ago. In the 2008 poll, 49 percent of respondents supported nuclear power, while 32 percent opposed it. Those results changed in the new poll to 41 and 39 percent, respectively.

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