Yes, a politician running for office would be thrilled with the numbers routinely posted by Americans polled on whether they support nuclear power. Gallup pollsters started asking the question back in 1994. Since then, nuclear power never dipped below a 50% approval rating except for one slip to 46% in 2001. This year’s Gallup poll finds 59% of Americans favor use of nuclear power as a domestic energy source.
So why was the last nuclear plant built in 1997? And why is Washington gridlocked on supporting new nuclear power plants? Don’t blame it all on memories of the Three Mile Island emergency shut-down back in 1979 or on old Hollywood movies. The numbers on nuclear power generation also show only 52% of Democrats in favor, vs. 71% of Republicans. Only 47% of women are in favor. Household income fractures the data even more, with high earners in favor and lower-wage earners opposed.
No wonder the politics are tough when key voting blocks hold different views. Meanwhile, Department of Energy forecasts are counting on a big increase in nuclear generating plants over the next decade. Increasing electricity usage and concerns about the climate impact of coal plants make nuclear power an important part of the equation.
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