The number of Australians who say the country should develop nuclear power in order to reduce its carbon emissions has grown over the past eight years and now stands at just over 50%, according to a poll by Roy Morgan, the country's longest established market research company.
In a special online survey on Australian attitudes to global warming, conducted over 11-15 September, 51% of respondents said Australia should develop nuclear power to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions - 16% up from a survey carried out in March 2011. At that time, 58% of respondents had said Australia should not develop nuclear power to reduce its carbon: the figure in the latest survey was 34%.
"Australian views on nuclear power have changed significantly over the last eight years," Roy Morgan Executive Chairman Gary Morgan said. "However, support drops to only 45% in favour of developing nuclear power plants if reducing carbon dioxide emissions isn’t mentioned as a reason to consider this form of energy generation," he added. Without reference to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, 45% of respondents - up 11% since March 2011 - said Australia should develop nuclear power plants to supply its electricity while 40% (down 21%) said it should not.
The nationwide survey of a sample of 1006 Australians aged 18-64 also revealed a "striking difference" between the views of women and men on the issue of nuclear power, Morgan said. "Clear majorities of men are in favour of all seven questions asked whether developing nuclear power, exporting uranium or the refining and exporting of radioactive materials mined in Australia for use in the health services industry. The situation is reversed for women with minorities of women supporting the development of nuclear power and exporting uranium.
"This stark divide between the two sexes indicates the difficulty facing any policy-maker attempting to develop an on-shore nuclear power industry in Australia. The issues surrounding nuclear power are incredibly divisive - even within households.
"The results of this special survey into nuclear power suggest that the AWU, or indeed any government looking to develop nuclear power plants in Australia, must do much more work to convince the public of the benefits of the technology," he said. The Australian Workers' Union (AWU) recently announced its support for developing nuclear power plants in Australia to provide base-load power without the carbon dioxide emissions of fossil fuel powered electricity generation.
Despite having the world's largest uranium resources, nuclear energy is currently banned under federal law in Australia. However, three separate parliamentary inquiries into possible future roles for nuclear in Australia are currently taking place: a Federal Inquiry into the prerequisites for nuclear energy in Australia, which is being conducted by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Energy; and state-based inquiries in New South Wales, on a repeal of the state ban on uranium mining and nuclear; and Victoria, which is looking to repeal its ban on uranium exploration and mining.
Researched and written by World Nuclear News