Less opposition to nuclear power in UK than other countries

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THE UK and USA are bucking the trend of public opinion in many countries that have nuclear power programmes and fewer people here and in America are opposed to nuclear power development.

Polling carried out for the BBC World Service in 23 of the 31 countries with operational nuclear plants revealed the majority of people do not want more nuclear power stations built, believing that conservation and renewable energy can meet future power needs rather than fossil fuels and nuclear energy. And 71 per cent thought their country “could almost entirely replace coal and nuclear energy within 20 years by becoming highly energy-efficient and focusing on generating energy from the sun and wind.”

Since the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power station following the tsunami that hit the Japanese coastline in February, opposition to the building of new nuclear power stations has gone up to 90 per cent in Germany, followed by Mexico (82 per cent) and Japan (66 per cent). In contrast support in the UK for building new nuclear power stations, while still in the minority, has increased from 33 per cent to 37 per cent.

GlobeScan carried out the survey for the BBC World Service and their chairman, Doug Miller, said: “The lack of impact the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan has had on public views towards nuclear power in the UK and US is noteworthy. This contrasts with significantly increased opposition to nuclear new-build in most countries we’ve tracked since 2005.

“The biggest impact has been in Germany where the Merkel government’s new policy of shutting all its nuclear energy facilities is supported by 52 per cent of Germans in this poll.”

Most of those polled in countries with operational nuclear plants are opposed to building new reactors, saying either that their country should “use the nuclear power stations we already have, but not build new ones” (39%), or that “nuclear power is dangerous and we should close down all operating nuclear plants as soon as possible” (30%). Over one in five people (22 per cent) agreed that “nuclear power is relatively safe and an important source of electricity, and we should build more nuclear power plants”.

After Fukushima Weightman Dr Mike Weightman, the UK’s independent nuclear inspector, looked at safey at UK nuclear power plants including Torness on the Berwickshire/East Lothian coastline and concluded that the industry reacted “responsibly and appropriately” to events in Japan, “displaying a leadership for safety and a strong safety culture”.

Dr Weightman’s report went on to say that analysis of Fukushima revealed no reason for curtailing the operation of existing plants, nor any significant gaps in the scope or depth of the safety assessment principles for nuclear facilities in the UK.

Secretary of State for Enviornment Chris Huhne MP concluded that the report gave reassurance that new nuclear can be part of the future energy mix and provides “the basis to continue to remove the barriers to nuclear new build in the UK”.