In what is probably the most comprehensive recent multinational survey of public attitudes to nuclear energy, we find strong public support for advanced nuclear technologies and what they can bring. This report describes the rigorous and objective study we undertook, the perceptions and misperceptions people share, and the top ten findings, which collectively lead to our conclusion that “the world wants new nuclear.
Our current study confirms some big gaps in people’s knowl-
edge about the biggest benefits of nuclear: its carbon-free
energy production and its abundance that can drive sustainable energy independence. It is hard for people to value the clean-energy role of nuclear when almost half the population (46% in our survey) believe that “nuclear power emits more carbon dioxide than wind or solar power.” Other knowledge gaps, beyond nuclear itself, add to the challenge. There is a limited understanding of what drives climate change, with 80% of people believing that “greenhouse gases damage the ozone layer.” And there is an arguably unrealistic confidence in how much we can rely on renewables, with most people (57%) believing that “with renewables we are no longer dependent on other countries.”
It’s not easy to cast aside current perceptions of “dirty” vs “clean.” In our survey, even the groups most alarmed about climate change were relatively unmoved by narratives about the role advanced nuclear can play in avoiding it. But we should not be fixated on the most intractable misperceptions about nuclear energy. More broadly, our survey shows a high degree of openness to what advanced nuclear technologies can bring. The “weakly held” starting position that many people have acts less as hesitancy and more as open-mindedness. Support for advanced nuclear is already high, with relatively little opposition – and it gets significantly higher with more information. The need to understand people’s starting position, to respect it, and to meet people where they are, is what has informed the research study presented here.