US, Belgium polls show different stances

27 February 2012

Support for nuclear energy in the USA has increased slightly in the past five months, but still remains lower than pre-Fukushima levels, a new public opinion poll shows. Meanwhile, a survey in Belgium has found that while most people are in favour of nuclear energy, they want less of it.

A telephone survey of 1000 US citizens was carried out between 17 and 19 February by Bisconti Research in conjunction with GfK Roper on behalf of the Nuclear Energy Institute.

The poll found that 64% of respondents favoured the use of nuclear energy as one of the ways to generate electricity in the USA. This represents a small increase in those supporting nuclear since a similar survey in September 2011 - six months after the Fukushima accident in Japan - showed that 62% favoured it. 33% of those questioned said they opposed nuclear energy, down from 35% last September. A similar survey in February 2011 - a month before the accident - showed that 71% favoured it.

Some 81% of respondents believe that nuclear energy will be important in meeting the USA's future electricity needs, a slight increase from 80% in September. In addition, 82% thought the USA should "take advantage of all low-carbon energy sources, including nuclear, hydro and renewable energy." The same proportion also believes that the operating licences of plants that continue to meet federal safety standards should be renewed. More than half (58%) of respondents think that the country "should definitely build more nuclear plants in the future." Two-thirds of those questioned also responded favourably to the construction of a new reactor at their nearest existing nuclear plant.

The public's view of the safety of nuclear power plants in the USA remains favourable, with 74% believing that "nuclear power plants operating in the United States are safe and secure." However, 82% of people believe the USA should learn the lessons from the Fukushima accident and continue to develop advanced nuclear energy plants to meet the country's growing electricity demand.

Bisconti Research noted, "Public attitudes measured in this and recent surveys show that, on balance, the promise of nuclear energy outweighs the concerns, as long as the public believes that plants in this country are safe."

Ann Bisconti, president of Bisconti Research, commented: "Attitudes towards nuclear energy stand at approximately the level seen in a large number of surveys in the past decade, but a bit below a pre-Fukushima peak. The weight of public opinion towards nuclear energy and the building of new nuclear power plants continues to be favourable."

Mixed messages in Belgium

A poll commissioned by Belgian nuclear trade association Nuclear Forum shows that while there is support for the continued use of nuclear energy, the majority of people favoured reducing the share of the country's electricity generated by reactors.

In a telephone poll of 1000 Belgian citizens conducted by TNS Media between 6 and 23 December 2011, over half (58%) of respondents said they supported the continued use of nuclear energy, but 62% said they wanted less nuclear in the country's energy mix.

However, more than two-thirds (69%) of those questioned believe that it would be difficult to find a suitable alternative to nuclear energy. Additionally, 74% believe that energy prices will increase if less nuclear energy was used in Belgium. Some 60% of people also believe that nuclear energy contributes positively to the country's energy independence, the economy and to the continued availability of electricity.

If plant safety and proper management of radioactive waste can be assured, 76% of Belgians favour the continued use of nuclear energy, the survey found. Furthermore, 40% of those questioned said they would then support the construction of new reactors.

Nuclear Forum noted that the survey results highlight the growing number of people who are undecided on the nuclear energy issue. Some 63% of those polled said they were either ill-informed or had been given too little information, especially on subjects such as the impact of nuclear energy on the environment and public health.

Belgium's seven nuclear power reactors currently generate some 55% of the country's electricity. In December 2011, Belgium formed a new coalition government which agreed that the 2003 nuclear phase-out law closing three reactors by 2015 and the others by 2025 should be implemented if adequate power could be secured from other sources and prices would not rise unduly.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News