The poll, by London-based research data and analytics group YouGov, is published as the government considers longstanding plans for new large-scale reactors at Sizewell C and pushes ahead with site selection for a first fusion plant. It said one in three (34%) say that nuclear should play a major role in attempts to make Britain’s electricity low or no carbon – on a par with renewable energy sources like solar and wind.
Another 31% want to see it play a minor role. Only 12% of Britons say we should not generate any nuclear energy whatsoever.
Anti-nuclear sentiment is highest among Labour (16%) and Remain voters (14%), as well as women (14%). By contrast, Conservative voters (45%) and men (45%) are much more likely to back making nuclear a major part of Britain’s strategy.
The survey also explored people’s awareness of nuclear as a low carbon source of energy. Fewer than half of Britons (46%) consider nuclear to be zero carbon (14%) or low carbon (36%). Three in ten believe it to be moderate (14%) or high carbon (16%). Nuclear also received a higher rate of “don’t know” responses than the other energies we asked about (23%, vs 14-17%).
This compares to 80-81% who believe solar and wind to be zero/low carbon, and 2-6% who say the same of gas, oil and coal.
Belief that nuclear power creates greater levels of carbon emissions is higher among those who don’t want to see it as part of Britain’s energy mix: 46%, compared to only 21% who want to see it play a major role and 33% who want it to play a minor role.
“This suggests that a significant chunk of opposition to nuclear energy could be based on the faulty assumption that it is a sizeable carbon emitter, and that greater awareness could reduce objections,” YouGov said. “Nevertheless, there will continue to be many whose concerns about nuclear energy stem from other issues, like the radioactive waste material it produces, or the risk of meltdown.”