U.S. Public Support for Nuclear Energy Remains at Record Levels: What it Means for the Nuclear Power Industry
From April through May of 2023, a survey by Bisconti Research, Inc. showed that public support for nuclear energy in the United States has remained at a record high level for the third year in a row. The survey, which gathered the opinions of 1,000 nationally representative U.S. adults, found that three-fourths of the public favor nuclear energy, and about seven in ten support building more nuclear power plants.
The findings suggest certain actions can be taken to drive an increase in positive public opinion for nuclear power in the coming years, when political and regulatory decisions will be crucial to determining the role nuclear will have in the battle against climate change.
Those in Favor See the Benefits to Nuclear Energy
Public opinion on nuclear energy has been collected at least once a year in the U.S. since 1983, beginning under the sponsorship of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI). For the last four decades, public opinion has shown an overall increase in support for nuclear power. The primary reasons motivating those in favor are affordability, reliability and efficiency, in addition to environmental benefits of nuclear power as a carbon-free energy source.
These results appear to reflect a recent increase in support from policymakers, and global concerns about climate change. Nuclear power has drawn bipartisan support from U.S. political leaders, resulting in increased funding to extend the life of existing power plants. Research and development of new small modular reactor (SMR) technology promises efficient, affordable options for the future of nuclear power generation, and may be a factor influencing the positive public opinion.
In a 2022 Bisconti survey of nuclear power plant neighbors, 78 percent polled would find new reactor acceptable at the plant site, and 86 percent polled would find a small modular reactor acceptable.1
The More Informed About Nuclear Energy, the More in Favor
Significantly, results of the survey show that those who felt more informed were more in favor of nuclear energy. And those who were not well-informed were the most opposed. A major factor influencing public opinion was the perception of safety.
Knowing that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) monitors the safety of nuclear power plants in the U.S. every day improves ratings around safety from 57 percent to 74. In addition, those who heard about nuclear energy in the news over the last year appeared to have the most favorable opinions.
What These Results Mean for the Nuclear Power Industry
For those working in or around the nuclear power sector, seeing record-high ratings for U.S. public support of nuclear energy is encouraging. Favorable public sentiment around nuclear power as an energy source is essential to influencing policies and programs that will drive the industry forward. They also indicate what might be needed to improve public awareness.
Enabling the public with a deeper understanding of nuclear energy as an efficient, safe, clean source of energy – and a major contributor to reaching net zero carbon emission goals – could shift public opinion even further in favor of nuclear power. Education is the key to influencing more people to embrace nuclear as the future of clean energy production.
Mirion Supports Safety and Education
As a leading provider of radiation safety solutions to the nuclear power industry, the Mirion Technologies group has a lengthy history of not only helping to safeguard plant operations, but also of educating on the safety of nuclear power generation. With the growing concerns about climate change and the imminent need to move away from fossil fuel energy, building public awareness and support of nuclear as a viable energy alternative aligns with our mission to use our unmatched expertise to benefit humanity.
“While the survey reflects U.S. public perception, we are seeing an increase in political and public support for nuclear energy in many of our key markets across the world,” said Thomas Logan, Mirion’s Chief Executive Officer. “As a global company, we are proud of our involvement over the years in education and safety, supporting our customers and innovating products and services that have enhanced the nuclear power market.”