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Alaina Weinheimer CAS 137H Section 16 Lori Bedell A Controversy of Larger than Atomic Proportions This man, like

thousands of others around the country, is suffering from a disease called nucleorosis," starts a government run propaganda ad in support of nuclear energy (papayjonathon, 2011). Since the birth of nuclear energy, the US government has tried to woo a reluctant American public over with the installation of nuclear energy. Based on governmental campaigns, nuclear power plant catastrophes, and emerging environmental issues, the public opinion of nuclear energy has fluctuated between approval and disapproval since nuclear energys genesis. Nuclear energy has long been a topic of debate. The benefits of nuclear energy make a strong case. Nuclear energy serves as a great alternative energy source to fossil fuels. No carbon dioxide gas is released into the air as a result of nuclear energy processes. Unlike other alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind power, that can only power residential and business life, nuclear energy canl also provide enough energy to power manufacturing processes and factories. Also, the cost of operating nuclear energy plants is relatively low. Another benefit of nuclear energy is the independence the use of nuclear energy gives the US from relying on foreign powers for oil (Buzz). Despite these benefits, nuclear energy has many drawbacks. The need of constructing radiation containment areas in the nuclear power plant causes the price of building nuclear power plants to be between $6 billion and $9 billion (Schlissel, and Biewald). Although nuclear energy provides an alternative energy source over fossil fuels, nuclear energy has many negative impacts on the environment. Nuclear waste lasts 200 500,000 years. No

long-term radioactive waste disposal method has been developed yet. Currently, the waste is stored underground under Yucca Mountain in Utah, but there have already been leaks of radiation into the groundwater. A nuclear power plant meltdown would result in radiation spreading to thousands of citizens (Buzz). Although highly unlikely due to the amount of security at nuclear power plants, nuclear power plants provide a great target for terrorist attacks. In short, the strong arguments in favor and against nuclear energy make nuclear energy a highly controversial topic among the public. In the early years of nuclear energy, governmental campaigns molded the publics perception of nuclear energy. Initially, many Americans feared nuclear energy. Based on the destruction the atomic bomb caused in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, many Americans regarded nuclear energy as dangerous and terrifying (Nuclear Energy). Despite the public fears, the US government planned on using nuclear energy extensively in order to rely less on foreign oil and, unbeknownst to the American public, prepare for nuclear warfare (Parry-Giles). Thus, in the early 1950s, the US government began to promote nuclear energy to the public. One example of the governments effort was a speech delivered by President Eisenhower in 1953. President Eisenhower gave his speech Atoms for Peace to calm the public fears of nuclear warfare. In Atoms for Peace, Eisenhower proposed the idea of combining of international nuclear materials under one international agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEAs creation gave Americans a sense of security (Boyd). Apart from speeches, the government utilized the media to uplift the publics impression of nuclear energy. In 1955, President Eisenhower employed Walt Disney to create a cartoon that promoted nuclear energy. Disney premiered the short film Our Friend the Atom in 1957. The film used household items to explain the how nuclear energy works, equating an atomic reactor

with a furnace. The film claimed that clean nuclear energy would replace grimy coal and oil mining (Langer). Media propaganda countered many arguments. The government funded film A is for Atom argued that the power of nuclear energy could never exceed mans control. The US Atomic Energy Commission funded the film Plowshare, which presented the case that nuclear energy is more cost-effective than coal mining and oil exploring. Another pro-nuclear energy film, Medical Aspects of Nuclear Radiation, produced by the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project, that one should not concern himself about radiation exposure causing sterility because the level of radiation that cause sterility exceeds the level of radiation that causes death (Gilson). The speeches by the president and the pro-nuclear energy films funded by the government successfully swayed the American public to accept nuclear energy. The popularity of nuclear energy can be seen in the production of nuclear power plants. During the 1950s and 1960s, new nuclear power plants were built at a rapid rate. By the 1970s, roughly 100 nuclear power plants were in operation (Nuclear Safety). In summary, the publics positive perspective of nuclear energy was molded by governmental promotions. The Americans view of nuclear energy took a sharp turn in the late 1970s and 1980s. Following the nuclear catastrophes of the nuclear power plants Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the publics approval of nuclear energy decreased. Prior to the disaster at Three Mile Island, the premiere of the film The China Syndrome set the stage for the disaster soon to follow. This film depicted the catastrophic outcome of a nuclear meltdown. Nuclear energy authorities attested to the public that the scenario the film presented was far-fetched and that meltdown is nearly impossible. However, they were proven wrong. In 1979, at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, reactor TMI-2 had partially melted down. In fact, TMI-2 was thirty minutes away from a total meltdown. 2 million people were affected by the partial meltdown, however, not to an alarming

