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The World is Ready for Advanced Nuclear Power, New Polling Finds

Support for nuclear power is rapidly growing. A recent Gallup poll found that 55% of Americans are in favor of nuclear power—the highest level in a decade. Surging levels of support are not only being seen in the U.S., but around the world as well. In a newly released study from ClearPath, Potential Energy, RePlanet, and Thirdway called “The World Wants New Nuclear,” researchers have found that there is overwhelming global support for advanced nuclear power.

>>>READ: Westinghouse Launches New Small Modular Nuclear Reactor

The report gauged levels of support in eight countries: Poland, France, Sweden, the United Kingdom, South Korea, the United States, Germany, and Japan, and found that there is, on average, “five supporters [of advanced nuclear power] for every opponent.” Of these countries, Poland had the highest level of support, with 83% of respondents saying they were either strongly in support of or somewhat in support of advanced nuclear. In the United States, this number was 61%.

Notably, the study found that advanced nuclear enjoyed high levels of support among younger populations. For those between the ages of 18 and 34, 61% of respondents said that they strongly or somewhat support advanced nuclear power, while only 15% signaled that they are strongly or somewhat opposed to the energy source. As the authors note, age is a major factor for nuclear support. 

In general, we found that people’s views on advanced nuclear technologies firm up with age and experience. Among 18-34s, only 28% of people have strong views one way or the other; this figure rises to 39% for the 55+. While most of this growth is in those strongly agreeing, it is true that more older people strongly disagree with the case for advanced nuclear, as well as that more of them strongly agree.

Encouragingly, concerns over safety and cost are shrinking, with only one-third of respondents stating that cost and safety are not an issue with advanced nuclear power (one-third said it was an issue, while the other third was unsure). 

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Waste was the subject that received the biggest pushback, with 56% of respondents saying that nuclear waste is never safe and 63% stating that it is morally wrong to leave waste behind for future generations. But as the study notes, “[waste] concern[s] [are] not strongly connected with whether or not people are supportive of advanced nuclear energy.” It should be noted that nuclear waste is safely stored and contained and U.S. challenges with spent fuel management stem from government mismanagement, not a lack of technological solutions. In fact, there have been no recorded deaths related to nuclear waste leakage and many advanced reactors can repurpose waste or produce little to no waste at all. 

Included in the report is an analysis of the personas of respondents, which the authors categorize as Pro-Growth Established, Concerned Professionals, Hard-Working Pragmatists, and Determined Skeptics. 

The Pro-Growth Established group is defined by its tendency to believe that nuclear innovation can bring society forward while solving energy challenges. With an average age of 56, this group has the highest level of support among the four, with 91% in favor of advanced nuclear power. Interestingly, support for advanced nuclear power in this group stems largely from concerns over energy independence, land use, and opportunity and prosperity–not climate change.

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The Concerned Professionals are a “future-focused group,” according to the authors. With a lower median age (44) than Pro-Growth Established, this group has higher levels of concern over climate change. Due to this concern, nearly 80% of Concerned Professionals support advanced nuclear power. 

Hard-Working Pragmatists is the third persona group that is represented in the study. This group is more focused on the minutiae of day-to-day life and is less concerned about climate change or energy independence issues. Overall this group tends to skew younger and female and also has the largest percentage of non-white respondents among the four groups. Despite a lack of concern over climate and energy issues, about 45% of Hard-Working Pragmatists are in favor of advanced nuclear power. 

Determined Skeptics is the last persona group that is defined in the study. With the lowest level of support for advanced nuclear among the groups (less than 20%), this group skews older, female, and leftist politically. As the authors note: 

Their nuclear opposition appears largely unmovable. When presented with our narrative on safety and waste, a majority of Determined Skeptics (54%) said they were not convinced or did not believe the statements…Similarly, when presented with six reasons for supporting advanced nuclear technologies and asked which they prefer, 65% of Determined Skeptics said they “would not support advanced nuclear technologies for any of these reasons.” 

The findings from “The World Wants New Nuclear” report provide valuable insight into public attitudes toward nuclear power. With support for this reliable, zero-carbon energy source growing, policymakers around the world must find ways to reduce barriers and deploy more nuclear power. Doing so will benefit the planet and its people. 

Read the report here.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of C3.

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