There is widespread public support for advanced nuclear energy technologies, according to a new, multinational survey of attitudes toward nuclear energy. The report is a collaborative effort by the non-governmental organisations ClearPath, Third Way, Potential Energy Coalition and RePlanet.
The large-scale online survey questioned 13,500 members of the public in eight countries – France, Germany, Japan, Poland, South Korea, Sweden, the UK and the USA – between November 2022 and January 2023.
The study found strong support for advanced nuclear energy in each country surveyed, with Poland, France and Sweden showing the highest levels of support. In all countries surveyed, environmental group members are net supporters of advanced nuclear energy. Support for advanced nuclear energy is not partisan, the report found. In all but two countries surveyed – Germany and Japan – most of the supporters of every major political party also back using advanced nuclear energy.
In Poland, 84% of respondents support advanced nuclear, with 9% opposing it. More than 75% of people in Poland believe that nuclear energy is necessary to meet climate goals, the highest level of agreement amongst the countries surveyed.
The French and Swedish populations display a clear consensus on the importance of advanced nuclear energy, with 69% of respondents in each country agreeing with using the latest nuclear energy technologies alongside other sources. In France 15% oppose it, in Sweden 13%. Moreover, majorities in both countries believe that nuclear energy should be the primary choice for energy. Energy independence was identified as the principal reason driving their support for advanced nuclear.
The survey also found most Germans – including environmental group members and supporters – support advanced nuclear. In the country, which recently closed its last nuclear power plants, 51% of respondents said they support the use of advanced nuclear energy. Members and supporters of environmental groups had the same results. German supporters also cited energy independence as the strongest argument in favour of using nuclear technology.
The study found that almost all the opposition to advanced nuclear comes from a small, distinct segment of the population (15%) described as generally older, sceptical about innovation, and unmovable in their views. All the other groups identified by the report overwhelmingly support advanced nuclear energy, even if they vary widely in their political outlook, economic position, and views on the environment and climate change.
“It is often thought that nuclear power is unpopular,” said RePlanet co-founder Mark Lynas. “Our results show conclusively that this is not the case, and that nuclear as a source of clean, carbon-free energy commands majority support in every single country. This majority support even extends in most cases to members of environmental groups and Green parties and shows that policymakers and investors should not fear public opinion when making urgently needed decisions about supporting new advanced nuclear deployment.”
“Real world concerns about energy security and climate change have a way of focusing people’s minds,” added Josh Freed, senior vice president for the climate and energy programme at Third Way. “That is why growing numbers of people in the US and across the world are turning to advanced nuclear as one of the sources of clean, reliable, and secure energy they support. It is encouraging that policymakers, including most of the countries surveyed, are responding with ambitious policies that embrace advanced nuclear as part of their energy strategies.”
“We’ve known for years that public opinion on nuclear energy has been changing, but we haven’t understood what’s behind that shift or what it means for the clean energy transition,” Potential Energy Coalition CEO John Marshall said. “, the degree of support from environmentalists is noteworthy and perhaps contrary to general perception.”
The report noted that the survey confirmed some “big gaps” in people’s knowledge about the biggest benefits of nuclear. “It is hard for people to value the clean-energy role of nuclear when almost half the population (46% in our survey) believe that ‘nuclear power emits more carbon dioxide than wind or solar power.'”