Gradual growth in US support for nuclear

24 September 2012

Support for nuclear energy in the USA is gradually approaching pre-Fukushima levels, a new public opinion poll shows. Some 65% of Americans now favour the use of nuclear, compared with 71% before the accident.

A telephone survey of 1000 US citizens was carried out between 14 and 16 September by Bisconti Research in conjunction with GfK Roper on behalf of the Nuclear Energy Institute.

The poll found that 65% of respondents favoured the use of nuclear energy as one of the ways to generate electricity in the USA. This represents a small increase over a similar survey in February 2012 that showed 64% favoured it, while a survey in September 2011 - six months after the Fukushima accident in Japan - indicated 62% of people supported it. A similar survey in February 2011 - a month before the accident - showed that 71% favoured it.

With support gradually rising, there has been a corresponding decrease in the proportion of people saying they oppose nuclear energy. Some 29% of respondents in the latest poll said they oppose nuclear, compared with 33% in February and 35% last September.

The latest poll found that 78% of people associate nuclear energy "a lot or a little" with reliable electricity, 72% with clean air, 69% with energy independence and 73% with affordable electricity. Some 77% of respondents believe that nuclear energy will be important in meeting the USA's future electricity needs, down from 81% in February 2012, which itself was slightly up from 80% in September.

Meanwhile, 81% of those questioned believe that the operating licences of plants that continue to meet federal safety standards should be renewed. This was the same level of support found in the February 2012 study. Some 60% of people think that the USA "should definitely build more nuclear plants in the future," up from 58% in the previous poll. Support also remained strong for the construction of new nuclear power plants, with 68% saying they approved of new reactors being built at existing plant sites and 69% saying that it was acceptable for new units to be built at their nearest operating plant.

The public's view of the safety of nuclear power plants in the USA has also improved slightly, with 76% believing that "nuclear power plants operating in the United States are safe and secure," up from 74% in February 2012.

With regards to used fuel management, 80% of respondents think that the US government should develop a final disposal facility for the country's used nuclear fuel a long as it meets Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations. In the meantime, 62% agree that used fuel can be safely stored on-site at nuclear power plants. However, 78% agree that it is more appropriate for used fuel to be consolidated at one or two volunteer sites where it can be securely and efficiently managed.

Ann Bisconti, president of Bisconti Research, commented: "In the surveys conducted this year and the latter part of 2011, we see not only significant and steady support for nuclear energy overall but confidence that nuclear power plants are being operated safely. Confidence in the safe operation of the plants and recognition of their benefits is the linchpin to public support."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News