Public opinion on nuclear issues

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Global public support for energy sources, based on a survey by Ipsos (2011).[1]

Public opinion on nuclear issues is the aggregate of attitudes or beliefs held by the adult population concerning nuclear power, nuclear weapons and uranium mining.

Surveys about nuclear power use have been conducted internationally for four decades. Surveys originally examined public opinion on building new nuclear power plants. In the U.S., support has declined over the period from the mid-1970s through 2000. The Japanese were more supportive of nuclear power expansion during this time.[2]


In 2005, the International Atomic Energy Agency presented the results of a series of public opinion surveys in the Global Public Opinion on Nuclear Issues report.[3] Majorities of respondents in 14 of the 18 countries surveyed believe that the risk of terrorist acts involving radioactive materials at nuclear facilities is high, because of insufficient protection. While majorities of citizens generally support the continued use of existing nuclear power reactors, most people do not favour the building of new nuclear plants, and 25% of respondents feel that all nuclear power plants should be closed down.[3] Stressing the climate change benefits of nuclear energy positively influences 10% of people to be more supportive of expanding the role of nuclear power in the world, but there is still a general reluctance to support the building of more nuclear power plants.[3]

A poll in the European Union for Feb-Mar 2005 showed 37% in favour of nuclear energy and 55% opposed, leaving 8% undecided.[4] The same agency ran another poll in Oct-Nov 2006 that showed 14% favoured building new nuclear plants, 34% favoured maintaining the same number, and 39% favoured reducing the number of operating plants, leaving 13% undecided. This poll showed that the approval of nuclear power rose with the education level of respondents and was lower for women.[5]


In the United States, the Nuclear Energy Institute has run polls since the 1980s. A poll in conducted March 30 to April 1, 2007 chose solar as the most likely largest source for electricity in the US in 15 years (27% of those polled) followed by nuclear, 24% and coal, 14%. Those who were favourable of nuclear being used dropped to 63% from a historic high of 70% in 2005 and 68% in September, 2006.[6]

A CBS News/New York Times poll in 2007 showed that a majority of Americans would not like to have a nuclear plant built in their community, although an increasing percentage would like to see more nuclear power.[7]

The two fuel sources that attracted the highest levels of support in the 2007 MIT Energy Survey are solar power and wind power. Outright majorities would choose to “increase a lot” use of these two fuels, and better than three out of four Americans would like to increase these fuels in the U. S. energy portfolio. Fourteen per cent of respondents would like to see nuclear power "increase a lot".[8]

A September 2007 survey conducted by the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland showed that:

63 percent of Russians favor eliminating all nuclear weapons, 59 percent support removing all nuclear weapons from high alert, and 53 percent support cutting the Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals to 400 nuclear weapons each. In the United States, 73 percent of the public favors eliminating all nuclear weapons, 64 percent support removing all nuclear weapons from high alert, and 59 percent support reducing Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals to 400 weapons each. Eighty percent of Russians and Americans want their countries to participate in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.[9]


According to a 2010 Soka Gakkai International survey of youth attitudes in Japan, Korea, the Philippines, New Zealand and the USA, 67.3% reject the use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances. Of the respondents 59.1% said that they would feel safer if nuclear weapons no longer existed in the world. Identified as most needed measures toward nuclear abolition were political and diplomatic negotiations (59.9%), peace education (56.3%) and strengthened measures within the UN framework (53.7%). While 37.4% said that nuclear abolition is possible, 40.7% said that nuclear arms reduction not abolition is possible.[10]


What had been growing acceptance of nuclear power in the United States was eroded sharply following the 2011 Japanese nuclear accidents, with support for building nuclear power plants in the U.S. dropping slightly lower than it was immediately after the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, according to a CBS News poll. Only 43 percent of those polled after the Fukushima nuclear emergency said they would approve building new power plants in the United States.[11]

A 2011 poll suggests that skepticism over nuclear power is growing in Sweden following Japan's nuclear crisis. 36 percent of respondents want to phase-out nuclear power, up from 15 percent in a similar survey two years ago.[12]

In June 2011, both Ipsos Mori and the Japanese Asahi Shimbun newspaper found drops in support for nuclear power technology in most countries, with support continuing in a number including the US. The Ipsos Mori poll found that nuclear had the lowest support of any established technology for generating electricity, with 38%. Coal was at 48% support while solar energy, wind power and hydro all found favour with more than 90% of those surveyed.[13]

There is little support across the world for building new nuclear reactors, a 2011 poll for the BBC indicates. The global research agency GlobeScan, commissioned by BBC News, polled 23,231 people in 23 countries from July to September 2011, several months after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. In countries with existing nuclear programmes, people are significantly more opposed than they were in 2005, with only the UK and US bucking the trend. Most believe that boosting energy efficiency and renewable energy can meet their needs.[13]

