Japan Crisis Could Rekindle U.S. Antinuclear Movement

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In 1973, vexed by an Arab oil embargo and soaring fuel prices, President Richard M. Nixon championed a long-term solution: to have 1,000 nuclear reactors in place in America by the year 2000 as part of a national energy independence plan.

That never came to pass: 104 nuclear reactors operate today, compared with 40 then. The last permit for construction of what became a fully operational nuclear plant was issued in 1978.

The main obstacles to the industry’s growth were huge cost overruns linked to regulatory changes, and shifts in demand for electricity, although the Three Mile Island accident of 1979, litigation and the 1970s and ’80s antinuclear movement also played a big role.

Today, activists who figured prominently in the movement’s teach-ins and protest rallies are hoping that Japan’s nuclear crisis will rekindle a protest movement in the United States. Their aim, they say, is not just to block the Obama administration’s push for new nuclear construction, but to convince Americans that existing plants pose dangers.

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