Americans living near commercial nuclear power facilities overwhelmingly agree the federal government should retool its program for managing used fuel rods from nuclear power plants to focus on consolidating the fuel at storage centers while it develops a permanent disposal facility.
Public opinion on this issue is part of key findings from a new nationwide survey of residents within 10 miles of nuclear energy facilities that generate one-fifth of America's electricity.
Eighty-two percent of those surveyed believe that the used nuclear fuel assemblies that are the byproduct of electricity generation at nuclear power plants should be consolidated at temporary storage facilities while the U.S. Department of Energy develops a permanent repository. Ninety percent of those who participated in the June survey agree that the government should develop a disposal facility for used nuclear fuel as long as the site meets the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's protective requirements.
The survey, conducted for the Nuclear Energy Institute last month by Bisconti Research Inc. with Quest Global Research Group, found that 62 percent of nuclear plant neighbors have confidence that used nuclear fuel rods are safely stored at reactor sites. Eighty-five percent agree that used fuel rods can be transported safely "as long as secure containment and proper procedures are used."
The survey found, in line with results from prior polls, that "familiarity makes a difference when it comes to attitudes about nuclear energy," said Ann Bisconti, president of Bisconti Research.
Eighty-one percent of plant neighbors favor the use of nuclear energy as one way to provide electricity in the United States. Forty-seven percent of the residents living within miles of a nuclear facility "strongly favor" the use of nuclear energy, compared to nine percent who are "strongly opposed."
Support expressed by residents in communities near nuclear facilities is stronger than in the population at large. A survey of U.S. adults in February found that 68 percent favor the use of nuclear energy, with 29 percent strongly favoring the technology.
The survey of adults who live within 10 miles of the 61 sites where the 100 U.S. reactors are located was conducted June 3-24. Bisconti Research has conducted biennial surveys of public attitudes near U.S. reactors since 2005. The national sample includes 1,098 residents age 18 and older interviewed by landline and cell phone. The survey excluded persons who work at nuclear power plants. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.
Overall, plant neighbors favorably recognize nuclear energy's attributes. Majorities associate nuclear energy "a lot" with reliable electricity (71 percent), efficiency (64 percent), clean air (60 percent), energy security (58 percent), job creation (58 percent), and affordable electricity (54 percent). Fewer (31 percent) associate nuclear energy "a lot" with being a climate change solution even though nuclear energy generates nearly two-thirds of all carbon-free electricity across America.
An overwhelming majority (86 percent) have a favorable impression of the nuclear power plant closest to where they live and the way it has operated recently. Fifty-six percent have a “very favorable” impression and 30 percent have a “somewhat favorable” impression.
“The survey’s findings are consistent with favorable attitudes measured repeatedly among nuclear power plant neighbors,” Bisconti said. “They also show that companies achieve favorable attitudes by operating the plants safely, protecting the environment, providing value to the community, and reaching out to inform their neighbors.”
Other key findings of the survey include:
- 90 percent believe that nuclear energy will be important in meeting the nation’s electricity needs in the years ahead, and 57 percent believe nuclear energy will be very important.
- 91 percent agree with renewing the operating license for nuclear power plants that continue to meet federal safety standards, and 64 percent strongly agree.
- 80 percent agree with keeping the option to build more nuclear power plants in the future, and 51 percent strongly agree.
- 82 percent agree that electric utilities should prepare now so that new nuclear power plants could be built if needed in the next decade, and 50 percent strongly agree.