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Nuclear Energy's Low-Carbon Attributes Increase Public Support

Dan Yurman's picture
Editor & Publisher, NeutronBytes, a blog about nuclear energy

Publisher of NeutronBytes, a blog about nuclear energy online since 2007.  Consultant and project manager for technology innovation processes and new product / program development for commercial...

  • Member since 2018
  • 1,628 items added with 1,297,839 views
  • Oct 7, 2015
  • Only 30 percent know nuclear is America’s largest source of carbon-free electricity
  • Once informed, 84 percent agree nuclear should be important in the future
  • Trend of majority support for nuclear energy holds solidly

Awareness of nuclear energy’s leading role in preventing greenhouse gas emissions in the electric sector solidifies the conviction among an overwhelming majority of Americans that the technology is important to the nation’s energy and environmental future, a new national survey released 10/1/15 shows. (Powerpoint slides here)

Public Opinion Energy Facts 2015

  • Eighty-four percent of Americans, once informed that nuclear energy produces nearly two-thirds of the nation’s low-carbon electricity, agree that nuclear energy “should be important in the future,” according to the telephone survey of 1,000 adults. Fifty percent say it should be “very important.”
  • While the survey found that 73 percent associate nuclear energy with clean air, only 30 percent knew beforehand that nuclear energy is the largest source by far (63 percent) of America’s low-carbon electricity.

“The impact of knowing the facts about nuclear energy’s clean air role is eye-opening,” said Ann Bisconti, president of Bisconti Research Inc., which conducted the survey for the Nuclear Energy Institute.

“Once they are made aware of the magnitude of nuclear energy’s impact in the low-carbon electricity mix, Americans’ belief in nuclear energy’s future value is almost universal and crosses gender and political party.”

Similarly reflecting the value Americans place on the environment, 83 percent of those surveyed say “we should take advantage of all low-carbon energy sources, including nuclear, hydro and renewable energy, to produce the electricity we need while limiting greenhouse gas emissions.”

Reactors seen as good neighbors

Americans see nuclear reactors as good neighbors. Contrary to the widespread so-called “not in my backyard” or NIMBY phenomenon, a clear majority would accept a new nuclear reactors in their community. This looks like good news for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs).

Nuclear reactors seen as good neighbors. Image Source: NEI 6th Biennial National Survey of U.S. Nuclear Power Plant Neighbors 2015; Bisconti Research, Inc.

Nuclear reactors seen as good neighbors. Image Source: NEI 6th Biennial National Survey of U.S. Nuclear Power Plant Neighbors 2015; Bisconti Research, Inc.

Nuclear energy facilities operating in 30 states produce 20 percent of the electricity used in U.S. homes and businesses.

NEI 6th Biennial National Survey of U.S. Nuclear Power Plant Neighbors 2015; Bisconti Research, Inc.

NEI 6th Biennial National Survey of U.S. Nuclear Power Plant Neighbors 2015; Bisconti Research, Inc.

  • Plant neighbors (on average across all U.S. sites) continue to show extraordinary support for nuclear energy and the nearby plant.
  • This support is essentially unchanged over a decade.
  • Support is grounded in favorable perceptions of the plant’s safety, environmental protection, contribution to jobs and the economy, and outreach.
  • Plant neighbors feel quite well informed and give highest trust to information from plant sources.

Overall, public support for nuclear energy remains high

Favorability to Nuclear Energy

Even when nuclear energy’s clean air value is not detailed, a large majority of Americans favors its use, the survey shows. Sixty-four percent of those surveyed said they favor nuclear energy, including 26 percent who “strongly favor” it. That is down slightly from the 68 percent favoring the technology in Bisconti’s survey last spring.

“In 1983, when the NEI public opinion tracking program began, the public was much more divided, with half favoring and half opposing the use of nuclear energy. Favorability to nuclear energy has remained in the mid- to upper-60s for most of the past decade,” Bisconti said.

Export-Import Bank an important issue

  •  79 percent of those surveyed agree with the concept of the Export-Import Bank, the federal lending institution that since 1934 has provided loans for international projects to help U.S. companies compete in world markets.
  • The bank’s charter lapsed on June 30 when Congress refused to reauthorize it.
  • Reauthorization remains a possibility and is one of the nuclear energy industry’s top policy priorities to foster continued U.S. participation in the dynamic international market for commercial nuclear energy technology and services.

American’s favor construction of new nuclear reactors

The survey also found (before information was given about the magnitude of nuclear energy’s role in the carbon-free energy mix):

  • 82 percent agree that federal regulators should renew the operating licenses of nuclear power plants that continue to meet federal safety standards; 46 percent strongly agree.
  • 70 percent agree that electric companies should prepare now so that new nuclear power plants could be built if needed in the next decade.
  • 56 percent agree electric companies should definitely build more nuclear energy facilities in the future.

Bisconti Research conducted the survey with Quest Global Research from Aug. 30 to Sept. 16. The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.


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