From the results, it is determined that the media and the nuclear power industry continue to be intertwined. Students at the University of Florida have heard of nuclear power, yet they do not know what it is or how it works. However, the majority of the students use some type of media as an information channel to learn about important issues. Can it be concluded then that the media influences their perceptions? According to them, it does, and their opinions are more negative than positive. This only supports the idea that the nuclear power industry must utilize the media for its own benefit to overcome the irrational fears of nuclear power (Weart, 1996).
It is obvious that students are uninformed about nuclear power when one of their top concerns is radiation exposure. Scientists measure absorbed radiation in millirems (Roberts, Liss, & Saunders, 1990). Many studies have been done to inform the public about the realities of radiation and its sources. By comparing the radiation doses of daily activities to living around a nuclear plant, the fear of radiation exposure should be put at the bottom of a list of concerns.
|Man-made Radiation measured in millirems|
|Coast-to-coast jet flight||5 mr/round trip|
|Color television||1 mr/year|
|X-ray diagnosis||50 mr/exposure|
|Living within a 40-mile radius of a nuclear plant||.02 mr/year|
Looking at the Table 1 only confirms the fact that radiation exposure from a power plant should not be a concern to the students.
Because of the safety concerns associated with Three-Mile Island and Chernobyl, nuclear power plants are designed to be safer and more effective than those first built (Peterson, 1998). Early nuclear power plants were customized units. New power plants are focusing on standardization according to the rules and regulations of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This addresses one concern of the students--a nuclear plant meltdown. Many people have the idea that a worst case scenario with a nuclear reactor could have the same consequences as the explosion of a nuclear bomb--in short, the look of a mushroom cloud (Action Plan, 1998). Because a number of students chose this as a major concern of theirs, it can be concluded that establishing confidence in the safety of nuclear power plants should be a priority of the nuclear industry. Once again the media will play a major role in providing this information based on the results of this project.