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The Nation

April 8, 2011

Poll: Few confident US ready for nuclear emergency

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

"You have to keep in mind that gas and coal are constantly polluting, day in and day out, and we don't even think about it," she said.

Hall, 36, a linguistics professor, lives within a four-hour drive of two nuclear plants but said she is not too worried about either one.

"I do hope the government is looking carefully at how to safeguard them," she said. "But truthfully, nuclear power is not at the top of my list of worries." Of more immediate concern: The building where she works is not earthquake-proof.

The poll indicates that nearly one in four Americans lives within 50 miles of a nuclear power reactor. Those who reported living within 50 miles of a nuclear plant were not significantly more or less likely to have confidence in the government's ability to handle a nuclear disaster.

Those who live close to nuclear power plants were less likely to be strong opponents of building more nuclear power plants than those who live farther away. A total of four in 10 of those who live more than 50 miles from a plant strongly oppose building new ones, compared with three in 10 who say they live within 50 miles of a plant.

U.S. government regulators are reviewing safety at the nation's 104 nuclear reactors in the wake of the Japanese crisis. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says it will look at the plants' ability to protect against natural disasters and terrorist attacks, respond to complete power blackouts and cope with accidents involving spent fuel, among other issues.

The NRC says U.S. nuclear plants continue to operate safely.

Still, Kelli Hughes of Brookhaven, N.Y., worries about nuclear power, calling it a toxic menace. Hughes, 33, owns an online business and lives less than 80 miles from nuclear plants in New York and Connecticut. She said she strongly opposes construction or expansion of nuclear plants.

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