Americans wary of nuclear waste, safety issues

04 March 2010

Almost half of Americans are in favour of new nuclear power plants being built in the USA, but the majority said they are concerned about radioactive waste management, plant safety and nuclear material falling into the wrong hands, a new public opinion poll shows.


The poll by Angus Reid Public Opinion - a practice of Canada-based Vision Critical – questioned 1010 randomly-selected adult Americans between 19 and 21 February 2010 in an online survey.


The results showed that 48% of respondents were in favour of constructing new power reactors in the USA, with 21% saying they strongly support this. However, 34% said they opposed building new nuclear power plants, with 18% saying they strongly opposed this. Another 18% of respondents also said they were not sure on the issue.


More respondents (41%) agreed that the USA "should further pursue its nuclear energy capabilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions" than those who thought that the country "should avoid nuclear energy and focus on other carbon-free sources of energy" (38%). Respondents not sure which option was closest to their own opinion made up 21%.


The results of the poll also showed high concerns about nuclear waste, safety of reactors and proliferation issues.


When asked if they were concerned about the management of radioactive waste, 81% of Americans said they were, 51% being very concerned, while only 16% said they were less concerned. Just 4% of respondents said they were not at all concerned about waste.


With regards to safety, 72% of respondents said they were concerned (44% being very concerned) that an accident could occur at a US nuclear power plant, while 25% were less concerned (8% were not at all concerned). A similar number (73% concerned, 24% less concerned) responded when asked about health risks to communities close to nuclear power plants.


Concerns were also found that nuclear technology could fall into the hands of terrorists, with 74% of respondents saying they were worried about this, while 23% said they were not.


A poll conducted in October 2009 by Bisconti Research in conjunction with GfK Roper on behalf of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) found higher US public support for nuclear energy, with 84% of respondents agreeing that all low-carbon energy sources, including nuclear, should be exploited to combat climate change. In addition, 75% of those questioned said that they agreed that the use of nuclear power should be expanded as one way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while only 20% disagreed. Overall, 61% of respondents in that survey said that they favour the use of nuclear energy in the USA, with 36% opposing it.


The USA's 104 operating nuclear power reactors produced 809 billion kWh in 2008, almost 20% of total electrical output.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News