WASHINGTON, D.C.—Nearly a year after the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan, a strong majority of Americans—81 percent—views nuclear energy as important to meeting the nation’s future electricity needs. Moreover, a solid majority of Americans believes nuclear power operations in the United States are safe and secure, according to a new national public opinion survey that reveals that popular support for nuclear energy has stabilized.
Overall, 64 percent of Americans favor the use of nuclear energy in the United States, according to the Feb. 17-19 telephone survey of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted by Bisconti Research Inc. with GfK Roper. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points. When Bisconti Research/GfK Roper last conducted a national survey of energy attitudes for the Nuclear Energy Institute in September 2011, 62 percent of Americans voiced support for nuclear energy.
The survey shows the strength of support for views on the future importance of nuclear energy. While 81 percent of Americans express that view today, 80 percent of those surveyed last fall said they believe nuclear energy will be important to meeting America’s electricity needs in the years ahead.
Eighty-one percent of those surveyed recall hearing or reading about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant accident in Japan that resulted from the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami.
Nearly a year later, 74 percent of Americans believe that “nuclear power plants operating in the United States” are safe and secure.
Eighty-two percent of Americans believe that lessons learned from the Fukushima accident should be applied to existing operations and that the United States should continue to develop nuclear energy plants to meet growing electricity demand.
“Attitudes toward nuclear energy stand at approximately the level seen in a large number of the surveys in the past decade, but a bit below a pre-Fukushima peak,” said Ann Bisconti, president of Bisconti Research. “The weight of public opinion toward nuclear energy and the building of new nuclear power plants continues to be favorable.”
The new survey shows that two-thirds (65 percent) of Americans would find a new reactor operating at the site of the nearest nuclear energy facility acceptable. This support was highest in the Midwest and Southeast—69 percent and 68 percent respectively. But solid majorities also hold that view in the West and Northeast—61 percent each.
A near-consensus 82 percent of poll respondents say that U.S. energy policy ought to “take advantage of all low-carbon energy sources, including nuclear, hydro, and renewable energy.” Eighty two percent of Americans also support renewing the licenses of nuclear power plants that continue to meet federal safety standards, according to the research. Additionally, 58 percent of Americans believe that the United States “should definitely build more nuclear plants in the future.”
On the subject of managing used nuclear fuel, the survey found that a strong majority of Americans (76 percent) would like to see the by-product of nuclear energy production consolidated at one or two storage facilities at volunteer host sites. While the federal government by law was obligated to begin removing used fuel from reactor sites in 1998, it has not met its obligation and used fuel continues to be stored at plant sites.
A recent presidential commission on used nuclear fuel management recommended that a new federal corporation be created to manage the fuel, and pursue volunteer interim storage sites while also developing a permanent repository. An overwhelming majority of Americans (80 percent), the poll found, support the federal government developing a final disposal facility for used nuclear fuel as long as it meets U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission requirements.