Senior Project Advisor
nuclear energy, nuclear policy, public perception, politics, economics
In this paper, I examine how the nuclear incidents at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima impacted public support for nuclear energy in the United States. Particularly, I look at the ways the media has influenced public perception, and thus, nuclear policy. I also consider the economic arguments for and against using nuclear power and highlight the effects of decommissioning nuclear fleets as was seen in the aftermath of the major nuclear incidents. Lastly, I discuss how the public can become better informed on nuclear energy.
Ultimately, the three major nuclear incidents spurred anti-nuclear sentiment, which shut down nuclear plants, created distrust in the government, and stalled progress for a nuclear waste storage site. The media gave way to an abundance of confusion and fear, leading to reactive nuclear policy. Unlike renewable energy sources, nuclear energy has high capital costs and unfavorable employment. However, it is a reliable baseload energy source and pays workers higher salaries comparatively. Additionally, decommissioning nuclear plants led to an increase in fossil fuel production, which increased mortality due to air pollution and higher electricity prices. This forces one to consider the true impacts of these well-intentioned, but fear-based policies.
Through my research, I propose that technical writers need to be hired to cover the highly complex issue of nuclear energy. Furthermore, it is essential to research the gender gap and study the Knowledge Deficit Model in order to understand the lack of public support and find ways to overcome it. Lastly, in order to find solutions to the current challenges of nuclear energy, America must commit to investing in nuclear research and development. I come to understand that it may be time to reconsider the role of nuclear energy in the United States in order to achieve our emission goals. Although there is risk in utilizing nuclear energy, the risk of not pursing this carbon-free source may be greater.
Lee, Willa Grace Mei, "The Political Economy of Nuclear Energy: Why there is not broad public support for nuclear policy & why there should be" (2020). WWU Honors Program Senior Projects. 425.
Subjects - Topical (LCSH)
Nuclear energy--Government policy; Nuclear energy--Press coverage; Power-plants--Economic aspects; Power resources--Environmental aspects
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