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Nuclear Concerns Don't Mean More Business For Renewables, Yet

By Charlie Deitz


Massachusetts – As the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan unfolds, the fate of nuclear energy in the United States could hang in the balance. WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief Charlie Deitz reports on whether the heightened awareness over energy production is making an impact in the world of alternative energy

Two back to back gallup polls find that of the Americans surveyed, most are more weary of nuclear energy than they were leading up to the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami that caused several nuclear reactors to fail. The first poll indicates that prior to the crisis 62 percent of Americans favored building new reactors, that number has fallen to 46 percent. The second poll conducted by Gallup and USA Today found 70 percent of people are concerned about nuclear safety standards. The Civil Society Institute is a public policy think tank based in Newton, Massachusetts, here's their founder Pam Solo.

"Japan is in the throes of worst nuclear event in history."

She's speaking on a conference call about a survey they commissioned to determine if Americans were willing to commit to a moratorium on nuclear development given the current crisis. The survey, released Tuesday, was conducted by ORC International whose senior researcher Graham Huber says this of the results

"Over half of Americans would support a moratorium if increased renewables and energy efficiency could meet our demands."

Huber lays out two criteria needed to support a moratorium here, renewable energy including wind and solar, and energy efficiency. Looking at the solar side of things, Ron French is the president of Alteris Renewables, a company responsible for dozens of solar installations in the WAMC listening area, he says that while Americans are concerned over nuclear that hasn't necessarily translated to more business for him.

As far as wind power generation, Tyler Fairbank, founder of the wind and solar development firm EOS Ventures, based in Hancock, Massachusetts, mirrors Ron French, that neither his company nor his colleagues in the wind energy industry are seeing any increased momentum following the Japanese disaster. And then there's efficiency, Nancy Nylen is the Associate Director at the Center For Ecological Technology, a non-profit that furnishes homes and businesses through out western Massachusetts with efficient design upgrades, she says that the idea that more people are becoming conscious of where their energy comes from could be the only silver lining to a grim series of events. That awareness could be a boon to renewables down the road, she explains they see the energy industry as a pie chart.

"How do we shrink that pie? Reduce it by 10 percent,then look at the mix."

The state's only nuclear plant, the pilgrim nuclear station in Plymouth, is up for its 20 year renewal next year.