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Science in Europe/The Antinuclear Movement Takes Hold

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Science  16 Sep 1977:
Vol. 197, Issue 4309, pp. 1167-1169
DOI: 10.1126/science.197.4309.1167


Five months after the announcement of President Carter's nonproliferation policy, the common wisdom in this country is that Europe has hardly wavered in its rush toward nuclear power. The cry that "Europe will do what it wants whether the United States builds a breeder or not" is often heard from American nuclear interests, with apparent justification as the State Department has shown little visible progress in negotiating new agreements and some signs of retreating from its original goals.

But popular protest against nuclear power has reached a pitch in Europe that would be barely imaginable today in this country, and the political strength of the antinuclear forces has become formidable, not only in Sweden where nuclear power was a pivotal issue last year, but across the continent. West Germany's research minister recently predicted that that country's two ruling coalition parties will vote for a complete moratorium on nuclear construction when they meet this fall, and some observers predict that any moratorium contingent on creation of a waste disposal site could last up to 12 years. Beyond public opposition, the plutonium breeder is running into trouble in Germany for many of the same reasons it has in the United States; program delays, safety concerns, and cost overruns threaten to undermine the claim that it can one day become an economically competitive energy source. Nuclear opposition is far from being a single-issue movement in Europe, as groups of many political persuasions embrace it for their own reasons. But as the following report by Nigel Hawkes details, the Carter administration policy is not the only thing holding back nuclear power in Europe.—W.D.M.