WASHINGTON, D.C.—Nearly seven of 10 Americans favor nuclear energy and 68 percent support building a new reactor at the existing nuclear power plant closest to where they live, according to a recent public opinion poll conducted for the Nuclear Energy Institute.
Regionally, 70 percent of respondents in the Northeast and Midwest favor the use of nuclear energy, 67 percent in the South and 66 percent in the West. Favorability among Northeast residents has increased 12 percentage points since March of this year.
The nationwide survey showed that 81 percent of those polled believe that nuclear energy will play an important role in meeting U.S. future electricity needs, and 76 percent agree that U.S. utilities should prepare now so new nuclear plants could be built if needed in the next decade. Sixty-three percent say electric companies should “definitely” build new nuclear power plants in the future.
The survey was conducted Sept. 7-10 by Bisconti Research Inc., with GfK NOP, through telephone interviews with nationally representative samples of 1,000 U.S. adults age 18 or older. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points. Bisconti Research has been surveying public attitudes about nuclear energy for 23 years.
The survey also queried respondents on various attributes related to electricity production and found that Americans place the highest value on clean air, affordability and reliability. By a significant margin, the results showed that most Americans associate nuclear energy to some degree with these considerations. For example, 77 percent of those polled associate nuclear energy “a lot” or “a little” with clean air. Eighty-one percent associate nuclear energy with reliability; 71 percent with affordable electricity costs.
“The survey results confirm trends that we have been seeing for several years that there is a recognition by the American people of the value of nuclear energy and the need for it to play a significant role in America’s energy production mix,” said Ann Bisconti, president of Bisconti Research.
Nuclear energy produces electricity for one of every five U.S. homes and businesses without emitting any greenhouse gases linked to the threat of global climate change. To meet an expected 45 percent increase in electricity demand by 2030, many electric companies are taking steps today to build new nuclear power plants. Twelve energy companies or consortia have announced plans to file 19 combined construction and operating license (COL) applications with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build up to 30 new reactors. These companies will begin submitting COL applications in 2007.
Nuclear energy provides nearly three-fourths of the nation’s supply of electricity that doesn’t emit greenhouse gases or controlled air pollutants, such as sulfur and particulates. The survey found that a plurality of the public (47 percent) recognizes that nuclear power plants are a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; but 22 percent incorrectly believe nuclear power plants emit greenhouse gases while nearly one-third aren’t sure.
The survey also found that the public gives high marks to the industry on the overall safety at the nation’s 103 reactors. Sixty percent rate safety from five to seven on a scale where seven is the highest safety grade. In addition, 65 percent agree that today’s nuclear plants are “safe and secure.”
“Given the significant strides the industry has made in plant safety and efficiency over the last 10 years and the security improvements since 2001, this survey demonstrates that the public has a growing comfort level with nuclear energy,” said Scott Peterson, NEI vice president for communications.
On the issue of managing used fuel from nuclear power plants, nearly three-quarters of Americans (72 percent) believe that the federal government should continue to develop a specially-designed repository for nuclear fuel disposal at Yucca Mountain, Nev., as long as it meets NRC regulations. Sixty-five percent of the survey respondents believe that used nuclear fuel can be stored safely at plant sites until it is moved to a permanent disposal facility.
TREND: Public favorability of nuclear energy as one of the sources of electricity has exceeded 60 percent since 2001. In the Sept. 7-10 survey, 68% favor nuclear energy; 27% oppose.
The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry’s policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available on NEI’s Internet site at http://www.nei.org.