Nuclear power is safe, reliable, and America’s largest source of carbon-free power. Despite the economic, environmental, and national security benefits of nuclear, public perception and favorability have ebbed and flowed. Recent polling suggests that the trend of favorability is on the upswing.
A recent Gallup poll has found that public approval for nuclear power in the United States has reached its highest level in a decade. Specifically, the poll found that 55% of Americans either “strongly” or “somewhat” favor the use of nuclear power, a 4% increase from last year and an 11% increase from 2016.
The economy or the climate? Why not both?
Subscribe for ideas that support the environment and the people.
Public approval for nuclear power use varies based on political ideology, education levels, and gender. While Republicans had the highest degree of favorability (62% in favor) among the three political parties polled, there is, encouragingly, broad bipartisan support for the energy source. In fact, 56% of Independents and 46% of Democrats polled signaled that they were in favor of using nuclear power. Additionally, 67% of men and 42% women stated that they supported the use of nuclear power. Meanwhile, 51% of non-college-educated and 63% of college-educated Americans said that they favor nuclear energy use.
Gallup’s findings are similar to those of a poll conducted by C3 Action last year. Across three battleground states (Michigan, Arizona, and Georgia), C3 Action found that 65% of respondents support Congress taking action to increase our share of nuclear power. Interestingly, more Democrats signaled support for nuclear power in the C3 Action poll than Republicans did, although by a slim margin (68% support among Democrats versus 66% support among Republicans).
Nuclear power can play a critical role in accomplishing key energy and environmental objectives in the United States and abroad. America is the largest producer of nuclear power in the world, generating 30% of the world’s total nuclear capacity. While U.S. companies have been the leader in nuclear energy innovation for large and small modular reactors, states are also reforming laws to encourage the deployment of emissions-free power. Recently Virginia and Arkansas passed legislation that allocated funding to advanced nuclear research and development (R&D) and nuclear fuel recycling programs. At the same time, Illinois and California’s state senates have introduced bills to lift decades-long moratoriums on new nuclear power within their respective states.
At the federal level, lawmakers should take several steps to retain and expand America’s global nuclear energy leadership. As the C3 Solutions’ Climate and Freedom Agenda lays out, modernizing regulations, investing in R&D, and exporting nuclear technology worldwide can drive down costs and streamline the deployment of nuclear power. With support for nuclear climbing, the time is ripe for policy reforms that expand opportunities for nuclear power in the U.S. and around the world.