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A Majority of Americans Oppose Nuclear Power. How Does Nuclear ‘Dread’ Affect Their Perceptions?

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Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, on March 28th, 1979, the day of the site’s partial meltdown.

Nuclear power remains a controversial energy source in the United States. It has continually encountered a range of challenges, including safety concerns and cost effectiveness. And in 2016, for the first time, a majority of U.S. citizens opposed nuclear energy.

But increased investment in new energy technologies will be a necessity if the U.S. is going to overhaul and decarbonize its energy system, which has historically relied on fossil fuels. Despite widespread public aversion, nuclear energy could potentially be a viable avenue for decreasing carbon dioxide emissions.

A research team led by Ahmed Abdulla of the University of California–San Diego’s Center for Energy Research and Deep Decarbonization Initiative seeks to quantify “how much more nuclear power the public might be willing to accept if the dread associated with nuclear power were reduced or eliminated.” The team’s new study, which is currently available online and will appear in the journal Energy Policy in June, finds that respondents increase their support of the deployment of nuclear power when comparing the risks of different energies without knowing which energy belongs to which risk assessment.

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