How nuclear power was promoted in America in the 70s & 80s

How nuclear power was promoted in the 80s

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Radioactivity. It’s been in the family for generations. (1972)

In fact, scientists can tell us just how our remote ancestors are by measuring the radioactivity still in the bones of prehistoric cave dwellers. Radioactivity dating is possible because virtually everything on earth — food, air, water, man himself —  is radioactive and always has been.

Obviously, radiation is nothing new. Using nuclear power plants to generate electricity isn’t exactly new either.

We’ve been doing it for 15 years. And experience has shown that a person living next door to a nuclear power plant for a year would be exposed to less additional radiation than by making one round-trip coast-to-coast.

Understanding that nuclear power plants are safe, clean places to make electricity is important, because the demand for electric energy continues to grow. And nuclear power is one of the best ways we have tor meeting it.

Our country’s ability to do the work that needs to be done will depend on an adequate supply of electricity. There’s no time to waste. New generating facilities must be built, and built in a way compatible with our environment.

We’ll continue working to do this. But we need your understanding today to meet tomorrow’s needs.

The people at your Investor-Owned Electric Light and Power Companies.

Radioactivity and nuclear power (1972)

Nuclear power in the 70s (1976)

“My town voted 4 to 1 in favor of building a second nuclear power plant because they liked the way the first one saved money and didn’t pollute.”

“When we moved to Plymouth last November, we tried to buy a house right across from the nuclear plant where my husband works, but nobody wanted to sell.

“It helps that the air is very clean around the plant. You just don’t get air pollution with nuclear plants and that’s important to me.

“I guess the most appealing thing about nuclear power to the people of Plymouth is the money-saving aspect. The plant is one reason the taxes are low here and I understand the average family in the Boston area saves $2 a month on their electric bill compared to what it would be if the plant used oil instead of nuclear fuel.

“So when it came to a vote on whether to build a second nuclear plant or not, the town voted 4 to 1 in favor of building it, which seems to speak pretty well for the first one.

“I believe the more people learn about nuclear power, the more they appreciate the money it can save and the way it doesn’t pollute the air.”

Nuclear power plants in the 70s (1976)

The ad series below was created in the ’80s by the U.S. Council for Energy Awareness — which, as seemingly official and/or governmental as it sounds, was actually a marketing group created by the nuclear power industry.

When explaining their campaign during an advertising presentation in 1989, the group said:

Being independent. Standing on your own two feet. Providing for yourself. These ideals have long been part of the American character. We found that when we defined the need for nuclear energy, our message was not only better understood, but was also one Americans felt good about supporting. And the role nuclear energy plays as a way to help Americans be more energy independent is especially effective.

Of course, the public was skeptical — particularly after the 3-Mile Island and Chernobyl disasters. The oil industry was understandably opposed, and encouraged the anti-nuclear movement and funded anti-nuclear messages.

Peruse the vintage ads below to see how the pro-fission profession professed their preference for the promotion of nuclear power.

How nuclear energy can help defuse the next oil crisis (1987)

Nuclear-generated electricity, still the fastest-growing major energy source in America, may be our best defense against another oil crisis.

More and more energy experts are asking the same question: How long before another oil shock torpedoes our economy and threatens our national security?

Nuclear energy can defuse the next oil crisis-1987

Oil turmoil: Signs of the next energy crisis

US oil imports soared last year, costing the country $27 billion. This year, America’s foreign-oil bill is expected to grow even bigger.

Many oil analysts are saying that in three years or less, as much as 50% of all the oil used in the US will have to be imported. That’s a higher percentage than we have ever imported before, even during the oil crises of the 1970s.

A whopping two-thirds of the world’s oil lies under the sands of OPEC nations.

The need for nuclear

Nuclear energy is a domestically produced alternative to foreign oil. Not just at the power plant, where nuclear energy is used instead of oil to generate electricity, but wherever Americans choose electricity (instead of oil) to heat their homes or run their factories.

The 1987 special report on US energy security, ordered by the President and prepared by the US Department of Energy, states that without electricity from nuclear energy, the United States “would be using more oil, paying more for each barrel of it, and feeling much less secure about its energy outlook.”

The more we use our own nuclear energy, the less we’ll have to rely on energy from unstable regions of the world.

Nuclear energy for a secure future

With over a hundred operating plants in the US, nuclear energy is now our second leading source of electricity. But in spite of all that we have accomplished, the threat of foreign oil dependence remains.

Difficult choices still need to be made, but one fact is clear: the more we develop our own energy sources, the more we can control our own destiny.

ALSO SEE: The beauty of antique kerosene lamps – and how one invention changed the way people lived

Nuclear energy helped America achieve its energy balance. (1987)

Is it a balance we can keep?


Without nuclear power: American dollars spent on foreign oil (1988)

There’s an incredible amount of American money going overseas to buy foreign oil. How much?

1980s Pro-nuclear Council for Energy Awareness campaign (3)

MORE: Thomas Edison says electricity will cure everything (1914)

Without nuclear power: American dollars spent on foreign oil (1988)

Electricity is so vital to our economy and our way of life that a shortage of electricity is unthinkable. yet some parts of the country are already experiencing brownouts during peak periods of demand.

The question is not, “Will we run out?” The question is: “What price will we have to pay?”

1980s Pro-nuclear Council for Energy Awareness campaign (1)

Nuclear power vs foreign oil’s ups & downs

1980s Pro-nuclear Council for Energy Awareness campaign (2)

MORE: Nikola Tesla’s revolutionary ideas included wireless electricity & free power for everyone

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