WASHINGTON—Nearly 80 percent of Americans endorse the use of federal financial incentives to help promote development of carbon-free energy technologies, including new nuclear power plants, according to a new national survey of 1,000 adults.
The survey shows that 79 percent of Americans approve of providing tax credits “as an incentive to companies to build solar, wind and advanced-design nuclear power plants.” Only 20 percent do not approve. The number of Americans “strongly approving” of tax credits exceeded the number of Americans “strongly disapproving” by the same four-to-one margin (37 percent vs. 9 percent).
Support was nearly identical when Americans were asked about providing federal loan guarantees to companies that build solar, wind, advanced-design nuclear power plants “or other energy technology that reduces greenhouse gases to jump-start investment in these critical energy facilities.” Seventy-seven percent of those surveyed approve, while only 22 percent do not approve. In both instances, one percent of respondents did not have an opinion.
The new telephone survey was conducted April 10-13 by Bisconti Research Inc. with GfK NOP, and has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
Eighty-four percent of Americans agree that the nation should take advantage of all low-carbon energy sources, including nuclear, hydro and renewable energy, to produce electricity while limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Sixty-seven percent associate nuclear energy “a lot” or “a little” as a climate change solution.
Eighty-two percent believe that nuclear energy will be “very” or “somewhat” important in meeting the nation’s electricity needs in the years ahead.
On the issue of nuclear power plant safety, 71 percent said they agree that nuclear power plants are safe and secure—a high point since the question was first asked in 2006. Sixty-seven percent rated nuclear power plants safe, giving U.S. reactors a mark of five or higher on a seven-point scale where seven is the highest safety rating.
A majority of Americans now rank economic growth as a top concern, ahead of the threat of climate change and the need for energy security, the survey found. Asked to choose which of four issues seem “most important,” 57 percent of Americans named economic growth among the top two concerns, while 47 percent named global warming as a first or second choice and 46 percent named energy security first or second. Air pollution was ranked first or second by 43 percent of respondents.
This is a sharp change from the results of a Bisconti Research survey in October 2007. At that time, Americans ranked the threat of climate change and air pollution as the top energy-related concerns. Economic growth ranked at the bottom of the four choices, with only 40 percent selecting it as a first or second concern.
“These numbers do not mean that the public is less worried about global climate change than they were last year; economic growth is simply a greater concern at this time,” said Bisconti Research President Ann Bisconti. “There is still a clear public mandate for climate change solutions, including government assistance for carbon-free energy technologies.”
The survey found that public support for preparing for and building new nuclear power plants remains strong. Seventy-eight percent of Americans agree that electric companies should prepare now so that new nuclear plants could be built if needed within the next decade. In the national survey conducted last October, 75 percent agreed.
In the new survey, 59 percent of Americans agree “we should definitely build more nuclear power plants.” Two-thirds of those surveyed (66 percent) said that, if a new power plant were needed to supply electricity, it would be acceptable to add a new reactor at the site of the nearest nuclear power plant that is already operating. Last October, 59 percent agreed with that statement.
Regarding the storage of used nuclear fuel, 58 percent of Americans agree that it can be stored safely at the plants until it is moved to a permanent disposal facility. Seventy-eight percent believe that centralizing storage of used fuel rods at one or two volunteer sites is a better way.