Survey: Strong overall support in U.S. for nuclear, but with concerns

September 26, 2022, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Results of the American Climate Perspectives Survey 2022 conducted by the climate-focused organization ecoAmerica suggest that the overall national support for research into advanced nuclear energy and for nuclear energy in general are continuing five-year upward trends. However, according to the survey, fewer than half of women responding to the survey support nuclear power. In addition, public concerns about nuclear-related waste disposal, health and safety, and weaponization remain high.

Survey methods: ecoAmerica used Survey Monkey to ask several energy-related questions of people in the United States from July 5 to July 7, 2022. The survey yielded a total of 1,009 adult respondents. Results, which have a 3 percent margin of error, were compared with results from similar surveys that have been conducted each year since 2018.

By comparison, the results show increasing (though still relatively low) support for R&D into coal (27 percent in 2022 versus 21 percent in 2018) and oil (36 percent in 2022 versus 26 percent in 2018). Support for natural gas R&D has wavered between 47 percent and 52 percent since 2018, with interest in wind and solar steadily decreasing over the past five years, from 85 percent in 2018 to 77 percent in 2022.

Advanced nuclear R&D: The response to the survey question, “In the next few years, should the United States be spending more or less on research and development of each of the following energy sources?” shows increased public support for next-generation nuclear R&D at 61 percent, compared with 54 percent in 2018. The other choices listed are wind and solar, natural gas, oil, and coal.

Other positive nuclear findings: Another survey question asked, “America’s traditional nuclear power plants produce around 20% of our electricity. Which is closest to your opinion?” with the possible responses including “strongly support” and “somewhat support” nuclear power.

Overall, 60 percent of respondents support nuclear power, indicating a steady rise from 49 percent in 2018. Republican support remains steady at 66 percent (and has never dipped below 64 percent since 2018). Democrat support is at 58 percent (down from 60 percent in 2021 but dramatically up from 37 percent in 2018). Independent support, currently at 62 percent, has wobbled up and down since 2018.

Among men, 74 percent support nuclear power, according to the 2022 survey results, which contrasts starkly with a support level of only 48 percent among women. Support for nuclear is strongest among both men and women over the age of 65 (65 percent). Overall support for nuclear energy among people younger than age 65 varies between 57 percent and 60 percent.

Concerns about nuclear: Despite the overall general support for nuclear, those surveyed still express a number of concerns. Among the respondents, 73 percent have “a lot” or “some” concerns about nuclear waste disposal (down from 84 percent in 2018) and nuclear-related health and safety issues (down from 80 percent in 2018). Sixty-six percent indicate concerns about nuclear security and weaponization, and 57 percent are concerned about cost.


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