RESISTANCE TO NUCLEAR POWER
THE PARTIAL TEST BAN TREATY and the limited success of SALT helped to allay public fears of military nuclear power somewhat. Just at the time those fears partially subsided, however, the American people began to voice concern over problems plaguing civilian nuclear power plants. Resistance to nuclear power grew out of the environmentalist movement of the late 1960s, pitting an ever more sophisticated antinuclear coalition against an increasingly embattled AEC and nuclear power industry. Antinuclear activists and the nuclear establishment fought to a stand-off on safety issues, but the hopeless economics of nuclear power brought the industry to its knees by 1980.
When environmentalists came to articulate their reasons for seeking to halt the growth of nuclear power, they found the safety issue ready-made and waiting to be exploited. From its very beginnings, the nuclear power industry suffered from mishaps that ranged from the minor but recurrent "incidents" of the sort detailed in the Union of Concerned Scientists' compilation, The Nugget File, to major accidents that killed people and threatened entire cities. By an irony, though, the world's first known reactor accident befell a nation that had renounced the military uses of nuclear energy for itself, and in a research reactor dedicated principally to nonmilitary programs. On December 12, 1952, at the Canadian Chalk River experimental reactor that was known as the NRX, a sequence of operator errors resulted in control rods being extracted from the reactor. This