US public support for nuclear remains high

23 October 2009

Public support for the use of nuclear energy in the USA remains strong, according to the results of a recent opinion poll. Over 80% of those questioned said that all low-carbon energy sources should be exploited to combat climate change.


The telephone survey of 1000 US citizens was carried out in early October by Bisconti Research in conjunction with GfK Roper on behalf of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI). Results show that 84% of respondents agree that the US should "take advantage of all low-carbon energy sources, including nuclear, hydro, and renewable energy, to produce the electricity we need while limiting greenhouse gas emissions."


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 and 4% were undecided.



Swedish support slides

Meanwhile, a poll in Sweden has shown a slight decrease in support of the use of nuclear energy. The survey, conducted in September by Novus Opinion on behalf of The Analysis Group of the Swedish Nuclear Training and Safety Centre (KSU), found that overall 74% of the 1000 respondents favoured the continued use of nuclear energy in the country, down from 78% from a similar poll conducted in May.

However, 35% agreed with the continued use of nuclear and the construction of new reactors, while 39% supported the continued operation of operating reactors but were against the construction of new plants. This compares with 40% and 38%, respectively, in May.

The poll found that only 20% of Swedes want to continue to phase out the use of nuclear energy through political decisions.


Overall, 61% of respondents said that they favour the use of nuclear energy in the USA, with 36% opposing it. The NEI commented that this is the ninth consecutive year that favourability levels have averaged more than 60% in surveys conducted by Bisconti, which usually conducts two surveys per year on behalf of the NEI.


The research found that 80% of Americans believe that nuclear energy will play an important role in meeting the country's future electricity needs, while only 18% thought nuclear's role would be unimportant.


The poll indicated strong support for the renewal of the operating licences of nuclear power plants that continue to meet federal safety standards, with 82% of people in agreement. Just 16% of respondents were against extending the lives of plants.


Some 74% of Americans thought that electric utilities should now start preparing for nuclear new build, as opposed to 24% against. When asked whether the USA should definitely construct new nuclear power plants, 59% agreed while 39% disagreed. 65% said that it would be acceptable to build new reactors at existing sites, while 68% said it would be acceptable to be new units at their nearest operating plant.


The NEI said, "The new survey comes with federal policymakers in the midst of a vibrant debate over legislation designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address the threat of global climate change." It added, "Numerous independent analyses of climate change measures identify the need for a pronounced build-out of new nuclear plants to meet aggressive carbon reduction targets."


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