315 Circle Avenue, #2
Takoma Park, MD 20912

For Release:   March 22, 1999 - noon

Contact:   Scott Denman: 202-483-8491, ext.*814
 Charlie Higley: 202-546-4996, ext. 309

Washington DC -- Twenty years after the March 28, 1979 accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, most Americans believe a similar accident could happen again in the United States . Furthermore, six out of ten registered voters oppose the building of any new nuclear plants in the United States and, if given a choice of generator from which they could buy their electricity, only six percent would choose nuclear power.

These are among the key findings of a new public opinion survey released today by the Sustainable Energy Coalition. The survey of 1,022 registered voters was conducted March 5-14 by International Communications Research of Media, Pennsylvania; it has a margin of error of +/-3.0 percent.

Two-thirds (67%) of respondents stated that they believe that it was highly (21%) or somewhat (46%) likely that a nuclear accident like that which occurred at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant could happen in the United States again. This view is held by male and female voters across all political party lines and age groups. It is therefore not surprising that three-fifths (60%) of all registered voters oppose the building of more nuclear power plants in the United States with women (69%) and younger voters (65%) particularly opposed.

The respondents overall were evenly split on the question of whether existing reactors should be phased out by the year 2020. However, a nuclear phase-out is embraced by a majority of Democratic voters (51% vs. 35%). Furthermore, the responses reveal a clear gender gap with women favoring a phase-out by a margin of 48% to 35%. Perhaps more troubling for the nuclear industry is that younger voters support a phase-out of nuclear reactors by an even larger margin of 50% to 40%.

'Most Americans think an accident like that which occurred at Three Mile Island could happen again and want no new plants built,' said Scott Denman, Executive Director of the Safe Energy Communication Council. 'This provides convincing proof that voters believe nuclear power remains an unsafe, unreliable, and uneconomic source of electricity.'

Finally, the survey suggests that as the nation's utility marketplace is gradually opened to competition, the nuclear industry is faced with a bleak future inasmuch as only 6% of voters would opt to buy their electricity from nuclear generators. In comparison, an overwhelming number of consumers (62%) would prefer to buy their electricity from renewable energy sources (i.e., solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and hydroelectric) while another 18% would choose natural gas and 4% would select coal.

'Twenty years after the Three Mile Island accident, the nuclear industry has clearly never recovered,' said Wenonah Hauter, Director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project. 'It is a dying industry dependent on an outmoded technology for which there is little public support and which most consumers are prepared to reject in the marketplace.'

Question #1: On March 28, 1979, the worst accident involving a U.S. nuclear reactor occurred at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Do you think a nuclear accident like that which occurred at the Three Mile Island plant could happen in the United States again? Would you say it is ...

Highly Likely21.3%
Somewhat Likely 45.6%
Somewhat Unlikely 16.7%
Highly Unlikely 11.7%
Don't Remember TMI    0.8%
Don't Know 3.1%
Refused 0.8%

Question #2: Do you favor or oppose the building of more nuclear power plants in the United States?

Don't Know13.4%
Refused  1.2%

Question #3: Should the United States phase out its existing nuclear power plants by the year 2020?

Don't Know12.0%
Refused 1.0%

Question #4: If you had a choice, from what one type of power plant would you buy electricity?

Renewable Energy*61.5%
Natural Gas18.3%
Nuclear 6.3%
Coal 4.4%
Don't Know 8.0%
Refused 1.5%

*(i.e., solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, hydroelectric)

A one-page table presenting the above responses with details on how they broke down along gender, age, and political party lines can be faxed upon request. The complete 15-page survey "America Speaks Out on Energy: Nuclear Power" (including charts and demographic data) is available for $10 prepaid from the Sustainable Energy Coalition (315 Circle Avenue, #2, Takoma Park, MD 20912-4836).

The Sustainable Energy Coalition is a coalition of 36 national energy policy organizations founded in 1992 to promote increased use of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies.