Krauthammer declared nuclear power dead a few days ago. I thought he was wrong.

Is he?

The survey indicates that 53 percent of the public opposes building more nuclear power plants in the U.S., up six points from last year. Forty-six percent support the construction of new plants.

What about the existing nuclear power plans in the country?

Sixty-eight percent say continue to operate all of them, with 27 percent saying that some should be shut down and one in ten calling for all of the plants to be closed…

“Despite assurances from public officials, most Americans say that it is likely that a dangerous amount of radiation from the damaged nuclear power plants in Japan will eventually reach the United States,” adds Holland.

A telltale crosstab guaranteed to send a chill down the spine of liberal climate-change warriors everywhere: Check out how coal fared vis-a-vis nuclear.

That’s not the only poll out today showing a downturn in support for nuclear power. A survey by the Civil Society Institute found 46 percent still support nuclear energy (versus 44 percent who don’t); last year, according to Gallup, that number stood at … 62 percent. Other polls over the past week show similar results, with Pew’s numbers on whether we should promote increased use of nuclear power shifting dramatically in six months. Last October, that question split 45/44; today it’s 39/52. Gulp.

Here’s where I destroy my reputation for eeyorism, though: Aren’t all of these numbers surprisingly high given that we’re still at the height of the biggest nuclear crisis since Chernobyl? Thanks to weeks’ worth of hysterical news coverage, you’re seeing stores running out of Geiger counters in Paris and insane results like the one above about dangerous radiation levels hitting the U.S. Even with daily reports about the possibility of full meltdown at Fukushima or an unprecedented disaster involving the spent fuel rods, we’re still at 68 percent who want to continue with nuclear power and 46 percent who want to build new plants. What happens to those numbers once the Japanese reactors are finally, finally under control — which might be soon — and the public starts to realize that there’s no death cloud on the way from over the Pacific horizon? I said it yesterday but I’ll say it again: No political damage has been done here that can’t be undone by some smart, bipartisan “messaging” about how low the risks really are. Can we manage that? Or are we too close to an election that even this issue will end up being politicized somehow?