The schoolchildren of the late ’40s and ’50s were well-versed in that quick slide under the desk, backs to the windows, always, and arms over the head. Protection from flying glass, maybe. Not much use against radioactive fallout.
A large percentage of today’s population lives in far more imminent danger than those “duck and cover” children of 60 years ago. Not from bombs today, but from something far more insidious: nuclear reactors. As Japan struggles to contain the radiation from its stricken Fukushima plant, people around the world are taking a closer look.
Nuclear Reactors in the United States
The United States today boasts 104 operational nuclear power plants, and sixty-five percent of its population lives within a 50-mile radius of one of them. That’s 184 million people.
The nuclear power industry builds its power plants near large cities for a simple reason: these plants supply energy to the residents of those cities. The problem with that? Given the large populations of these major cities, evacuation in the event of a disaster becomes close to impossible.
One case in point: the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, New York. Located on a fault line just 24 miles north of New York City, Indian Point is, in the words of New York Governor Mario Cuomo, “a catastrophe waiting to happen.”
If this bothers you even a little, don’t think for a second that you’re alone.
United States Citizens Favor Nuclear Moratorium
During the week ending March 24, 2011, the nonpartisan Civil Society Institute (CSI) released a survey showing that 53 percent of U.S. citizens now favors a moratorium on the construction of new nuclear reactors in favor of wind and solar power.
And it’s not just America. Other countries as well have begun to take a second look at the use of nuclear power.
Sweden on Nuclear Reactors
Following the crisis in Japan, Sweden’s support for nuclear energy has fallen dramatically. Whereas in 2008 a full 47 percent of Swedes supported the building of new reactors, a new survey commissioned by Dagens Nyheter shows a dramatic reversal. As of 2011, the percentage of Swedes in support of new nuclear construction has fallen to just 21 percent.
Germany on Nuclear Reactors
On Saturday, March 26, 2011, a crowd of about 350,000 Germans marched the streets of Hamburg, Cologne, Munich and Berlin in protest against nuclear power. A poll taken the second week of March, 2011 shows that 52 percent of Germans favors closure of all nuclear power plants within the next five years, while eleven percent of Germans would like to see them closed immediately.
In the wake of Fukushima Dai-ichi, Berlin has decided to take seven of its 17 reactors offline for three months’ worth of safety checks.
Denmark on Nucear Reactors
Thanks to laws on its books since 1985, Denmark produces no nuclear energy whatsoever, having no nuclear power plants of its own. Danish opposition to nuclear power continues to rise. While 60 percent of Danish citizens polled in 2010 were against nuclear power, a new poll taken post-Japanese disaster now puts this percentage at 64.
Thailand on Nuclear Reactors
A recent Abac poll at the Assumption University reports that 83.4 percent of the respondents disagreed with plans to construct a nuclear power plant in Thailand.
Not All Countries Disapprove of Nuclear Energy
Japan’s current nuclear crisis has caused officials in the United States and many other industrialized European countries to rethink their commitment to nuclear expansion. However, in spite of the disaster in Japan, some countries intend to forge ahead with their nuclear plans.
Energy-hungry countries such as India and China have no plans for a moratorium on nuclear power. Thanks to their enormous requirements, these countries intend to proceed with construction of nuclear power plants as needed..
France, which currently receives 70 percent of its power from nuclear energy, is another country strongly in favor of nuclear power plants.
Nuclear Energy: The Bottom Line
In general, the world’s enthusiasm for nuclear power as an energy source appears to have cooled considerably. The extent to which its popularity has diminished is evidenced by the fact that what in the 1990s was considered the world’s fastest-growing source of power had, by the year 2005, already fallen to the position of second slowest-growing energy source in the world.
That may sound a sour note to the nuclear industry, but is surely sweet music to the ears of many in this nuclear-nervous world.
Jess Leber. (2011, March 29). Why New Yorkers Want to Close the Indian Point Nuclear Plant. change.org
Online Reporters ( 2011, March 26). Poll: People against nuclear plant. Bangkok Post
Truth-o-Meter. Most Americans live within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant. PolitiFact.com
(Mar 22, 2011), Swedes turn against nuclear power after Japan crisis. M&C News
Kim Anderson. Addressing the Nuclear Issue. The Verity Post
Reuters (2011, March 16). Germans’ support for nuclear power wanes in poll. Business Live
Yahoo! News. More than 200,000 Germans march against nuclear power
Juergen Baetz (2011, March 23). Germany set to abandon nuclear power for good. KBOI2.com
Andrea Lunt (2011, March 24). U.S.: Poll Finds Support for Freeze on Nuke Plants. Global Issues
Heather Timmons and Vikas Bajaj (2011, March 15). Emerging Economies move Ahead with Nuclear Plans. New York Herald Tribune