Will Japan's nuclear crisis affect U.S. energy debate?

Americans' concerns over nuclear power have spiked in the wake of Japan's ongoing nuclear crisis, but how the events will affect the long-term discussion over sources of energy is still unclear. In a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted with 1,004 adults last week, about 70 percent of American's said that they are now more concerned with a nuclear disaster occurring in the U.S. In that same poll, 47 percent of respondents said they oppose construction of nuclear power plants in the U.S, compared to 44 percent who favor it. A survey done before the Japanese earthquake and tsunami found that 57 percent either strongly or somewhat supported "the use of nuclear energy as one of the ways to provide electricity for the U.S.," with 38 percent strongly or somewhat opposed. Support for nuclear energy peaked last year, with 62 percent voicing support. Overall, support has been over 50 percent for most of the last decade and is higher now than it was a decade ago. In its analysis, Gallup said that short-term worries over nuclear disasters may not affect Americans' support for nuclear energy over the long term. Still, a look at the media coverage and discussion during the crisis shows that the incidents have served as an unhappy reminder of the risks of nuclear energy, which will likely cause regulatory reviews of nuclear safety at a number of U.S. plants. The nuclear crisis also appears to have rekindled people's awareness of radiation and the sources of the country's energy, all of which have trade-offs.

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