Public support for nuclear energy in the USA has reached a record high, with 74% of people saying they are in favour of nuclear energy, according to the results of a new poll.
The telephone survey of 1000 US citizens was carried out between 18 and 21 March 2010, by Bisconti Research in conjunction with GfK Roper on behalf of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI).
Surveys conducted by Bisconti have shown a significant change in the US public's view of nuclear energy over past years. Favourability has increased fairly steadily since 1983, when Bisconti's first poll showed that 49% of Americans supported the use of nuclear energy.
The latest poll found that 80% of US men and 68% of women favour nuclear energy. It also showed that those respondents who strongly favour nuclear energy (33%) outnumber those who are strongly opposed (10%) by more than three to one.
Some 87% of those questioned said they believe that "nuclear energy will play an important role in meeting the nation's electricity needs in the years ahead." In addition, 87% of people support "the licence renewal of nuclear power plants that continue to meet federal safety standards", while 84% think that "electric utilities should prepare now so that new nuclear power plants could be built if needed in the next decade."
In addition, 70% of respondents agreed that the USA should "definitely build more nuclear power plants in the future", compared with 28% who disagreed. When asked if it was acceptable for new reactors to be constructed at the nearest nuclear power plant site, some 77% said that it was and just 19% said it was not acceptable.
The poll also showed high support for the US government playing an active role in encouraging investment in clean energy technologies, including advanced-design nuclear power plants, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 72% of those questioned said they backed the government's provision of loan guarantees for such technologies.
Public confidence in the safety of existing nuclear power plants has also reached a record high. When asked to rate the safety of plants on a scale of 1 to 7, some 73% of people gave high ratings (5 to 7). This is over twice as many those who gave similar ratings in a survey conducted in 1984. In addition, 82% of those questioned said that existing US nuclear power plants are "safe and secure."
While most people (59%) said that used nuclear fuel could be safely and securely stored at plant sites until moved to a permanent disposal facility, around 80% of those questioned thought that the federal government should store used fuel at a secure storage facility away from the nuclear power plant sites until a permanent disposal facility is ready.
Some 79% of people also said they would support a US plan to recycle used nuclear fuel rods in order to generate more electricity and reduce the amount of waste to be disposed of. Just 16% would be opposed to this plan.
Ann Bisconti, president of Bisconti Research, commented: "This unprecedented support for nuclear energy is being driven largely by people's concerns for meeting future energy demand and environmental goals, but it coincides with statements by President Barack Obama and other national leaders who have voiced strong support for new nuclear power plants." She added, "The President's State of the Union speech and his subsequent announcement of federal loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors in Georgia clearly has elevated the issues in people's minds."
Last week, by the Gallup polling organisation published a public opinion poll that also found a record high support for use of nuclear energy in the USA.