US support for nuclear power remains high

04 October 2011

Six months after the accident at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant, two-thirds of those questioned in a new US public opinion poll continue to support the use of nuclear energy.


A telephone survey of 1000 US citizens was carried out between 22 and 24 September by Bisconti Research in conjunction with GfK Roper on behalf of the Nuclear Energy Institute.


The poll found that 62% of respondents favoured the use of nuclear energy as one of the ways to generate electricity in the USA. This represents a small decrease in those supporting nuclear since a similar survey in February 2011 - a month before the Fukushima accident - showed that 71% favoured it. 26% of those questioned in February said they opposed nuclear energy, while the new figure is 35%. In effect, the accident seems to have resulted in 9% of people changing their minds.


Despite the Fukushima accident, 67% of Americans rate US nuclear power plant safety as 'high'. This is exactly the same level recorded in the poll conducted one month before the accident. Some 67% of those questioned also said they believe that US nuclear plants are built to withstand the most severe natural events that may occur. However, 82% of respondents said that the USA should "learn the lessons from the Japanese accident and continue to develop advanced nuclear energy plants to meet America's growing electricity demand." Virtually the same amount also thought that the USA should learn everything possible from the Japanese accident and implement new safety measures in the short and long term.


The latest poll also indicates that majorities continue to support renewing the operating licences of existing nuclear power plants and the construction of new reactors. The licence of plants that continue to meet federal safety standards should be renewed, said 85% of respondents, while 75% believe utilities should prepare now so that new reactors could be built if needed in the next decade. New nuclear power plants should definitely be constructed in the USA in the future according to 59% of those questioned.


Two-thirds (67%) of respondents said that they would find the construction of a new reactor acceptable at their nearest operating nuclear power plant site, while 28% said they wouldn’t. In the February poll, 76% said it would be acceptable, with 20% being opposed.


On the issue of used fuel, some 66% of those questioned believe that it can be stored safely and securely on-site at nuclear power plants. However, 80% said they would like to see used fuel stored at a secure storage facility away from the sites until a permanent disposal facility is ready.


Ann Bisconti, president of Bisconti Research, commented: "While there is some evidence of impact of the Fukushima events, support for nuclear energy continues at much higher levels than in earlier decades. Turmoil in oil-rich areas of the world and hikes in oil prices historically have focused public opinion even more on nuclear energy, and may have helped to preclude serious impact of events in Japan on public attitudes." She added, "The information heard about nuclear power plant safety here in the US also likely helped to keep support at high levels."


Bisconti noted, "This survey, like other recent surveys, confirms that large majorities of Americans associate nuclear energy with issues they care about, including clean air, reliable and affordable electricity, energy independence, and economic growth and job creation."


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.


According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, "While support for nuclear energy has declined from the historically high level seen one year ago, support on a variety of measures is holding at the majority levels found consistently in public opinion surveys conducted throughout the past decade."


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News