States, the schedule for breeder and advanced converter development or installation (or both) should be reevaluated and any required programs initiated.
Public opinion polls have repeatedly shown that the majority of people in the United States view nuclear power favorably.44 Referenda introduced in seven states in 1976 that would have halted, postponed, or forestalled the expansion of nuclear power were all defeated. On April 7, 1979, just a week after the accident at the nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, citizens of Austin, Texas, voted to retain their 16 percent interest in a nuclear power plant under construction, and they extended the city council additional borrowing authority to cover anticipated and unanticipated costs.
Nevertheless, nuclear power is controversial, and is likely to remain so. The same polls cited indicate that there is a significant core of very strong opposition to nuclear power—opponents who will continue efforts to persuade the public to abandon this source of energy.
A factor that increases the effectiveness of the opponents of nuclear power is their development of a comprehensive information network. The bulk of the information circulated is, as might be expected, highly partisan, but it contains enough factual statements that the nuclear opposition is much better informed about nuclear issues than the general public.*
While it is no doubt important to understand the rational arguments and irrational appeals that may sway individual voters, the nuclear controversy can ultimately be explained only as a contest among groups in the society. The leadership of the antinuclear movement today appears to be in the hands of environmental organizations. The pronuclear forces are led by industries and professional associations within the nuclear power field. These groups are vying with one another to win public support.
For the foreseeable future, the scientific community will occupy a strategic position in this debate for at least two reasons. First, scientists themselves are found on both sides of the nuclear controversy. Second, other parties to the controversy are eager to claim scientific support for their views. This helps to account for the recent “proliferation of petitions, polls, and statements purporting to reveal what the nation’s scientists and