From Hiroshima to Three-Mile-Island: Three decades of nuclear power opposition rhetoric in the United States

Theodore Erik Olds, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


Rhetoric associated with the development of nuclear power in the United States was analyzed over 3-decades in order to better understand the beginnings and constituents of the rhetoric associated with anti-nuclear power perspectives. An amalgamation of existing historical/rhetorical methods utilized by Gamson and Modigliani (1989) and Darsey (1991) were employed. Progressive interpretive anti-nuclear rhetorical packages were identified for corresponding historical periods within the 34-year period. Historical periods were segmented by catalytic events, or incidents important to nuclear power development which also presented opportunities for anti-nuclear power rhetoric. The analysis reveals four individual rhetorical packages: (1) Pandora's Box; (2) Mirage; (3) Devil's Bargain; and (4) Mirage Two. The analysis further demonstrates that anti-nuclear rhetoric is progressive, synergistic, requires maintenance, relies on the unknown, and exists beyond what is reported in the media.