THURSDAY, March 31 (HealthDay News) -- Almost three weeks after a massive earthquake and tsunami crippled four nuclear reactors in Japan, American public opinion on the risks and benefits of nuclear power hasn't shifted much compared to three years earlier, a new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll finds.
The U.S. public is almost equally divided on whether or not more nuclear power plants should be built on American soil, with 41 percent supporting the idea and 39 percent opposed. This represents only a slight change from three years ago, when 49 percent supported nuclear plants and 32 percent opposed them.
"The problems with Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have clearly influenced American attitudes to nuclear energy, but not by as much as I expected," said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of the Harris Poll, a service of Harris Interactive. "Support for building more nuclear power plants in the United States is down," he noted , but "that still leaves the public split, 41 percent to 39 percent, with 20 percent not sure. Most people recognize the potential dangers of nuclear accidents but continue to think that nuclear power plants are at least 'somewhat safe.'"
This isn't the first time a nuclear accident has influenced public opinion. According to previous Harris Interactive polls, in the mid-1970s, almost two-thirds of Americans were in favor of nuclear power. Following the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, however, only 47 percent were pro with 45 percent against.
In this new online survey of about 2,100 U.S. adults, conducted March 23 to 25, 73 percent of respondents believed that nuclear waste disposal remains a "major problem," while 55 percent thought that the possible escape of radioactivity into the atmosphere is equally dangerous.
Again, these numbers were only slightly above those of a similar Harris poll from three years ago, when the ratio was 72 perc
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