Global public perception of nuclear power has shifted dramatically since the earthquake that hit Japan nearly four weeks ago. This is something we all could sense intuitively, and certainly understand given the ongoing efforts to contain fallout at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, but now it has been measured.

Social Radar, a tool developed by Infegy that monitors activity on social media, was used to build a comprehensive report on the feelings surrounding nuclear energy by analyzing conversations across multiple platforms on April 1. The report, released this morning, "shows dramatic shifts and complex attitudes in the public's perception of nuclear energy before and after a massive 9.0 earthquake hit  Japan and caused ongoing problems at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant on March 11, 2001," according to a press release that accompanied the report's publication.

After analyzing more than 40 million "online conversations," Infegy concluded that public perception of nuclear energy prior to the earthquake was high; it took a sharp turn on the 11th. Seventy-six percent of online conversations concerning nuclear energy were positive leading up to March 10, according to the report. By March 13, 62 percent of all conversations were negative. A few days later, public sentiment had evened out a bit, with Infegy's analysis showing a near 50/50 split between negative and positive perception. "As news of conditions at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant worsened, negative sentiment grew, though positive sentiment regained the lead in conversations by the end of the month," according to the press release.

Digging a little deeper into the actual numbers, we find that mentions of nuclear energy on social media platforms fluctuated between only 51 and 166 per day for the first 10 days of March. After the earthquake, mentions rose steadily through March 15, at which point they peaked at 2,303.

The most shocking thing about these findings is that the public's perception of nuclear energy has returned so quickly to the positive. The graph included below, which charts online conversations up through April 1, the date that Infegy pulled all of the data, shows that, after a few weeks in the red, Internet chatter has turned positive. And it could be on the rise.



We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to