Public attitudes towards nuclear power in the UK have not followed a trajectory that could have been expected following the March 2011 accident at Fukushima-Daiichi in Japan, a report says.
The report, published by the UK Energy Research Centre, describes the findings of a survey conducted in March 2013 to assess British attitudes to nuclear power and climate change two years after the Fukushima-Daiichi accident.
It says attitudes to, and trust in, the regulation of nuclear power have been “surprisingly resilient”. While nuclear power remained among the least favoured forms of electricity production, public opposition to and concern about nuclear power have dropped substantially after the Fukushima-Daiichi accident.
This means that “broadly similar” proportions of people now support (32 percent) or oppose (29 percent) the use of nuclear power in the UK.
The report also concludes that compared to previous studies, there was “a marked drop” in popularity of renewables, in particular of wind and solar power.
Favourability ratings of wind power in particular have shown a sharp decline, from 82 percent in 2005 to 64 percent in 2013. Favourability ratings of solar power have dropped from 87 percent in 2005 to 77 percent in 2013. Gas is the only form of electricity production that is now perceived more favourably (59 percent) than in 2005 (56 percent).
The proportion of respondents who agree that the risks of nuclear power either slightly or far outweigh the benefits has fallen significantly, from 41 percent in 2005 to 29 percent in 2013.
In line with previous research, the study found that more people are willing to express support for nuclear power where it is stipulated that its use will help tackle climate change and improve energy security.
That said, the proportion of people who express support for the use of nuclear power conditional upon it helping to address climate change has declined over recent years, especially in the years after the Fukushima-Daiichi accident.
The report says this may be associated as much with an increase in “climate scepticism” as with changing attitudes to nuclear power. While most of the British public remain of the view that renewable energy is a better way of tackling climate change than nuclear power, there has been a relative shift in favour of nuclear power in recent years.