Public support for new nuclear power plants low, according to UN-backed poll

14 December 2005 – While majorities of citizens generally support the continued use of existing nuclear reactors, most people do not favour building new nuclear power plants, according to a new 18-country opinion survey sponsored by the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and released today.

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 United States, 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, IAEA said.

The survey, conducted by Globescan Inc. shows that six in ten citizens (62 per cent) overall believe that existing nuclear reactors should continue to be used, but nearly the same number (59 per cent) do not favour new plants.

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 survey was conducted between May and August this year in 18 countries representing all regions – 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.

Some 18,000 people were polled by telephone and in-person interviews. The 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.

Findings included:

  • Pluralities in all but three of the 18 countries believe IAEA inspections are not effective in monitoring countries´ nuclear programmes – 46 per cent against 29 per cent.
  • Majorities in 14 countries, and pluralities in the remaining four, believe the risk of terrorist acts involving radioactive materials and nuclear facilities is high due to insufficient protection, with 54 per cent believing the risk to be high and 28 per cent low.
  • Stressing the climate benefits of nuclear energy positively influences one in ten people but there is still a general reluctance to build more nuclear plants.

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