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Americans Split on Safety of Nuclear Energy

Written by Heidi Schwartz. Posted in Energy, Safety

Tagged: , ,

Published on July 06, 2009 with 1 Comment

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.”

About Heidi Schwartz

Heidi Schwartz

Schwartz joined Group C Media in April 1989 as managing editor of Today's Facility Manager (TFM) magazine (formerly Business Interiors) where she was subsequently promoted to editor/co-publisher of the monthly trade magazine for facility management professionals. In September 2012, she took over the newly created position of internet director for TFM's parent company, Group C Media, where she is charged with developing content and creating online strategies for TFM and its sister publication, Business Facilities. Schwartz can be reached at

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  1. Idaho National Laboratory is the nation’s lead nuclear R&D facility. There is a news story that appeared on CNET today with video that talks about the work being done here. The lab’s Web site is

    The CNET story is available at:

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