Post-Fukushima survey shows less than one-third of Americans supportive of nuclear power

Those who say they are more supportive of nuclear power a year after Fukushima account for well under a third (28 percent) of all Americans,  according to a major new ORC International survey conducted for the Civil Society Institute (CSI).  Nearly one in five (18 percent) of Americans say they live within 50 miles of a nuclear power reactor.

The survey shows 61% of Americans said they were less supportive of nuclear power as a result of “reports in the U.S. during 2011 and so far in 2012 of nuclear reactors that had to be shut down due to hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, leaks or other emissions of radioactive materials, and/or equipment failure.”  After Fukushima, most Americans (77%) would support the United States Government making a “a shift of federal loan-guarantee support for energy away from nuclear reactors” in favor of wind and solar power.

“The nuclear industry has spent millions on polls telling the public how much the public longs for nuclear power. Such polls never ask real world questions linking new reactors to rate increases or to accident risk. Fukushima has made the links to risk much clearer in the public mind. This poll makes the consequences of that linkage clear.”

Peter Bradford, former member of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, former chair of the New York and Maine utility regulatory commissions, and currently adjunct professor at Vermont Law School on “Nuclear Power and Public Policy

Most Americans, (78%) would favor Congress reviewing a 1957 law indemnifying nuclear power companies from most disaster clean-up costs, and would hold the companies “liable for all damages resulting from a nuclear meltdown or other accident.  72 percent of Americans do not “think taxpayers should take on the risk for the construction of new nuclear power reactors in the United States through billions of dollars in new federal loan guarantees for new reactors.”

Pam Solo, founder and president, Civil Society Institute

“It is clear that Fukushima left an indelible impression on the thinking of Americans about nuclear power. The U.S. public clearly favors a conservative approach to energy that insists on it being safe in all senses of the word – including the risk to local communities and citizens. These poll findings support the need for a renewed national debate about the energy choices that America makes.”

The survey also showed nearly six in 10 Americans (57 percent) are less supportive of expanding nuclear power in the United States than they were before the Japanese reactor crisis, a nearly identical finding to the 58 percent who responded the same way when asked the same question one year ago. This contrasts sharply with pre-Fukushima surveys by Gallup and other organizations showing a 60 percent support level for nuclear power.  More than three out of four Americans (77 percent) say they are now more supportive than they were a year ago “to using clean renewable energy resources – such as wind and solar – and increased energy efficiency as an alternative to more nuclear power in the United States.”.

Pollster Graham Hueber, senior researcher, ORC International

“I would summarize these findings as follows: We see here a lasting chill in how the public perceives nuclear power. The passage of one year since the Fukushima nuclear reactor crisis in Japan has neither dimmed concerns in the U.S. about nuclear power nor has it made Americans more inclined to support an expanded federal focus on promoting more nuclear reactors in the U.S.”

These findings are based on a telephone survey conducted by ORC International among a national probability sample of 1,032 adults comprising 518 men and 514 women 18 years of age and older, living in private households in the continental United States. Interviewing for this survey was completed during the period February 23-26, 2012. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage at the full sample size.

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