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Not just a day off
Not just a day off

SAN FRANCISCO - A surprising 59 percent of Californians now support building more nuclear plants, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The pollsters said the findings suggest how deeply the power crisis has affected people in the state, which has been hit by rolling blackouts and soaring electric bills over the past few months.

The last time the organization polled Californians about nuclear energy was 1984 - five years after the accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania - and it found 61 percent opposed to nuclear power.

"In my interpretation, the current energy crisis has some bearing on the public's changed attitudes on nuclear power," said Mark DiCamillo, spokesman for the Field Institute, a nonpartisan polling organization. "The public is searching for clean ways to add to the capacity. I think the poll is saying that nuclear should be included in that consideration."

The Field poll comes as the Bush administration pushes for a renewed look at nuclear power.

Vice President Dick Cheney, who heads the president's energy task force, has promoted nuclear power as essential to America's energy needs and said that at least some of the 65 power plants that need to be built annually to meet future electricity demand ought to be nuclear.

No utilities have ordered any new nuclear power plants in the United States since 1978.

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