extent. Citizens were exposed to 1/6 the radiation of a chest x-ray. Following the partial meltdown, doubt was cast in the minds of the public on the safety of nuclear energy (Parenti). People began protesting nuclear energy. Approval of nuclear energy dropped from 69% in 1977 to roughly 43% in 1979 (Cooper). Also, as a result of Three Mile Island, the production of nuclear energy power plants came to a halt (Behr). To restore the publics support of nuclear energy, the government created strict regulations. However, approval ratings stagnated between 40% and 45% until 1986 (Nisbet). In 1986, nuclear energy approval ratings reached an all-time low as a result of the catastrophe at Chernobyl. The nuclear power plant in the Soviet Union, Chernobyl, had a severe explosion. The radiation containment construction failed, causing radiation to spread all the way to Ukraine. People within an 18 mile radius of the plant were evacuated. This incident at Chernobyl resulted in further restrictions and regulations on nuclear power plants (Chernobyl). The approval ratings of nuclear energy hit a low-point of 34% in favor of nuclear energy (Cooper). In summary, the disasters at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl caused the public to become less supportive of nuclear energy. Once again, the public view of nuclear energy shifted, this time, for economic and environmental reasons. Fear of nuclear energy instilled by Three Mile Island and Chernobyl decreased as safety regulations of nuclear power plants became stricter. However, the major driving forces that caused nuclear energy to appear as an ideal energy source centers on the rising cost of foreign oil and the widespread concern over global warming. In early 2001, President George Bush began to promote nuclear energy as oil prices were increasing. However, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 caused the American public to regard nuclear power plants as potential terrorist attack targets. As time passed, though, another security issue was brought to

light: Americas reliance on foreign powers for oil. Thus, the concept of nuclear energy as a way to achieve energy independence brought positive attention to nuclear energy. Along with this desire to achieve energy independence, the desire to lessen the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere brought positive attention to nuclear energy. Environmentalists, including the president of the Environmental Protection Agency, began to promote the use of nuclear energy, arguing that nuclear energy is cheaper, safer, and cleaner than fossil fuel energy sources. Unlike fossil fuel energy use, nuclear energy releases no carbon dioxide. As a result of the promotion of nuclear energy by the government for security and economic reasons and environmental agencies in an effort to reduce global warming, the public began to support nuclear energy. From 2001 to 2006, approval of nuclear jumped from 43% to 57% (Nisbet). However the tragedy of Fukushima in Japan in 2011 caused many Americans to frown upon nuclear energy. Due to an earthquake and tsunami in the area, the nuclear power plant Fukushima was ruptured, causing a nuclear meltdown and radiation release. As a result of the tragedy of Fukushima, 24% of Americans who opposed nuclear energy based their opposition on the nuclear disaster of Fukushima (Duffy). Overall, the approval of nuclear energy has increased in the early 2000s as a result of the desire to achieve energy independence and reduce the release of greenhouse gases, the public approval of energy has increased since the disasters of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. Generally speaking, the public opinion of nuclear energy has fluctuated between approval and disapproval throughout nuclear energys lifespan. Initially, the governments promotion of nuclear energy caused the public to support the energy source. However, following the disasters at Three Mile Island in 1977 and Chernobyl in 1986, the public began to doubt the safety of nuclear energy. Over time, the approval of nuclear energy increased as the prices of foreign oil

and desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions increased. Despite these factors, the tragedy of Fukushima in 2011 resurfaced a negative image of nuclear energy in the minds of the public. As for the future of nuclear energy, nuclear energy may regain public support as global warming becomes an increasingly pressing issue.

Citation: Behr, Peter. "Three Mile Island still haunts U.S. nuclear industry." The New York Times. E & E Publishing, 27 2009. Web. 15 Nov 2012. Boyd, Claire. "Atoms for Peace." Mount Holyoke College. Mount Holyoke College, 14 2009. Web. 15 Nov 2012. <http://www.mtholyoke.edu/~boyd22c/classweb/atomsforpeace.html>. Buzz, Presidio. "Nuclear Energy: Pros and Cons." Triple Pundit. TriplePundit, 23 2009. Web. 14 Nov 2012. <http://www.triplepundit.com/2009/02/nuclear-energy-pros-and-cons/>. "Chernobyl, the accident scenario and its global impact." ENS News. 12 (2006): n. page. Web. <http://www.euronuclear.org/e-news/e-news-12/presidents-contribution.htm>. Cooper, Michael. "Nuclear Power Loses Support in New Poll." The New York Times. The New York Times, 22 2011. Web. 16 Nov 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/23/us/23poll.html?_r=0>. Duffy, Bob. "After Fukushima Public Opinion is Still Unclear on Nuclear Power." Huff Post. The Huffington Post, 3 2012. Web. 16 Nov 2012. <http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/bobby-duffy/fukushima-public-opinionnuclear_b_1335016.html>. Langer, Mark. "Disne'ys Atomic Fleet." Animation World Magazine. 1 1998: n. page. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://www.awn.com/mag/issue3.1/3.1pages/3.1langerdisney.html>. Nisbet, Matt. "Going Nuclear: Frames and Public Opinion about Atomic Energy." The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, 1 2006. Web. 15

Nov 2012. <http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/show/going_nuclear_frames_and_public_opinion _about_atomic_energy/>. Parenti, Christian. "After Three Mile Island: The Rise and Fall of Nuclear Safety Culture ." The Nation. The Nation, 22 2011. Web. 15 Nov 2012. Parry-Giles, Shawn J. DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, "ATOMS FOR PEACE". Diss. University of Maryland, 2006. privately published, 2006. Web. <http://umvod.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/parry-giles-eisenhower.pdf>. "Public Perception." Nuclear Energy. NC State University. Web. 15 Nov 2012. <https://sites.google.com/a/ncsu.edu/nuclear-energy/public-perception>. Schlissel, David, and Bruce Biewald. "Nuclear Power Plant Construction Costs." Synapse Energy. Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., n.d. Web. 15 Nov 2012. <http://www.synapseenergy.com/Downloads/SynapsePaper.2008-07.0.Nuclear-Plant-Construction Costs.A0022.pdf>.