Just 22% agreed that "nuclear power is relatively safe and an important source of electricity, and we should build more nuclear power plants". In contrast, 71% thought their country "could almost entirely replace coal and nuclear energy within 20 years by becoming highly energy-efficient and focusing on generating energy from the Sun and wind". Globally, 39% want to continue using existing reactors without building new ones, while 30% would like to shut everything down now.[13]


According to a 2012 Pew Research Center poll, 44 percent of Americans favor and 49 percent oppose the promotion of increased use of nuclear power, while 69 percent favor increasing federal funding for research on wind power, solar power, and hydrogen energy technology.[14] Even only one year after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, Gallup found that 57 percent of American still favored nuclear energy. [15]


In 2013, Soka Gakkai International released the results of its international survey[16] in which 91.2% of respondents believe that nuclear arms are inhumane and 80.6% favor a comprehensive treaty banning all weapons of mass destruction. The 2,840 survey respondents were men and women of ages 15 to 45 from Australia, Brazil, Britain, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, South Korea and the USA—the official and unofficial nuclear weapon states, states under the US nuclear umbrella and states in nuclear-weapons-free zones (NWFZs).[17]


A Pew Research Survey conducted in 2015 found that Americans have shifted their view on the use of the atomic bomb to defeat the Japanese. 56% believe that the use of nuclear weapons was justified, with 34% saying it was not.[18] Immediately after the bombings that figure was at 84% in favor of the bombing, according to a Gallup poll.[19]


A 2016 Gallup poll of the American public revealed that public support for nuclear energy in the United States was at a record low of 44%, with the majority (54%) of respondents saying that they oppose nuclear energy. This was the first time that public opposition to nuclear power in the United States had achieved a majority in the 23 years of Gallup polling on the subject.[20]


According to The Guardian, "A September poll by ReachTel found 73% of Australians support the ban on nuclear weapons and believe nuclear weapons pose a threat to global security."[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ipsos (23 June 2011), Global Citizen Reaction to the Fukushima Nuclear Plant Disaster (theme: environment / climate) Ipsos Global @dvisor (PDF) . Survey website: Ipsos MORI: Poll: Strong global opposition towards nuclear power.
  2. ^ Hiroshi Arikawaa; Yang Caob; Shigeru Matsumoto (2014). "Attitudes toward nuclear power and energy-saving behavior among Japanese households". Energy Research & Social Science. 
  3. ^ a b c International Atomic Energy Agency (2005). Global Public Opinion on Nuclear Issues and the IAEA: Final Report from 18 Countries p. 6.
  4. ^ - Majority of Europeans oppose nuclear power | EU - European Information on EU Priorities & Opinion
  5. ^ Europeans and Nuclear Safety, February 2007.
  6. ^ Survey Reveals Gap in Public’s Awareness
  7. ^ Energy
  8. ^ Stephen Ansolabehere. Public Attitudes Toward America’s Energy Options Report of the 2007 MIT Energy Survey, Center for Energy and Environmental Policy research, March 2007, p. 3.
  9. ^ Lawrence S. Wittner. A rebirth of the anti-nuclear weapons movement? Portents of an anti-nuclear upsurge Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 7 December 2007.
  10. ^ "A Survey on Public Awareness of Nuclear Weapons in Six Countries", published April 28, 2010. [1] See also "Young people want nuclear disarmament: survey", Toronto Sun (April 29, 2010) [2]
  11. ^ Michael Cooper (March 22, 2011). "Nuclear Power Loses Support in New Poll". The New York Times. 
  12. ^ "Poll shows anti-nuclear sentiment up in Sweden". Businessweek. 22 March 2011. 
  13. ^ a b c Richard Black (25 November 2011). "Nuclear power 'gets little public support worldwide'". BBC News. 
  14. ^ The Pew Research Center For The People and The Press (March 19, 2012). "As Gas Prices Pinch, Support for Oil and Gas Production Grows" (PDF). 
  15. ^ McCarthy, Niall. "Poll: Majority Of Americans Oppose Nuclear Energy For The First Time [Infographic]". Forbes. Retrieved 2017-09-28. 
  16. ^ Soka Gakkai International. "Survey on Youth Attitudes toward Nuclear Weapons and Their Humanitarian Consequences" (PDF). Retrieved 17 August 2013. 
  17. ^ IDN-InDepthNews. "Youth Holds Out Hope for Banning Nukes". Retrieved 17 August 2013. 
  18. ^ "Americans, Japanese: Mutual Respect 70 Years After the End of WWII". Pew Research Center. Retrieved 28 September 2017. 
  19. ^ "Majority Supports Use of Atomic Bomb on Japan in WWII". Gallup. Retrieved 28 September 2017. 
  20. ^ "For First Time, Majority in U.S. Oppose Nuclear Energy". Gallup, Inc. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  21. ^ Doherty, Ben (December 10, 2017). "Nuclear annihilation 'one tantrum away', Nobel peace prize winner warns". The Guardian. Retrieved December 11, 2017.