The Opal research reactor is the only operational reactor in Australia. Photo courtesy Ansto.

Australians are slightly more inclined to support nuclear power plants than oppose them, but a clear majority of voters do not want to live near one, according to new polling.

With nuclear power making a return to the national political agenda, a new survey from Essential finds 44% of Australians support nuclear plants, up four points since the question was last asked in November 2015, and 40% oppose them.

But asked whether respondents agreed or disagreed with the statement “I would be comfortable living close to a nuclear power plant”, only 28% agreed and 60% disagreed.

The new survey comes as some members of the ruling coalition are pushing for an inquiry into the viability of nuclear energy and the federal energy and environment ministers have left the door open to lifting Australia’s ban on nuclear power as part of a review of environmental regulations.

The only nuclear reactor in operation in Australia is the Opal research reactor at Lucas Heights, which is used for research and the production of radioisotopes.

The survey says a majority of the sample 54% believe nuclear energy would be a reliable energy source for the future (28% disagree) and almost half the people in the survey, 47%, think nuclear would before better for the environment than coal-fired generation (30% disagree).

A majority, 63%, think having a nuclear industry in Australia would create skilled jobs, with 22% disagreeing. Even though nuclear energy is expensive, just over half the sample, 51%, think nuclear would help lower power prices (26% disagree).

Date: Tuesday, 18 June 2019
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