More Americans Disapprove of Nuclear Power After Japan Disaster

More Americans oppose increased use of nuclear power this month after Japan's disaster.

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More Americans oppose increased use of nuclear power after the Japan disaster, according to a Pew Research Center study. The survey was conducted March 17-20, just a week after a double punch of natural disasters caused explosions, fires, and near-meltdowns at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. A 9.0-magnitude earthquake sent a devastating tsunami rolling into the nation on March 11, carrying with it homes, boats, trucks, and anything else in its path. As the nation stopped to assess its wounds—national police now estimate the death toll is nearly 11,000, and about 17,000 are still missing—the nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daiichi became an increasing source of worry, and emergency workers are still fighting to get the plant under control. Food growing at nearby farms was contaminated, and rain as far away as Massachusetts showed low levels of radiation thought to be linked to the Fukushima disaster, but not enough to be dangerous to residents. This week, workers faced further difficulty trying to reconnect critical equipment when they discovered hazardous pools of radioactive water in maintenance trenches and other locations around the plant. [See photos of the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake.]

Meanwhile, several nations have started to rethink plans to expand nuclear power use, with critics worried that if this can happen in Japan, a nation used to frequent earthquakes, it can happen anywhere. In the United States, public approval of growing the nuclear industry dropped from 45 percent last October to 39 percent this month. Disapproval jumped from 44 percent to 55 percent. [Vote now: Should U.S. stop building nuclear power plants?]