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Poll: Majority believe nuclear crisis is likely in US


Poughkeepsie, NY – Since a devastating March earthquake in Japan, and the resulting crisis at a Japanese nuclear power plant, there has been plenty of debate over the safety and future of nuclear energy in the United States. A new poll takes a closer look at where the American public stands on those safety issues. WAMC's Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Greg Fry reports...

There are plenty who would celebrate the closure of the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant in Westchester County, New York. Operating licenses for the plant's individual units expire in 2013 and 2015. However, a plan for New York City's future, unveiled by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, says that the closure of Indian Point could threaten reliability. That's a point that was backed up in a recent report by the New York Independent System Operator. President Obama has made his support for safe, nuclear energy clear.

So, with all the information back and forth on the topic of nuclear energy, what are people trying to establish a position on nuclear energy truly thinking? A new McClatchy-Marist poll takes a look at how people view the safety issues surrounding nuclear energy. The director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, Lee Miringoff, says Americans are paying attention to the events at the Fukushima Daichi plant in Japan. He says 57 percent believe it's likely or very likely that an emergency at a nuclear plant like the one in Japan could happen here.

A closer look at the poll shows that 16 percent of those surveyed believe a nuclear emergency like the one in Japan is very likely, and 41 percent says it's likely. 34 percent say not very likely, nine percent say not likely at all, and two percent are unsure. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed in an Associated Press-GFK poll from March indicated that a similar nuclear emergency was at least somewhat likely. The Marist Poll released Wednesday also tackles the issue of preparedness, in case of a nuclear emergency. Miringoff says those numbers don't show a clear decision one way or another. He says people are split 50-50, when asked if the government is prepared in the event of such a catastrophic occurrence.

When asked how a nuclear crisis would begin, 56 percent of Americans polled said it would be the result of an accident, while 40 percent believed it would be the result of a terrorist attack. Phillip Musegaas is Program Director for the environmental organization Riverkeeper. He says it's difficult to find the meaning of an individual poll, but says the results can be incorporated into the overall debate. He says if you take the Marist Poll results, and you look at them in the context of everything else that's happened since the Japanese earthquake, and the huge surge in concern, specifically in the Hudson Valley, then there are lessons to be learned, by Congress, and by President Obama.

In Vermont, more blows have been dealt to the operations Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant. The board of the Vermont Electric Cooperative voted to reject buying power from the plant, and one state lawmaker there says he'll introduce legislation to make it a crime for the plant to operate after the expiration of its current license.

Marist Poll on Nuclear Worries