WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 19, 2013—A solid majority of Americans continue to hold favorable views of nuclear energy and believe that electric companies should prepare now for new nuclear energy facilities to be built.
In a national telephone survey of 1,000 U.S. adults, 68 percent said they favor nuclear energy, up from 65 percent in September 2012, while 29 percent opposed. Those strongly favoring nuclear energy outweigh those strongly opposed by more than a two-to-one ratio, 29 percent versus 13 percent.
The survey was conducted Feb. 8-10 by Bisconti Research Inc., with GfK Roper, and includes some questions trending back 30 years. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
More than 80 percent of the survey respondents give reliability, affordability and clean air top importance for electricity production, and three-fifths strongly associate nuclearenergy with those attributes.
“The survey found double-digit increases since 2012 in Americans who strongly associate nuclear energy with clean air and seven other attributes, and these changing perceptions pushed overall favorability up near historical peak levels,” said Ann Bisconti, president of Bisconti Research.
Seventy-three percent of respondents believe that nuclear plants operating in the United States are safe and secure, with 24 percent thinking they are not. Also, 65 percent believe that “nuclear power plants in this area are able to withstand the most extreme natural events that may occur here.”
The new survey shows that 81 percent of the respondents see nuclear as a key provider of electricity, up from 77 percent last September. Eighty-one percent of the respondents also agree with renewing the operating licenses of nuclear power plants as long as they continue to meet federal safety standards.
Climate change has re-emerged as a frequently discussed policy topic in Washington, and 55 percent of the public give climate change top importance as a consideration in electricity production. Only 40 percent strongly associate nuclear energy as a climate change solution, even though nuclear energy facilities produce 63 percent of the nation’s carbon-free electricity.
The strong majority support for nuclear energy extends over a number of metrics:
73 percent believe that electric utilities should prepare now so that new nuclear power plants can be built if needed in the next decade.
67 percent would find a new reactor acceptable at the site of the nearest nuclear power plant that already is operating.
With 71 new reactors under construction worldwide and nearly 200 others planned, 75 percent agree that as countries around the world build new nuclear power plants, the U.S. nuclear industry should play a leading role in world markets.
In addition to the strong majority support for various aspects of nuclear energy, the support extends across gender and political population groups. Those who favor nuclear energy include 64 percent of women, 72 percent of men, 64 percent of Democrats, 77 percent of Republicans and 71 percent of independents.
Consistent with recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on used nuclear fuel management, 77 percent of the survey respondents believe the United States should “retool” its program for managing spent nuclear fuel rods to focus on consolidating the fuel rods at storage centers while the nation develops a permanent disposal facility. At the same time, 61 percent agree that spent nuclear fuel rods are safely stored at nuclear plant sites; 28 percent disagree.
Nuclear energy facilities operating in 31 states provide electricity to one of every five U.S. homes and businesses.