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Study finds strong public support for advanced nuclear energy, especially amongst environmentalists

Pro nuclear activists gather in Berlin, April 2023 - photo credit: Stand Up For Nuclear

A new, international report, co-produced by RePlanet, reveals widespread public support for using advanced nuclear to generate carbon-free energy. Based on a survey across eight countries, the study showed that environmental group members everywhere are net supporters. In some countries, they support the latest nuclear energy technologies at a higher rate than non-members.

Even in Germany, which recently closed its last nuclear power plants, 51% of respondents, including self-described environmental group members and supporters, said they ‘strongly agree’ or ‘agree’ with using new nuclear. Supporters outnumbered opponents by two to one. They cited energy independence as the strongest argument in favour.

The report – which looks at France, Germany, Japan, Poland, South Korea, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States – was produced through a collaboration between the non-governmental organisations ClearPath, Potential Energy Coalition, RePlanet and Third Way.

In France and Sweden, the consensus on the importance of advanced nuclear has support across all the major political parties. In both countries, more than two out of three respondents either ‘strongly agree’ or ‘agree’ with using new nuclear. In contrast, only 15% of the French ‘disagree’ or ‘strongly disagree,’ and just 13% of Swedes. Moreover, majorities in both countries believe that nuclear power should be the primary choice for energy. Energy independence was identified as the principal reason driving their support for advanced nuclear.

In Poland, where coal dominates the power sector, over 80% agreed with using advanced nuclear energy. Supporters outpace opponents by 10 to 1. More than 75% of people believe that nuclear is necessary to meet climate goals, the highest level of agreement amongst the countries surveyed.

Today, 68% of people in the UK support advanced nuclear, according to the survey. Further, 44% believe that nuclear power should be their first choice for energy. With only 13% opposing advanced nuclear, the UK has one of the highest support/opposition ratios at over 5 to 1. Local support is also strong, with over two-thirds of people reporting that they would be happy for their local electricity company to use advanced nuclear.

Mark Lynas, co-founder of RePlanet, said: ‘It is often thought that nuclear power is unpopular. 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.’

One finding revealed by the study was that almost all opposition to advanced nuclear comes from a small, distinct segment of the population – only 15% – whose members are older, sceptical about innovation, and unmovable in their views. All other groups identified by the report overwhelmingly support advanced nuclear, even if they vary widely in their political outlook, economic position, and views on issues like climate change.

Support for advanced nuclear energy is not partisan, the report found. In all but two countries in the report, Germany and Japan, a majority of the supporters of every major political party back using advanced nuclear energy. In Germany, 46% of Social Democrats, 43% of the Left and 34% of Greens favour advanced nuclear. It has majority support among all Germans aged 18 to 34, with 56%.

Overall, the consensus extends beyond political lines and includes strong support for nuclear energy technologies across all age groups. This reveals a unique alignment among their populations, transcending both political affiliations and generational divides.

Josh Freed, Senior Vice President for the Climate and Energy Program at Third Way, said: ‘Real world concerns about energy security and climate change have a way of focusing people’s minds. 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.’

John Marshall, CEO of Potential Energy Coalition, which led the design and analytics behind the study, said: ‘Our approach is to use the most sophisticated tools from private sector consumer research and marketing to explore what people value, their concerns, their priorities, and how they see “brand nuclear”. We follow the data, and what this data tells here is a new story. 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. In particular, the degree of support from environmentalists is noteworthy and perhaps contrary to general perception.’

Rich Powell, CEO of ClearPath, said: ‘A robust American energy policy should make energy reliable, secure and clean. Nuclear energy checks each of these boxes and with public support continuing to improve, we are well on our way to an exciting energy future that will enhance our quality of life in the US and abroad.’


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