A clear majority of US citizens would support recycling and reprocessing of used nuclear fuel, according to a new opinion poll which also found good all-round support for nuclear.
The survey - conducted by Bisconti Research and GfK NOP on behalf of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) - found that 84% of respondents thought that nuclear energy will be important in meeting the USA's future energy needs. The same percentage of those questioned also supported the relicensing of existing reactors, proving they meet federal safety standards.
On general questions it was found that over two-thirds of US citizens support nuclear energy, with the majority of people considering nuclear power plants to be safer now than at the time of the Three Mile Island accident 30 years ago.
Sixty-nine percent of respondents said that they favour the use of nuclear energy as one way of generating electricity in the USA, with 30% saying they strongly supported its use. Just 12% of people said they strongly opposed the use of nuclear energy.
The survey also found that 62% of people agreed that the USA should definitely construct more nuclear power plants in the future, compared with 34% opposed to this.
With regards to the safety of the country's nuclear power plants, 76% of people said they considered them to be safe and secure, as opposed to 21% who did not. 83% of respondents said that they thought the plants are safer now than when the Three Mile Island accident happened on 28 March 1979. 46% said that safety had improved a lot since then, while 12% said that safety was about the same. Only 4% said they thought nuclear plants were now less safe.
Waste and recycling
While most people (63%) said that nuclear waste could safely be stored at plant sites until moved to a permanent disposal facility, 80% of those questioned thought it more appropriate for the waste to be stored at one or two volunteer sites where it can be stored more securely and efficiently.
Even though the Obama administration has said that it will not proceed with the Yucca Mountain waste repository in Nevada, 77% of respondents thought the government should continue to develop the facility as long as it meets federal regulations. In addition, 89% of those questioned said that a panel of independent experts should be established to advise President Obama and Congress on how best to manage the country's nuclear waste over the long term. The high rates of response to both questions indicate a strong desire to see the issue of radioactive waste settled.
Some 83% of people also said they supported US plans to recycle used nuclear fuel rods in order to generate more electricity and reduce the amount of waste to be disposed of. Just 13% are opposed to this plan.
The telephone poll of 1000 adults across the country was conducted between 12 and 15 March.
Ann Bisconti, president of Bisconti Research, commented: "The strong public support shown for nuclear energy - and the fact that support is being sustained at levels as high as they have been in the 26 years that I have been conducting public opinion research on this topic - indicates a real change. The levels of support found for nuclear energy in recent months really are unprecedented."
She added, "The poll found that the public is more concerned today about jobs, economic growth and energy independence than about global warming and air pollution. Clearly though, they see nuclear power as one of the ways to address all these challenges."
The publication of the NEI poll results closely follows those of a survey by the Gallup polling organisation. That poll found that some 59% said they somewhat or strongly favoured the use of nuclear energy in the USA as a means of generating electricity. This, Gallup said, is the highest level of support ever found in its polls.