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Americans Want Nuclear Energy as Part of the Solution to Combating Climate Change

16 Nov 2021

As the climate crisis intensifies, the race to adopt clean, sustainable sources of energy is on. But how have American attitudes to nuclear power changed? Would Americans be enthusiastic about updating nuclear power? To answer these questions, ecoAmerica conducted its fourth consecutive American Climate Perspectives Survey to study awareness and attitudes about utility energy choices and their impact on health and climate. The full report can be found here.

The survey shows that 59 percent of Americans “totally support” existing nuclear energy and recognize that it produces around 20 percent of our electricity. Fifty-seven percent of Americans say the U.S. should be spending “more” or “a lot more” to develop next-generation nuclear energy. Support is high regardless of political affiliation, with 64 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of Democrats supporting nuclear power. This support has grown, driven by a notable rise in Democratic support (up from 56 percent in 2020 and 37 percent in 2018).

Seventy-one percent of people in the U.S. credit nuclear power plants with generating a lot of electricity, reliably, and 65 percent say that nuclear power plants keep America competitive and energy independent. Most Americans (67 percent) want to keep nuclear power plants running as long as they are cost effective, up from 62 percent in 2020.

The most important reason for supporting nuclear energy? According to 69 percent of Americans, it helps us grow the economy while reducing pollution to our climate and health. Americans (67 percent) also support nuclear energy because nuclear power plants do not emit pollutants that harm our health or our climate compared to alternatives.

When defined as a new technology that is inexpensive, produces little waste, and is fail-safe so human errors can’t cause widespread damage, 74 percent of Americans indicated they would support “new” nuclear power such as molten salt fueled reactors. Among those who do not support nuclear power, 18 percent indicated they would shift their opinion to support it after learning that we can clean up unhealthy pollution and make the climate stable by modernizing nuclear power.

“Nuclear energy is absolutely critical to keeping energy reliable while affordably reducing emissions,” said Eric Meyer, founder and executive director of Generation Atomic, an advocacy group. “A growing majority of Americans are realizing this, and politicians on both the federal and state levels are taking notice. We saw it earlier this year in Illinois, where a coalition of organized labor and nuclear advocates persuaded a Democratically held legislature to save two save two nuclear power plants from early shutdown due to market failures. At the federal level, both existing and next generation nuclear plants are included in major infrastructure and climate packages. These are just a few examples of us getting on the right path to a cleaner, more sustainable future.”

Generation Atomic | https://generationatomic.org