Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant: The WikiBook/orphaned pages/National opinion trends shifts after Fukushima

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2011 Fukushima accidents and public policy impact[edit]

March 2011 Satellite photo of the damaged reactors at the Fukushima facilities after the earthquake and Tsunami

What had been growing acceptance of nuclear power in the United States was eroded sharply following the 2011 Japanese nuclear accidents, with public support for building nuclear power plants in the U.S. dropping slightly lower than it was immediately after the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. Support had been at an all time high of 69 percent in 1977, according to polling by the New York Times and CBS News.[1] Only 43 percent of those polled after the Fukushima nuclear emergency said they would approve building new power plants in the United States.[2] This represents a steep decline from a high of 57 percent in July of 2008. [3]

Activists who were involved in the U.S. anti-nuclear movement’s emergence (such as Graham Nash and Paul Gunter), suggest that Japan’s nuclear crisis may rekindle an interest in the movement in the United States. The aim, they say, is "not just to block the Obama administration’s push for new nuclear construction, but to convince Americans that existing plants pose dangers".[4]

Public opinion appears to have been aroused with regard to the re-licensing application of the Diablo Canyon plant. [5] Nuclear regulatory Commission officials had already planned to conduct a series of public meetings in January, February and March as public attention in San Luis Obispo County turned towards the question of whether the plant should be re-licensed subsequent to public disclosure of a third major earthquake fault close to the plant. Protest leaders contend that there is no safe way to store spent reactor fuel, but other community leaders such as the mayor of a nearby town dispute that contention. [6] In a review of current trends,state Sen. Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo), who holds a doctorate in geophysics was quoted as stating:

"The fundamental question is whether these facilities should be located next to active faults and whether they are operated safely," said . "With what's unfolding in Japan, why would anyone approve a permit for these plants to keep operating until every question is answered?"[7]

In March 2011, 600 people gathered for a weekend protest outside the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. The demonstration was held to show support for the thousands of Japanese people who are endangered by possible radiation from the Fukushima I nuclear accidents.[8]

The New England region has a long history of anti-nuclear activism and 75 people held a State House rally on April 6, 2011, to "protest the region’s aging nuclear plants and the increasing stockpile of radioactive spent fuel rods at them".[9] The protest was held shortly before a State House hearing where legislators were scheduled to hear representatives of the region’s three nuclear plants—Pilgrim in Plymouth, Vermont Yankee in Vernon, and Seabrook in New Hampshire—talk about the safety of their reactors in the light of the Japanese nuclear crisis. Vermont Yankee and Pilgrim have designs similar to the crippled Japanese nuclear plant.[9]

Perhaps surprisingly, it was the anniversary of the US Three Mile Island nuclear incident which was the occasion of a substantial rally in South Korea in March 2011.[10] Yet in Pennsyylvania, only "dozens" reportedly turned out for the 32nd anniversary of the Three Mile Island event. [11] [12] In contrast to the apparently reinvigorated protests in Europe, California and New England, the minimal gathering at the gates of the TMI plant received minimal news coverage,[13] and in the coverage received, organizers referred only obliquely to the Fukushima incident. "Plants age, we knew that [industry] profit motives rather than safety motives meant there was going to be another accident,” said Gene Stilp, the organizer of the Three Mile Island protest and No Nukes Pennsylvania member, to the German Press Agency DPA. He urged the United States to discontinue producing nuclear energy, expressing doubt in U.S. nuclear power plants’ preparedness for unforeseen natural disasters. “You can't control mother nature," he reasoned. The article[14] continued to quote the U.S. Nuclear Energy Foundation to the effect that too much stock is being put into the fear surrounding Fukushima power plant.

