WASHINGTON—Eighty-two percent of Americans living in close proximity to nuclear power plants favor nuclear energy, and 71 percent are willing to see a new reactor built near them, according to a new public opinion survey of more than 1,100 adults across the United States.
Only residents within 10 miles of an operating nuclear power plant – electric company employees excluded – were questioned. The survey also found that 86 percent give the nearest nuclear power plant a “high” safety rating, and that 87 percent are confident that the company operating the power plant can do so safely.
The telephone survey of 1,152 randomly selected plant neighbors—18 adults within 10 miles of each of the nation’s 64 nuclear power plant sites – was conducted in July and August by Bisconti Research Inc. with Quest Global Research Group. The survey, with a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points, was commissioned by the Nuclear Energy Institute. The survey marked the second time – the first being August 2005 – that nuclear power plant neighbors have been surveyed nationally for their attitudes about nuclear energy.
“This survey and the one in 2005 show that, in general, NIMBY (not in my back yard) does not apply at existing plant sites because close neighbors have a positive view of nuclear energy, are familiar with the plant, and believe that the plant benefits the community,” said Ann Bisconti, president of Bisconti Research.
Seventy-one percent of residents near nuclear plants said it would be acceptable to add a new reactor at the site of the nearest nuclear power plant, if a new power plant were needed to supply electricity. Twenty-six percent of respondents said it would not be acceptable, and three percent said they don’t know.
“These numbers are averages across the plant sites, so they are higher near some plants and lower near others,” Bisconti said.
Favorability was even higher among neighbors in communities where steps are under way to build new reactors. Seventy-seven percent of respondents in these areas would find a new reactor at the nearest site acceptable, with 20 percent saying it would not be acceptable, and two percent saying they don’t know.
The survey’s findings come at a time when several energy companies, spurred in part by investment incentives in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, are taking steps to test the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s new licensing processes for new plants. Seventeen companies have announced plans to file license applications for as many as 31 reactors that would be built over the next 10-15 years. A handful of these applications are expected to be filed by the end of this year.
“It’s obvious that people living near nuclear plants have a high degree of familiarity and comfort with nuclear energy and would welcome the economic and environmental benefits of new nuclear plants,” said Scott Peterson, NEI vice president for communications. “The poll’s results show that support for new nuclear plants is strong among those residents who already live near nuclear plants. This bodes well for the prospect of new plant construction, particularly for those companies considering adding new reactors at existing nuclear plant sites.”
By a margin of 82 percent to 16 percent, plant neighbors said they favor the use of nuclear energy as one of the ways to provide electricity in the United States. And by a margin of 86 percent to 11 percent, they said they have a favorable impression of the nearby nuclear power plant and the way it has operated recently. Seventy-three percent said they believe that the majority of people in their community have a favorable impression of their local nuclear power plant.
When asked about the company that operates the nearest nuclear power plant, 77 percent agreed that, “this company is involved in the community,” and 81 percent agreed that, “this company is doing a good job of protecting the environment.”
Seventy-nine percent of plant neighbors said they are “very well informed” or “somewhat well informed” about the nearest nuclear power plant. Seventy-seven percent have lived in the area for more than 10 years.
The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry’s policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available at http://www.nei.org.