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Global Nuclear Survey: Public Support for New Power Plants Remains Tentative

A new 18-country opinion survey sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) found that "while majorities of citizens generally support the continued use of existing nuclear reactors, most people do not favour the building of new nuclear plants."

Indeed, the findings of the survey, conducted by Globescan Inc. show that "six in ten citizens (62%) overall believe that existing nuclear reactors should continue to be used, yet six in ten (59%) do not favour new nuclear plants being built."

At a time when the nuclear power option is being vigorously pursued in the fast developing countries of Asia and being reconsidered in some European nations and the USA, the findings raise questions as to whether the nuclear industry and politicians have sufficiently raised public confidence in the safety and efficiency of the nuclear power option.

Regionally, support for nuclear power is highest in South Korea, the United States and India, where clear pluralities support the building of new nuclear plants. In Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Cameroon, pluralities prefer that all existing plants be shut down.

The IAEA-sponsored survey was conducted between May and August this year in 18 countries representing all regions. Approximately 18,000 people were polled by telephone and in-person interviews. The opinion poll fielded six distinct questions, ranging from awareness of the IAEA and the effectiveness of IAEA inspections to support for peaceful nuclear applications and views about the security of nuclear materials and facilities and the threat of nuclear terrorism.

Among the many revealing findings from the survey:

  • Pluralities of citizens in all but three of the 18 countries surveyed believe that IAEA inspections are not effective in monitoring countries´ nuclear programmes. An average of 46 percent of people across the 18 countries surveyed say that IAEA inspections are not effective, while three in ten people (29%) say that they are.
  • Majorities in 14 of the 18 countries - and pluralities in the remaining four countries - believes that the risk of terrorist acts involving radioactive materials and nuclear facilities is high because of insufficient protection. A majority of 54 percent across all countries surveyed believe the risk of nuclear terrorism to be high, while three in ten (28%) say that the risk is low.
  • People appreciate the value of nuclear technology. When asked to consider the peaceful uses of nuclear technology, people in all but three countries are most supportive, by far, of medical applications, followed by electricity generation. Across the 18 countries surveyed, respondents are most likely to choose the use of nuclear technology to treat human diseases as their preferred application (39%). This is followed by electricity generation (26%).
  • Stressing the climate benefits of nuclear energy positively influences one in ten people to be more supportive of expanding the role of nuclear power in the world, but there is still a general reluctance to build more nuclear plants.
  • Awareness of the IAEA among the general population is generally low. However, one in four citizens across the 18 countries surveyed say that they have heard or read "a lot" or "some" about the agency, with higher awareness in Asia and the Middle East.

The full report, Global Public Opinion on Nuclear Issues and the IAEA - Final Report from 18 Countries, is being released today by the IAEA in Vienna. The countries surveyed included: Argentina, Australia, Cameroon, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Mexico, Morocco, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and the United States.

Last update: 26 July 2017

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