Americans mixed on support for safe, clean nuclear power

Nuclear energy is one of the cleanest domestic energy sources and, despite very rare accidents, also one of the safest. But Americans are nearly evenly divided on support for nuclear power — most Democrats oppose it — despite the facts of its safety and low environmental impact.

The Gallup poll that noted those results – 51% in favor and 47% against – may be different today because the survey was taken in March, before gas prices spiked at the pump.

Gallup reported on its poll, Joe Biden’s budget request and other investments:

President Joe Biden has advocated for nuclear power as one part of his clean energy plan to get the U.S. economy to net zero emissions by 2050. In addition to the $1.8 billion that Biden has allocated to nuclear reactors in its 2022 budget, the administration recently announced. will make $6 billion in infrastructure funds available to nuclear power companies to help prevent shutdowns.

Despite Biden’s promotion of nuclear power, Democrats continue to be much less likely than Republicans to favor its use. The pattern is consistent with the longstanding opposition of Democratic-leaning environmental groups to nuclear power; this focused on concerns about the environmental risks posed by nuclear waste and accidents, as well as their preference for renewable energy such as wind, solar and geothermal.

Currently, 39% of Democrats versus 60% of Republicans and 53% of Independents favor nuclear power. The 21 percentage point gap between Republicans and Democrats is similar to the average of the past two decades.

The poll also asked about climate change, considered a dangerous man-made threat by Biden and his administration. Americans who agree with him are not likely to want him as part of the green energy agenda – Gallup’s environmental survey found that only a third of Americans who worry “a lot” of climate change favor nuclear power (34%) and 62% oppose it.

President Joe Biden delivers a speech in Buffalo, New York on May 17, 2022. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

But the results were very different – ​​those who are “somewhat” (53%) or less (70%) concerned about climate change support nuclear power.

Other poll results included:

  • Sixty-three percent of men versus 39 percent of women support the use of nuclear energy for electricity.
  • Support by education ranges from 57% of university graduates to 50% of those with some university experience and 45% of those without university.
  • A majority of 57% of adults aged 55 and over are in favor of nuclear energy, compared to half of those aged 18 to 34 and 45% of those aged 35 to 54.

US support for nuclear power by subgroup

The Federal Energy Information Administration (EIA) explains nuclear power this way:

An uncontrolled nuclear reaction in a nuclear reactor could lead to widespread air and water contamination. The risk of this occurring at nuclear power plants in the United States is low due to the various and redundant safety barriers and systems in place at nuclear power plants, the training and skills of reactor operators, the testing and maintenance and regulatory requirements. and oversight by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A large area surrounding a nuclear power plant is restricted and guarded by armed security teams. American reactors also have containment buildings designed to withstand extreme weather events and earthquakes.

Unlike power plants powered by fossil fuels, nuclear reactors do not produce air pollution or carbon dioxide during operation. However, the processes of mining and refining uranium ore and manufacturing reactor fuel all require large amounts of energy. Nuclear power plants also contain large amounts of metal and concrete, the manufacture of which requires large amounts of energy. If fossil fuels are used for the extraction and refining of uranium ore, or if fossil fuels are used during the construction of the nuclear power plant, the emissions resulting from the combustion of these fuels could be associated with the electricity produced by nuclear power plants.

The Gallup poll was based on telephone interviews and took place from March 1 to March 18 among 1,017 people aged 18 or older from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points. Each sample of adults included 75% cell phone users and 25% landline users.

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