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The Nation

April 8, 2011

Poll: Few confident US ready for nuclear emergency

WASHINGTON — Most Americans doubt the U.S. government is prepared to respond to a nuclear emergency like the one in Japan, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows. But it also shows few Americans believe such an emergency would occur.

Nevertheless, the disaster has turned more Americans against new nuclear power plants. The poll found that 60 percent of Americans oppose building more nuclear power plants. That's up from 48 percent who opposed it in an AP-Stanford University Poll in November 2009.

The Associated Press-GfK poll comes as Japan continues to struggle with a nuclear crisis caused by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant has leaked radiation into the environment and radioactive water gushed into the Pacific Ocean. Japan was rattled by a strong aftershock and tsunami warning Thursday, but officials reported no immediate sign of new problems.

The poll finds that about a fourth of those surveyed were highly confident that the U.S. government is prepared to handle a nuclear emergency, while almost three-fourths were only somewhat or not confident.

But many people doubt such an emergency will happen in this country.

About three in 10 think such an emergency is extremely or very likely, compared with seven in 10 who think it is only somewhat or not likely. Among people who think a disaster is highly likely, almost eight in 10 lack confidence the government would be ready.

Even among those think it's not too likely or not at all likely to happen, almost two-thirds still lacked confidence the government would be ready.

Nancy Hall of Long Beach, Calif., said the Japanese crisis has not soured her on nuclear power.

"Well, despite the disaster in Japan, I think that nuclear power still has a lot of advantages over fossil fuels, " she said, noting that nuclear energy, unlike oil, does not funnel money to "Middle East dictators" and is not as polluting as coal-fired power plants.

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