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Gallup: For First Time, Most in U.S. Oppose Nuclear

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From the international polling giant Gallup, Inc.: For the first time since Gallup first asked the question in 1994, a majority of Americans say they oppose nuclear energy. The 54 percent opposing it is up significantly from 43 percent a year ago, while the 44 percent who favor using nuclear is down from 51 percent.”

Gallup said it asks Americans annually in its national Environment Poll if they favor or oppose nuclear as one way to provide electricity. “Each year from 2004 to 2015, a majority of Americans said they favored the use of nuclear energy, including a high of 62 percent in 2010,” the polling firm said. Even the Fukushima tsunami disaster in 2011 didn’t significantly undermine U.S. attitudes toward nuclear, Gallup said. “And although there have not been any major nuclear incidents since Fukushima in 2011, a majority of U.S. adults now oppose nuclear energy. This suggests that energy prices and the perceived abundance of energy sources are the most relevant factors in attitudes toward nuclear power, rather than safety concerns prompted by nuclear incidents.”

Gallup said falling gasoline prices are one reason Americans seem to be more sanguine today when asked about energy issues. “This appears to have resulted in more Americans prioritizing environmental protection and fewer backing nuclear power as an alternative energy source.”

The reduced support of nuclear crosses partisan lines, with historically high support among Republicans (68 percent supporting nuclear last year) now down to a slight majority of 53 percent.

“Nuclear power pants are expensive to build, often costing billions upfront, although they require relatively low maintenance costs once they are running,” Gallup said in describing its findings. “And nuclear energy has lower greenhouse gas emissions than other power sources, especially coal, so it is considered a clean provider of electricity. Still, nuclear energy is a bet that the cost over time of coal or natural gas to power an electric plant will be higher than the upfront cost of building a nuclear reactor. And at a time when oil prices are low, it seems Americans are not in favor of making that bet.”

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