The UK public is increasingly concerned about energy supplies and support for nuclear energy is growing as a means of both meeting future demand and reducing emissions, according to a poll commissioned by EDF Energy.
The online poll on energy policy was conducted by YouGov between 30 October and 3 November. There were 4449 respondents to the survey.
When asked about their level of interest in certain issues, 85% of respondents said they were 'very or fairly interested' in where the UK's future electricity will come from, compared with 82% in a similar poll conducted in 2007. Also, 69% of respondents said they were interested in the issue of nuclear energy. 78% thought that energy was the biggest challenge facing the UK and its government, up from 60% in 2007.
43% of people questioned said that their opinions or impressions of the current use of nuclear energy were either 'very or mainly favourable,' while 29% said they were 'very or mainly unfavourable.' More respondents considered nuclear power plants favourably than they did coal or gas fired plants (24% and 26%, respectively), but wind farms were seen as most favourable (76%).
The majority of respondents (61%) were aware that most of the UK's older nuclear power plants and some coal power plants will shut down by 2020, resulting in a substantial gap in energy supplies. Just over half of those questioned (53%) support the construction of new nuclear reactors to replace the ones closing down in order to help fill this gap. 27% said they opposed this.
Some 62% said that they agreed with the statement 'Nuclear energy has disadvantages but the country needs it as part of the energy balance, with coal, gas and wind power,' while 13% disagreed. Additionally, 63% agreed that 'the best solution is to replace nuclear power stations with new ones and expand renewables like wind power at the same time,' with just 15% disagreeing.
Nearly half of respondents (47%) think that planning regulations to construct new nuclear power plants on the sites of old ones should be eased. This compares with 43% in 2007. Some 42% of people said that nuclear power plants spoil the landscape, compared with 48% for coal power plants and 47% for wind turbines. However, just 24% said that gas power plants are an eyesore.
Concerns about the safety of nuclear energy have fallen slightly, with 76% of respondents saying there is an issue of safety with nuclear power plants, down from 79% in 2007.
Vincent de Rivaz, Chief Executive of EDF Energy, said: "This latest poll shows increasing support for nuclear power to be part of the solution to meet the looming energy gap in the UK."
He added, "The survey shows that the public has a strong understanding of the nature and scale of the energy challenge facing the UK. People are keenly aware of the need for action to be taken to keep the lights on, address climate change and maintain affordable prices. To help meet this challenge, we’ve set out our plans for four new nuclear plants in the UK, with the first one operational by the end of 2017."