Over half of the respondents to a new public opinion survey feel that the UK should increase its nuclear capacity – and those living closest to existing nuclear plants are most strongly in favour of new nuclear.
The survey of 1100 people, carried out on behalf of Utility Week magazine and management consulting company Accenture in April 2008, found that support for nuclear in the UK has increased by 30% over the last five years. Some 88% of the respondents agreed it is important that the UK reduce its reliance on power generated from fossil fuels, with 33% wanting to do this by increasing use of nuclear power. While 85% of respondents would like to see the UK increase the use of renewables, only 25% thought that renewables alone could fill the gap in reducing the country's reliance on fossil-fuelled generated power.
The survey also found that over half of the respondents felt generally that the UK should increase its nuclear generating capacity. Attitudes were most positive amongst those already living near nuclear power plants. (Nuclear power plant employees were excluded from the survey.)
When asked who they would most trust most to deliver safe new nuclear power plants,
61% said they would trust UK-led consortia, while 7% opted for nuclear consortia with foreign leadership. 31% said they trusted no-one.
Radioactive waste handling and plant safety were highlighted as recurring reasons against nuclear growth cited by respondents. However, the survey found respondents were slightly more concerned about rising carbon dioxide levels over the next 20 years than they were about nuclear waste.
The UK has recently embarked on a program to pursue nuclear new build, and prime minister Gordon Brown recently told an oil producers' summit in Saudi Arabia that the UK is committed to the "biggest expansion of nuclear power in Europe." It has also embarked on a program to build a geological disposal facility for the country's higher level nuclear wastes, and has invited communities to register their interest as potential sites.