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America warms up to nuclear power

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The cure for the United States' "addiction" to oil is more nuclear power. That's becoming a more popular view. Even a few environmental groups see nuclear power as a necessity to maintain America's lifestyle.

A public opinion survey late last year sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Paris found that, in America, 40 percent of the people see nuclear power as safe and support new plants; 29 percent say existing plants are OK, but oppose building new ones; and 20 percent say the plants are dangerous and want all of them closed.

Curiously, the survey of 18 nations, rich and poor, found that nuclear power is seen more favorably in the US than it is in any other country surveyed except South Korea. Yet US utilities have not ordered a new atomic plant since 1978.

Even in France, highly dependent on nuclear power, only 25 percent support more plants, and 50 percent say enough is enough - don't build more.

Regardless of opinion, nuclear power is reviving around the world. Eight new nuclear plants came on line last year. One in Ontario, Canada, was restarted after a long shutdown. Globally, 443 "nukes" are in operation today.

Last week, President Bush proposed an "Advanced Energy Initiative" that involves investing more "in zero- emission coal-fired plants; revolutionary solar and wind technologies; and clean, safe nuclear energy."

To Patrick Moore, who cofounded Greenpeace, nuclear power is the only realistic solution to future power needs.

"You can't solve this problem with windmills and photo panels alone," says the chairman of Greenspirit Strategies Ltd., a Vancouver, B.C., environmental consulting firm. These two power sources tend to be expensive. More important, they are "intermittent." They work only when the wind blows or the sun shines. Economies need "baseload" power that operates all the time.

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