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Title: Turning the tide of public opinion on nuclear power

Abstract

Until the early 1970s, the tide of public opinion in the United States was strongly in favor of nuclear power. New power plants were coming on line frequently, and in 1973-74, there were close to 40 new orders per year for new reactors in the United States. Official government projections estimated 1000 operating reactors by the year 2000. Fuel reprocessing, plutonium recycle, and breeder reactor development were also proceeding smoothly and rapidly. But, in the mid-1970s, the tide suddenly turned against the nuclear industry. How did this come about? In the late 1960s, energetic and idealistic young people who had never experienced economic insecurity or World Wars came of age. Environmentalism was an attractive outlet for their activity in most of the Western world. In the United States, opposition to the Vietnam War, in which these young people had a personal stake, was even more popular at first, but by the early 1970s, Vietnam was winding down, and they turned also to Environmentalism. Numerous environmental groups started up, aided heavily by the favorable connotation of the very word {open_quotes}environmentalist{close_quotes} in the public mind. Their organizational experience, political savvy, and media connections gained from their antiwar protests were powerful assets. Butmore » the groups needed specific targets to attack, and they soon found that nuclear power was well-suited for that purpose. Here was a new technology, coming on at a very rapid pace. To the public, radiation was highly mysterious, and people were well aware that it could be dangerous. And, the word danger had taken on a new meaning. Previous generations were well acquainted with death and were much less averse to risk-taking than the generation of the 1970s.« less

Authors:
 [1]
  1. Univ. of Pittsburgh, PA (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
577453
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Nuclear News; Journal Volume: 40; Journal Issue: 5; Other Information: PBD: Apr 1997
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
29 ENERGY PLANNING AND POLICY; NUCLEAR POWER; PUBLIC ANXIETY; PUBLIC OPINION

Citation Formats

Cohen, B.L.. Turning the tide of public opinion on nuclear power. United States: N. p., 1997. Web.
Cohen, B.L.. Turning the tide of public opinion on nuclear power. United States.
Cohen, B.L.. 1997. "Turning the tide of public opinion on nuclear power". United States. doi:.
@article{osti_577453,
title = {Turning the tide of public opinion on nuclear power},
author = {Cohen, B.L.},
abstractNote = {Until the early 1970s, the tide of public opinion in the United States was strongly in favor of nuclear power. New power plants were coming on line frequently, and in 1973-74, there were close to 40 new orders per year for new reactors in the United States. Official government projections estimated 1000 operating reactors by the year 2000. Fuel reprocessing, plutonium recycle, and breeder reactor development were also proceeding smoothly and rapidly. But, in the mid-1970s, the tide suddenly turned against the nuclear industry. How did this come about? In the late 1960s, energetic and idealistic young people who had never experienced economic insecurity or World Wars came of age. Environmentalism was an attractive outlet for their activity in most of the Western world. In the United States, opposition to the Vietnam War, in which these young people had a personal stake, was even more popular at first, but by the early 1970s, Vietnam was winding down, and they turned also to Environmentalism. Numerous environmental groups started up, aided heavily by the favorable connotation of the very word {open_quotes}environmentalist{close_quotes} in the public mind. Their organizational experience, political savvy, and media connections gained from their antiwar protests were powerful assets. But the groups needed specific targets to attack, and they soon found that nuclear power was well-suited for that purpose. Here was a new technology, coming on at a very rapid pace. To the public, radiation was highly mysterious, and people were well aware that it could be dangerous. And, the word danger had taken on a new meaning. Previous generations were well acquainted with death and were much less averse to risk-taking than the generation of the 1970s.},
doi = {},
journal = {Nuclear News},
number = 5,
volume = 40,
place = {United States},
year = 1997,
month = 4
}
  • Public support for nuclear power did not erode after the accident at Three Mile Island. A review of over 40 state and national polls indicates that a majority of Americans still believe that safety problems can be solved, although they would prefer to use solar energy and coal. An analysis of the surveys reveals that the majority saw a reactor accident as a likely occurrence and was critical of how the accident was handled. Harris and Cambridge polls show major trends developing during the 1970s: a moderate gain in opposition and a continued majority support for new plant construction. Themore » polls also reveal that fully a third would prefer not to make a decision at the time if given a choice. The relationship between public concerns for safety is evident in the poll trends. Three Mile Island heightened public awareness of the safety issue, but the public continues to find the risk acceptable. (DCK)« less
  • The evolution of public acceptance of nuclear power in the ex-USSR is described. The present status and future prospects are discussed with particular regard to the Chernobyl accident.
  • An American Public Power Association poll of 1300 adults found that a majority of US consumers believe public power is more concerned about the environment, offers lower rates, allows more control over utility operations, and has better service than private power companies. The poll shows that the American people support public power principles in every dominant measure. Specific findings were support of pluralism and competition and a preference for cost-based pricing. 1 figure.