Europeans happy with nuclear plant safety

30 April 2010

Most Europeans believe that nuclear power plants can be operated safely but still think they are a 'risk', according to an extensive Eurobarometer survey.
EurobarometerThe results of the survey of 26,470 European citizens across all 27 European Union member states, carried out in September and 

October 2009, have now been published by the European Commission in a 168-page document, Europeans and Nuclear Safety.
While 59% of the Europeans surveyed felt that nuclear plants can be operated safely, most believed that the risks related to nuclear energy are underestimated, with a lack of security against terrorist attacks on power plants and the disposal and management of radioactive waste identified as the major dangers. Not surprisingly, then, the vast majority - 82% - agreed that it would be useful for nuclear waste management to be regulated at the European level which will likely please the European Commission, which directs Eurobarometer's work.
Nevertheless, the majority of respondents recognised the value of nuclear energy as a means of decreasing dependence on energy imports, ensuring more stable and competitive energy prices, and helping to limit climate change. In fact, 17% of Europeans felt that nuclear's share of electricity generation should be increased (up from 14% in a similar poll from 2006), on top of the 39% (up from 34%) who felt that nuclear's current share should be maintained. Still, 34% felt that nuclear's share should be reduced (down from 39% in the 2006 poll).
Familiarity breeds content?
The report provides detailed breakdowns both in terms of demographics and geography, and also looks at the level of knowledge of nuclear energy amongst its population. Not surprisingly, attitudes to nuclear power and safety were generally found to be more positive in those countries that already had nuclear power plants. However, the survey also found that most Europeans felt that they were not being given sufficient information about nuclear issues, particularly radioactive waste management and environmental monitoring procedures. And in every country, a comparative majority felt that schools did not offer enough information to children to give them a basic knowledge of energy and nuclear issues.
Mass media was found to be the main source of information on nuclear issues used by the survey's respondents, with television, at 72%, the far dominant source ahead of newspapers (40%) and the internet (27%). However, scientists and national nuclear safety authorities and international organisations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) were identified as the most trusted source of information on nuclear energy, particularly nuclear safety, ahead of journalists. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were less trusted than journalists to provide information.
Commenting on the survey, Santiago San Antonio, director general of European nuclear industry trade association Foratom, said the European nuclear industry was committed to bridging European citizens' nuclear knowledge gap. "Experience shows that the more citizens know about nuclear energy, the more they are in favour of it," he said. Industry efforts included doing more to inform citizens on the existing solutions for the safe and efficient management of radioactive waste that are already being put into practice in a number of countries. "What is clear from this survey is that public acceptance of nuclear energy is steadily increasing," he said.
European commissioner for energy Günther Oettinger said the survey showed that people across Europe shared the same concerns, whether or not they were from countries with nuclear power. "We have to take these concerns seriously and make sure that radioactive waste is disposed safely, for our people and for our environment," he said.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News