Intelligent Energy

Nuclear's PR problem: Americans say slash subsidies

Nuclear's PR problem: Americans say slash subsidies

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A new poll finds that the American public is strongly against subsidizing the construction of new nuclear reactors.

The Soviet Union abandoned the city of Pripyat after the Chernobyl disaster.

Government officials are pushing for a new round of nuclear power subsidies, but a new NBC/WSJ poll has found spending Federal dollars to construct new reactors to be the lowest of the public’s budget priorities.

President Obama’s FY 2012 budget requests $36 billion in new loan guarantees for the construction of reactors, and key senators have recently expressed more accommodating viewpoints on nuclear power.

Still, the public is still cool on the idea, according to the poll, which interviewed 1000 adults over the telephone from Feb. 24-28. 57 percent of respondents indicated that eliminating the subsidies would be either 'totally acceptable' or 'mostly acceptable.'

Just 40 percent were either strongly for or mostly supportive of keeping the subsidies. The other most palatable cuts were cutting Federal assistance to states and reducing or eliminating the EPA’s budget.

The poll’s sample population had a conservative tilt: 36 percent identified as either ‘conservative’ or ‘very conservative’; whereas, 24 percent were self-identified ‘liberals’ or ‘very liberal.’ 36 percent said they were moderates (The rest were just confused).

I’m not certain whether a sample size of 1000 is a sufficient representation of the nation at large (my college statistics professor wouldn’t be happy my lack of math). It is also a convenience sample, which would be less reliable than a true random sample.

Doubts aside, it should come as no surprise that nuclear power has a PR problem. Issues of waste, past disasters and unfamiliarity with modern reactor designs are likely to blame.

Forces for and against the subsidies are filing up. Former Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NCR) chairperson Dale Klein late last month urged a change in mindset regarding the U.S’s 60,000+ tons of radioactive waste.

A few days later, the Union of Concerned Scientists published a report blasting subsidies, and stated that nuclear power was not economically viable.

Are the subsidies worth fighting for, or should atom splitting be trimmed off of the Federal budget?

Image Source: NBC/WSJ poll datasheet.

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David Worthington

Contributing Editor

David Worthington has written for BetaNews, eWeek, PC World, Technologizer and ZDNet. Formerly, he was a senior editor at SD Times. He holds a business degree from Temple University. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure