US public remains favourable to nuclear

24 February 2011

Public support for nuclear energy in the USA remains high, with 71% of people saying they favour its use, according to the results of a new survey.


The telephone survey of 1000 US citizens was carried out between 10 and 13 February by Bisconti Research in conjunction with GfK Roper on behalf of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI).


The survey found that 89% of Americans agree that all low-carbon energy sources – including nuclear, hydro and renewable energy – should be taken advantage of to generate electricity while limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Just 10% disagreed. Some 84% of respondents said they considered nuclear energy "important" in meeting the USA's future electricity demands, while only 11% said it is "not important."


The poll results indicate that the benefits of nuclear energy are widely recognised by the public. Some 84% of respondents said that they associate nuclear energy "a lot" or "a little" with reliable electricity; 79% associate nuclear energy with affordable electricity; 79% associate nuclear energy with economic growth and job creation; and 77% associate nuclear energy and clean air.


Ann Bisconti, president of Bisconti Research, commented: "The growing support for nuclear energy in recent years may be due to greater public awareness of key benefits of the technology." She added, "For the second consecutive year, the president prominently referenced nuclear energy in his State of the Union speech."


Bisconti Research noted that the latest poll was conducted shortly before "the turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East and the resulting spike in oil prices." It added, "Turmoil in oil rich areas of the world and hikes in oil prices historically have focused public opinion even more on nuclear energy."


The poll results indicated wide support for the extended operation of existing nuclear power reactors and the construction of new ones. Some 88% of people agreed with renewing the licence of plants that continue to meet federal safety standards.


In addition, 80% thought utilities should prepare now so that new plants could be built if needed in the next decade. Two-thirds (66%) of respondents agreed that the country should definitely construct new nuclear power plants in the future, while 30% disagreed. Three-quarters (76%) of people said they would find the construction of a new reactor acceptable at the nearest nuclear power plant that is already operating.


The survey found 79% agreeing that in order to "jump-start investment and maintain US competitiveness" the federal government should provide loan guarantees for the construction of low-carbon energy technologies, including nuclear.


Just over half (58%) of those questioned believe that used fuel can be stored safely and securely on-site at nuclear power plants. However, 80% said they would like to see it stored at a secure storage facility away from the sites until a permanent disposal facility is ready.


"It's clear that that information about nuclear energy in the media is reaching substantial numbers of the public," Bisconti said. "And the public's view of nuclear power plant safety has transformed over the past decades. This research shows 67% of Americans viewing nuclear plants as safe, compared with 35% in 1984." Also, 78% of respondents considered today's nuclear power plants as safe and secure.


Surveys conducted by Bisconti have shown a significant change in the US public's view of nuclear energy over past years. Favourability has increased fairly steadily since 1983, when Bisconti's first poll showed that 49% of Americans supported the use of nuclear energy. A similar poll conducted in March 2010 showed a record 74% of respondents in favour of the use of nuclear energy.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News