On a policy level, United States officials were wary. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu told Congress that the Obama administration intends to hold the course on underwriting new nuclear power plants. “The people in the United States, U.S. territories, are in no danger,” Chu said during a Fox News Sunday broadcast. “It's unlikely they will be exposed to danger."[15] As the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit 2011 Keynote Presentation he skirted the nuclear issue and argued for a "longer term more measured approach". He emphasized lithium-ion batteries,high speed rail, computerized design for streamlining long haul trucks,carbon capture and other high technologies, emphasizing the Europe and China may be surpassing the USA in clean energy and roboticized manufacturing. The power point presentation[16], and a video [17]of the presentation, are available online. The US is in the lead of venture capital financing, technology adaptation and deployment but in many areas is neck and neck with China. Many of his comments seem broadly applicable to nuclear policy, such as that "just because we've lost a lead doesn't mean we can't recover it." ARPA-E is Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, a relatively new United States government agency set up to promote and fund research and development.[18]

Nevertheless, the nuclear disaster in Japan is likely to have major effects on US energy policy, according to billionaire investor Warren Buffett. Speaking on CNBC in March, Buffet said that the "United States was poised to move ahead with nuclear plans here, but the events in Japan derailed that".[19] "Radiation terrifies people," Buffett told CNBC. "It's unseen, there's no way to quantify sort of the limits of what might happen from it so I would say that I would be very surprised if there's any nuclear facilities built in the United States for a long time." [20]

But as of May, quoted by an explicitly pro-nuclear source, he seems to have recanted. “I think some people misinterpreted my interview when I said that it had suffered a major setback,” he said. “That does not change my view that nuclear power is important for the world."

Renewed international importance of US nuclear policy[edit]

Japan's government and TEPCO response to the Fukushima Daiichi incident has been criticized worldwide, and Gregory B. Jaczko, Chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission broke with ordinary protocols by overuling the Japanese with regard to the public exclusion zone. As a result of the harshly criticized Japanese handling of the crisis, there has been a scramble by the EU to reform nuclear policy. Some commentators expect that US will have greater influence on nuclear policy worldwide. [21] Others look to the IAEA to step up its crisis management capabilities. According to an editorial on Bloomberf, a revitalized International Atomic Energy Agency "could become a powerful international presence, overcoming the reputation for torpor and inefficiency that often is associated with UN agencies".

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

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References[edit]

  1. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/23/us/23poll.html?_r=1
  2. Michael Cooper (March 22, 2011). "Nuclear Power Loses Support in New Poll". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/23/us/23poll.html?_r=1. 
  3. http://www.cbsnews.com/htdocs/CBSNews_polls/JUL08A-IraqEcon.pdf
  4. Leslie Kaufman (March 18, 2011). "Japan Crisis Could Rekindle U.S. Antinuclear Movement". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/19/science/earth/19antinuke.html?_r=1. 
  5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shu6Pa8Jyrs&feature=related
  6. http://www.ksby.com/news/nrc-meets-with-local-officials-about-diablo-canyon/
  7. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/mar/21/business/la-fi-cal-nukes-20110321
  8. "Vermont Yankee: Countdown to closure". WCAX. March 21, 2011. http://www.wcax.com/Global/story.asp?S=14288307. 
  9. a b Martin Finucane (April 6, 2011). "Anti-nuclear sentiment regains its voice at State House rally". Boston.com. http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2011/04/anti-nuclear_se.html. 
  10. South Korean environmental activists staged an anti-nuclear rally on Monday, marking the 32nd anniversary of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant accident in the United States. http://www.youtube.c/watch?v=HttfChwrH9o
  11. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4nHvOk1iL0
  12. http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7361031n
  13. http://www.christianpost.com/news/three-mile-island-site-of-us-nuclear-crisis-draws-protesters-49612/
  14. Ibid
  15. Ibid
  16. http://www.slideshare.net/energy/arpa-e-summit-03-01-11-final-for-distribution
  17. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QHVOoUDpN4
  18. w:ARPA-E
  19. Becky Quick (20 March 2011). "Japan Disaster To Delay US Nuclear Energy Plans: Buffett". CNBC. http://www.cnbc.com/id/42178651/Japan_Disaster_To_Delay_US_Nuclear_Energy_Plans_Buffett. 
  20. http://www.cnbc.com/id/42178651/Japan_Disaster_To_Delay_US_Nuclear_Energy_Plans_Buffett
  21. http://jurist.org/forum/2011/04/fukushima-illustrates-need-for-policy.php

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Literature cited[edit]

Further reading[edit]

See also: List of books about nuclear issues and List of films about nuclear issues

External links[edit]

Template:United States policy