Poll: Americans want new agency to store, manage nuclear waste

A majority of Americans now believes that an independent federal authority accountable to a board of directors would do a better job than a federal agency in managing a nuclear waste storage facility, according to an opinion survey commissioned by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI).

In a shift from earlier surveys in which the public was split on the issue, 57 percent of Americans said they believe that an independent federal authority with a corporate-style board would better manage a waste storage facility.

Of those surveyed, 37 percent voiced a preference for a "federal government agency," according to the national survey conducted by Bisconti Research Inc. with Quest Global Research. In February 2013, a plurality of 49 percent thought that a federal government agency would do a better job, compared with 43 percent for the independent federal authority.

The survey also found strong public support for consolidated storage of used nuclear fuel rods. These fuel rods are securely stored at nuclear power plants that generate one-fifth of U.S. electricity supplies. About 84 percent of Americans believe "the United States should retool its program for managing spent nuclear fuel rods from nuclear power plants to focus on consolidating the fuel rods at storage centers while the nation develops a permanent disposal facility." Nearly one-half—47 percent—of Americans strongly agree, with only five percent strongly disagreeing.

Consolidated storage of used nuclear fuel is among the recommendations made to the Department of Energy last year by the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future. The commission also recommended creation of a new, congressionally-chartered federal corporation dedicated solely to implementing the nuclear waste management program.

Bisconti Research conducted the national survey of public opinion Sept. 5-15. A nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. adults was interviewed by landline and cell phone. The survey's margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points. NEI released other survey findings last week.

The survey found that 60 percent of Americans agree that used nuclear fuel assemblies are stored safely at nuclear power plant sites. Thirty-one percent of respondents disagree, and nine percent don't know.

Eighty-seven percent of Americans believe the federal government should develop a final repository for used nuclear fuel "as long as the facility meets U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations." Ten percent disagrees.

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