Americans Split on Safety of Nuclear Energy

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A national poll of 800 U.S. residents by the Sacred Heart University Polling Institute found a nearly even split between those suggesting nuclear energy was very or somewhat safe (46.1%) and those who said somewhat dangerous or very dangerous (44.7%).

“Americans are split about whether nuclear power is safe or not, and many people have specific security concerns about nuclear power. The two dangers that concern a majority of Americans are the problems with radioactive waste storage, a top criticism of nuclear power, and possible plant meltdowns,” says Dr. Josh Klein, assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Sacred Heart University.

A majority of Americans (58.4%), however, indicated that nuclear energy’s radioactive waste is a danger that humans will face for thousands of years to come. Over one-third of respondents, 36.8%, expect the number of nuclear weapons to increase worldwide as a result of building more nuclear power plants.

Poll respondents did consider other energy sources as significantly more safe than nuclear energy. A large majority, 94.6%, saw wind energy as very or somewhat safe. This was followed by river and tidal energy (80.0%), geothermal energy (68.5%), fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas (56.1%), and biofuels (55.6%).

While over half of those surveyed, 53.6%, were concerned about the danger of future nuclear energy plant meltdowns, nearly the same percent (54.2%) suggested that nuclear power plants will be safer in the future because of newer technologies making plants meltdown proof.

And, 36.8% did not see a proliferation of nuclear weapons because nuclear energy and nuclear bombs utilize significantly different technologies.

Three-quarters of Americans (76.5%) were aware the United States Environmental Protection Agency had begun the process of listing carbon dioxide emissions as pollution that endangers public health. And, 77.0% of all survey respondents strongly or somewhat supported the EPA’s decision to regulate carbon emissions.

According to Dr. Klein, “The survey mixed pro and anti nuclear statements in equal measure. As a result, we found that about the same proportion expressed concern about future meltdowns (53.6%) as said that nuclear energy will be safer because they will be meltdown-proof (54.2%). Similar splits occurred in this survey regarding other nuclear safety concerns. These reflect some confusion, which is to be expected, given the limited information in major media.”

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