A nuclear accident is strongly believed tohave negative effect on public acceptance of nuclear energy both directly orotherwise. Its direct effect is the damage from the released radioactivematerials. The indirect effect of a nuclear accident is the indelible mark itleaves behind. Nuclear accidents arehowever not frequent, they cause serious havoc and therefore create a strong indication that there is anextraordinary risk in nuclear power generation (Slovic, 1987). Thisbelieve helps to create a negative imageor criticism of nuclear energy (Gregory et al.
, 1995).A serious nuclearaccident, such as the one that occurred at Fukushima, appears to increase thenegative effect of nuclear energy directly and indirectly. This is supported byprevious studies that examined nuclear disasters such as those at Three MileIsland (Melber, 1982; Nealey et al., 1983; Rosa, 2001; Rosa and Dunlap, 1994)and Chernobyl (Renn, 1990; Rosa and Dunlap, 1994; Smith and Michaels, 1987). TheFukushima accident has also had a significant effect on the nuclear policies ofmany countries.
Many governments have changed or redirected their investmentsin nuclear energy, and the construction of various nuclear power plants hasbeen suspended (Ramana, 2011). The Japanese government announced acomprehensive review of its energy policy and halted its plans to buildadditional nuclear reactors. Germany shut down all 17 of its operationalnuclear power reactors, and Switzerland agreed to phase out its 5 aging powerreactors as they reached the end of their lifecycles over the next 25 years.Italy decided to exclude nuclear energy from its future energy mix (Froggattand Schneider, 2011).
However, it is important to note that the effect of anaccident on public acceptance can differ in different countries depending onfactors, such as geography, history, and environment. Especially consideringthat nuclear disasters release radioactive contamination that affects broadgeographical areas, it is important to understand the effect of distance onpublic acceptance of nuclear energy.Depending on the distancefrom the accident site, public opinion may be affected by two contradictoryeffects: proximity and distance. The proximity effect involves an inverserelationship between distance from an accident site and the level of publicacceptance.
In other words, the closer an area is to the site of an accident,the lower public acceptance is for the source of the accident (Rosa and Dunlap,1994). In the case of nuclear energy, this is because an area closer to theaccident site has higher concentrations of radioactive materials and higherprobabilities of human and environmental damage (Renn, 1990).