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Poll Finds Strong Support for Integrated Used Fuel Management

Oct. 3, 2013—The public aligns strongly with the nuclear industry’s views on managing used fuel, favoring development of a permanent repository and consolidated storage facilities and creating a new organization to oversee used fuel activities, a new Bisconti/Quest Global Research poll says.

Eighty-four percent of respondents agreed that the United States “should retool its program for managing spent nuclear fuel rods from nuclear power plants to focus on consolidating the fuel rods at storage centers while the nation develops a permanent disposal facility.” Forty-seven percent strongly agreed.

Respondents also saw a need for a permanent repository, with 87 percent saying that “the federal government should develop a final disposal facility for spent nuclear fuel rods as long as the facility meets U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations.” More than half—57 percent—strongly agreed.

Bisconti Research President Ann Bisconti said that people polled are not likely to be familiar with used fuel issues and answered on the basis of “what seems to make the most sense.” She added that most respondents, however, offered their perspectives rather than passing on an issue. Those perspectives frequently aligned with those recommended by the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future and endorsed by the industry.

When the BRC released its recommendations in January 2012, NEI and several other organizations, including the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the Nuclear Waste Strategy Coalition, expressed strong approval. In a joint press release, the groups said three of those recommendations should be given high priority—establishment of a congressionally chartered federal corporation to oversee the used fuel management program, the use of money from the nuclear waste fund to pay for the new corporation’s work and the development of one or more consolidated interim storage facilities. 

The poll results show broad agreement with several of the BRC’s recommendations.

In a shift from earlier surveys in which the public was split on the issue, 57 percent of Americans said they believe that an independent federal authority with a corporate-style board would manage a waste storage facility better than the Department of Energy. 

“The shift reflects growing lack of public confidence in the federal government’s ability to accomplish anything,” Bisconti said.

Related to these issues is the transportation of used fuel from the facilities to the storage sites. Sixty-seven percent believe that fuel rods can be safely transported with no caveats, but that portion increases to 78 percent in the case that “secure containment and proper procedures” will be used to move the fuel.

Regardless of their views on used nuclear fuel going forward, 60 percent of respondents agreed that fuel rods are being safely stored at nuclear power plant sites; 17 percent strongly agreed.

The poll gathered its data through landline and cell phone telephone interviews with 1,000 U.S. adults conducted Sept. 5 through Sept. 15. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. Poll questions, a summary of results and PowerPoint slides of notable results can be found at NEI’s website.