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Title: Turning the tide of public opinion on nuclear power

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
  1. Univ. of Pittsburgh, PA (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
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