Poll reveals lack of safety information

21 February 2007

Some 76% of Europeans feel uninformed about the safety of nuclear power plants while 31% believe they cannot be operated safely, according to an EU poll.

The poll was conducted by the European Commission's Eurobarometer unit for the Directorate of Nuclear Energy, part of the Directorate General of Energy and Tranport.

After noting that "nuclear emits only a negligible quantity of carbon dioxide" and that its employment "helps to fight against climate change and thereby contribute to the goal of sustainable development," the pollsters explain that the future of nuclear energy in Europe is uncertain: "European public opinion remains reticent towards nuclear energy and, in order to develop, the nuclear industry would need to achieve a concensus among the population."

However, many views reported by Eurobarometer were negative. Of respondents from the EU's current 27 member states in late 2006 only 14% think nuclear's share of generation should increase in future, while 39% think it should be reduced. Only 46% believe nuclear 'helps to limit global warming'.

The mainstream media was shown to be lacking in its coverage of energy issues - even during this period of interest in climate change. Some 67% thought the information offered by the media on the risks and benefits of energy choices and nuclear was 'probably' or 'certainly' insufficient for an audience to draw its own conclusions.

Perhaps as a result, nuclear's place in the future electricity mix relative to other technologies was unclear: 41% of people thought nuclear could be replaced by renewables and energy saving 'easily' or 'very easily', balanced by 45% who thought 'not very easily' or 'not at all'.

Specifically on nuclear safety, 31% thought nuclear power plants could not be operated 'in a safe manner' and 50% thought radioactive materials could not be disposed of safely. 76% of the sample confessed they felt 'not at all' or 'not very well' informed on nuclear safety; and 53% think nuclear's safety risks outweigh its advantages.

Further information

Europeans and nuclear safety