Americans' Support for Nuclear Energy Solidifies, New National Survey Shows

WASHINGTON, Sept. 19, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Americans continue to strongly support nuclear energy as an important technology to meet the nation's future electricity demands, according to a new national survey.

In the telephone survey of 1,000 U.S. adults, 65 percent of respondents said they favor the use of nuclear energy as one of the ways to provide electricity in the United States, with 29 percent opposed. Those strongly favoring nuclear energy outnumber those strongly opposed by a two-to-one ratio, 29 percent versus 14 percent, according to the survey conducted Sept. 14-16 by Bisconti Research Inc. with GfK Roper. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Seventy-one percent of Americans favored the use of nuclear energy in a survey by Bisconti Research/GfK Roper in February 2011, one month before the Fukushima Daiichi accident. Six months after the accident that occurred in March 2011, 62 percent of respondents favored the use of nuclear energy, with 35 percent opposed.

"In the surveys conducted this year and the latter part of 2011 we see not only significant and steady support for nuclear energy overall but confidence that nuclear power plants are being operated safely," said Ann Bisconti, president of Bisconti Research. "Confidence in the safe operation of the plants and recognition of their benefits is the linchpin to public support."

The new survey shows that 76 percent of respondents agree that nuclear energy facilities operating in the United States are "safe and secure," while only 19 percent think they are not. Eighty percent of Americans (vs. 16 percent) believe "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 strong majority support for nuclear energy extends across a number of metrics:

  • 81 percent of those surveyed favor the renewal of operating licenses of facilities that continue to meet federal safety standards.
  • 74 percent believe electric utilities should prepare now so they will be ready to build new nuclear power plants in the next decade if needed.
  • 69 percent would find a new reactor acceptable at the site of the nearest operating nuclear power plant.

Nuclear energy facilities operating in 31 states supply electricity to one of every five U.S. homes and businesses.

Seventy-eight percent of Americans associate nuclear energy "a lot or a little" with reliable electricity, 72 percent with clean air, 69 percent with energy independence and 73 percent with affordable electricity.

The solidified support for nuclear energy shown by the survey echoes the bipartisan support that nuclear energy receives in Congress and general policy alignment for nuclear energy in the presidential campaigns.

"The guiding principles established by President Obama and Governor Romney on nuclear energy are quite similar and supportive in contrast with their differences on other energy issues," said Alex Flint, NEI senior vice president for governmental affairs.

One facet of energy policy is safely and securely managing used nuclear fuel from nuclear energy facilities. As Congress considers recommendations from the President's Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future on a new path for used nuclear fuel management, 80 percent of Americans believe that the federal government should develop a final disposal facility that meets U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations. In the meantime, 62 percent agree that uranium fuel rods are safely stored at nuclear energy facility, 27 percent disagree. However, 78 percent agree that it is more appropriate that fuel be consolidated at one or two storage sites in volunteer communities where it can be securely and efficiently managed.

With more than 200 new reactors being built or planned globally, three-fourths (74 percent) of those surveyed agreed that it is "important for the U.S. nuclear industry to continue to play a leading role in world markets." Eighty-five percent believe that America "should be a leader in global nuclear energy trade so that we can influence nuclear safety and keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists."

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The following files are available for download:

wkr0006.pdf PDF
wkr0010.pdf Historic Graphs on Public Opinion, Sept. 2012
wkr0011.pdf U.S. Public Opinion on Nuclear Energy: Questionnaire With Results, Sept. 2012