Nuclear Snapshots

by Ann Stouffer Bisconti

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Perceptions of energy needs drive public opinion on the USA´s nuclear future

The United States has the world´s largest nuclear power program, with 103 plants supplying about 20% of the country´s electricity.

But no new plant has been ordered in the USA in a quarter of a century. Today, a growing need for affordable, reliable, and emission-free electricity is reawakening interest in nuclear energy. (See box on next page.)

Where does US public opinion stand on nuclear´s future?

National public opinion surveys sponsored by Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) have tracked changes in public opinion on nuclear energy issues for 21 years, providing "snapshots" over time of where the public stands. The surveys are conducted by telephone with nationally representative samples of 1,000 US adults and have a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

The latest survey, conducted 16-18 April 2004 by Bisconti Research with NOP World, found that 65% favor the use of nuclear energy - a record high. Also, 64% of Americans now say that it would be acceptable to add a new nuclear power plant at the site of the nearest operating nuclear power plants, up from 57% in October 2003.

These positive changes are closely linked to perceptions of the need for nuclear energy. Focus groups for NEI indicate that electricity reliability is a leading consumer concern, especially in the context of instability in the Middle East region; a major blackout in the US that affected the northeast and midwest in August 2003; and the rising cost and supply volatility of natural gas.

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