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Americans Continue to See Important Role for Nuclear Energy

Sept. 26, 2013—Public support for nuclear energy’s role in meeting future electricity needs remains strong, a new U.S. public opinion survey finds.

The NEI-commissioned Bisconti Research poll shows that 82 percent of Americans believe nuclear energy will play an important role in meeting the country’s future electricity needs. And 85 percent think nuclear’s importance in meeting U.S. electricity needs will increase or remain the same, with half saying that more reactors will be needed.

“Support for nuclear energy continues to be steady,” said Ann Bisconti, whose firm conducted the national survey Sept. 5 through 15. “Our survey shows that the public wants electric companies and the government to plan for the future and sees nuclear energy as an important part of the future energy mix.”

Sixty-nine percent of Americans favor the use of nuclear energy, while 29 percent are opposed, a split that is relatively unchanged from a February survey. The percentage of Americans who strongly favor nuclear energy increased to 33 percent in this survey from 29 percent in February. Seventy-five percent say that electric companies should prepare now so that new nuclear power plants could be built if needed in the next decade.

 

Sixty-nine percent of Americans favor the use of nuclear energy.
Figure courtesy Bisconti Research Inc.

 

The majority of those surveyed expect electric companies to plan 20 years or more into the future to ensure a well-balanced energy supply. Thirty percent said companies should be planning more than 20 years in advance to meet future electricity demand, while 23 percent said 20 years and 26 percent said 10 years. There is a higher expectation that U.S. policymakers should be planning for future energy needs, with 37 percent saying they should plan more than 20 years into the future, 22 percent saying 20 years and 20 percent saying 10 years.

Long-term trends reveal a sea change in perceptions of the safety of nuclear power plants. The percentage of Americans giving a favorable rating to the safety of nuclear power plants has doubled to 70 percent this September from 35 percent in 1984.

The survey also shows that 84 percent of respondents favor renewing federal operating licenses for nuclear power plants that continue to meet U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission safety standards.

Eighty-five percent of those surveyed agree that “we should take advantage of all low-carbon energy sources, including nuclear, hydro and renewable energy, to produce the electricity we need while limiting greenhouse gas emissions.”

The survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. adults was conducted by Bisconti Research Inc. with Quest Global Research. Respondents were interviewed by landline and cell phone. The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.