Positive thinking in Italy, Canada and Poland

07 August 2008

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Ontario is the only Canadian province with operating nuclear power plants. In fact, New Brunswick and Quebec also have nuclear power plants. WNN apologises for any confusion caused and has corrected the error below.


Recent opinion surveys have found broad support for new nuclear power plants amongst Italians, Poles, and residents of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan - all areas currently without nuclear power but looking into nuclear new-build projects.


A survey carried out on behalf of leading Italian business organization Confesercenti found a total of 54% of respondents in favour of new nuclear power plants being built in Italy, with 17% strongly in favour. Overall, 36% were against a new Italian nuclear plant, with 21% strongly opposing the idea. The primary reason given for opposition to a new nuclear plant was the availability of "cleaner" sources of energy, cited by 70% of "no" voters, rather than safety fears (58%) or concerns about radioactive waste (51%).


Surprisingly, despite supporting the idea of nuclear power, the Italian population would appear to prefer to keep it local. A large majority (82%) of the 800 respondents opposed the idea of Italy importing energy from newly built nuclear plants in neighbouring countries. Only 11% were in favour of such an idea. The respondents to the survey were selected to be representative of the whole country in terms of gender, age and domicile.


Italy was an early nuclear energy pioneer and has operated nuclear plants in the past, but decided to close them down following a referendum in the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl accident. Now, as well as being the only country ever to have abandoned an operating nuclear power programme, it is the world's largest net importer of electricity. It is also the only G8 country without operating nuclear power plants. The Italian government has said it plans to start building new reactors within five years to reduce the county's dependence on oil, gas and imported power.


Saskatchewan says "maybe"


A poll carried out on behalf of Bruce Power in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan found support for nuclear power from a majority of the residents of the province. The level of support, at 55%, was second only to that found in Ontario, the Canadian province that currently has the most operating nuclear power plants. Over 800 residents were questioned.


The survey was carried out as part of Bruce Power's Saskatchewan 2020 initiative, launched in July. The initiative, due to be completed by the end of 2008, includes a study on the feasibility of bringing nuclear energy to the province as part of a wider look at clean energy technologies.


According to Bruce Power, the top five reasons given for opposing nuclear included safety, environmental impacts, health, waste and a general opposition to the technology. On the other hand, the survey found three main driving factors for supporting nuclear energy: its lack of greenhouse gases emissions; the presence of uranium in the province; and economic considerations. The company, which operates the Bruce A and Bruce B nuclear power plants in Ontario, is keen to point out that it has not yet made any decision on whether to progress a nuclear option for Saskatchewan.


Record support from Poles


Support for the construction of a nuclear power plant in Poland is reported to have reached a "record high" of 38% in a July survey of over 1000 people carried out by the Centre for Public Research. A similar poll carried out in June 2006 found only 25% in favour.


Poland is heavily dependent on coal for its energy. It has the largest reserves of coal in the EU (14 billion tonnes), generating 93% of its electricity from coal, but also has very high CO2 emissions. The Polish government decided in 2005 that the country should pursue nuclear power in order to diversify energy supply and reduce emissions. As well as the possibility of building its own nuclear plants in the future, Poland is participating in plans to build a new nuclear power plant in partnership with Lithuania and Estonia.


Meanwhile, Polish copper giant KGHM has said it would like to build a nuclear power plant too. According to press reports, the company, whose largest shareholder is by the Polish treasury, has said it would like to build a nuclear plant and form an investment fund as a way of diversifying its business.