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Results show backing among environmentalists and suggest policymakers ‘should no longer fear public opinion’

There is widespread public support across multiple countries for using advanced nuclear energy technologies to generate electricity – even among Green politicians, environmental groups and in countries such as Germany where the government decided to phase out commercial reactors, a new report shows.

The report suggests majority support for advanced nuclear 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”.

The report, produced through a collaboration between the nongovernmental organisations ClearPath, Third Way, Potential Energy Coalition, and RePlanet, was based on a survey of more than 13,000 respondents across eight countries – France, Germany, Poland, Sweden, the US, the UK, Japan, and South Korea.

It showed strong support for advanced nuclear energy in each country. Poland, France and Sweden displayed the highest support, all with at least a 5:1 ratio of supporters to opponents.

Poland was the country most favourable to nuclear, with supporters outnumbering opponents by 10:1. Among both the general public and self-described supporters of or members of environmental groups, over 80% agreed with using advanced nuclear energy. More than 75% of Poles believe that nuclear energy is needed to meet climate goals, the highest level of agreement amongst the countries surveyed.

Poland has announced ambitious plans to build new large-scale nuclear reactors and is also considering small modular reactors.

The French and Swedish populations display a clear consensus on the importance of advanced nuclear energy, with support across the major political parties. In both countries, 69% of respondents either “strongly agree” or “agree” with using the latest nuclear energy technologies alongside other sources. In contrast, only 15% of French “disagree” or “strongly disagree” and just 13% of Swedes.

Majorities in both countries believe that nuclear energy should be the primary choice for energy, with energy independence cited as the principal reason driving their support for advanced nuclear.

Real World Concerns ‘Have Way Of Focusing Minds’

In Germany, which decided to phase out nuclear and recently shut down its last remaining commercial reactors, a majority, including environmental group members and supporters, support advanced nuclear. Fifty one percent of respondents said they “strongly agree” or “agree” with using advanced nuclear energy. Overall, supporters outnumbered opponents by a factor of two to one. German supporters also cited energy independence as the strongest argument in favour of using nuclear technology.

Josh Freed, senior vice-president for the climate and energy programme at Third Way, said real world concerns about energy security and climate change have a way of focusing people’s minds. “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,” he said.

Other recent surveys seem to confirm a shift in public support in favor of nuclear energy. A Gallup poll found Americans are more supportive of using nuclear energy as a source of electricity in the US now than they have been since 2012.

According to a survey by Harris Interactive published, most French people want the government to speed up the development of renewables and nuclear energy to get away from fossil fuels by 2050.

A poll in Belgium, showed a large majority in favour of the long-term operation of existing nuclear power plants. Belgium has decided to shutter most of its reactor fleet by 2025.

Similar surveys have shown high levels of support for nuclear power in Sweden, Estonia and Switzerland, another nation where the government is planning to phase out reactors.

In Japan, a poll found that for the first time since the Fukushima disaster in 2011, a majority of respondents supported restarting nuclear plants.

Date: Thursday, 11 May 2023
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