WASHINGTON, D.C.—Six months after the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan, solid majorities of Americans still view nuclear energy favorably, still support the extension of operating licenses at existing facilities that meet federal safety standards, and still believe that construction of a new reactor is acceptable at the site of the nearest nuclear power plant that already is operating, a new national survey shows.
While support for nuclear energy has declined from the historically high level seen one year ago, support on a variety of measures is holding at the majority levels found consistently in public opinion surveys conducted throughout the past decade.
In the new telephone survey of 1,000 U.S. adults, 62 percent of respondents said they favor the use of nuclear energy as one of the ways to provide electricity in the United States, with 35 percent opposed. Those strongly favoring nuclear energy outnumber those strongly opposed by a two-to-one ratio, 28 percent vs. 13 percent, according to the survey conducted Sept. 22-24 by Bisconti Research Inc. with GfK Roper.
The survey was sponsored by the Nuclear Energy Institute and has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points. Numerous surveys conducted by Bisconti Research over the past decade show that public support for nuclear energy topped 60 percent each year, rising as high as 74 percent of Americans in March 2010.
“While there is some evidence of impact of the Fukushima events, support for nuclear energy continues at much higher levels than in earlier decades,” company President Ann Bisconti said. “Turmoil in oil-rich areas of the world and hikes in oil prices historically have focused public opinion even more on nuclear energy, and may have helped to preclude serious impact of events in Japan on public attitudes.”
Despite the Fukushima accident, 67 percent of Americans rate U.S. nuclear power plant safety high. This is identical to the safety rating found in a national survey last February, one month prior to the earthquake and tsunami that caused the Fukushima accident. Eighty-two percent of Americans believe that “we should learn the lessons from the Japanese accident and continue to develop advanced nuclear energy plants to meet America’s growing electricity demand,” the new survey showed.Nuclear energy supplies electricity to 20 percent of U.S. homes and businesses, even though the 104 nuclear facilities operating in 31 states constitute only 10 percent of the nation’s electric generating capacity.
Eighty-five percent of those surveyed agree that, “When their original operating licenses expire, we should renew the license of nuclear power plants that continue to meet federal safety standards.” Seven months ago, 88 percent of Americans agreed with this statement.
In the latest survey, 59 percent of Americans agree, “We should definitely build more nuclear power plants in the future.” Thirty-eight percent disagree. Still, 75 percent of Americans agree that, “Electric utilities should prepare now so that new nuclear power plants could be built if needed in the next decade.” Twenty-two percent disagree.
Two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) say they would find a new reactor acceptable at the site of the nearest nuclear power plant that already is operating, while 28 percent find this unacceptable. Seven months ago, 76 percent of Americans found this expansion acceptable, with 20 percent saying it was not acceptable.
“This survey, like other recent surveys, confirms that large majorities of Americans associate nuclear energy with issues they care about, including clean air, reliable and affordable electricity, energy independence, and economic growth and job creation,” Bisconti said.
Details on the new survey are accessible at: http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstats/documentlibrary/reliableandaffordableenergy/reports/latest-trends-in-us-public-opinion-about-nuclear-energy-sept-2011.