Despite UK support for nuclear, public unaware of waste plans

13 October 2015

A recent survey by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers has found that 56% of the public support the continued use of nuclear power in the UK compared with just 19% who do not and 25% who were unsure. But it also found that the public is generally unaware of how radioactive waste is managed.

Sixteen operating nuclear reactors in the UK currently provide around 18% of the country's electricity.

Over 80% of the 2000 people surveyed in September said they support nuclear power "because it will help keep the lights on," while 56% said it was because nuclear power would provide jobs and 54% because it would boost the economy.

The key concerns of those opposing nuclear power were that it is too dangerous (77%) or too damaging for the environment (76%).

Despite the broad support for nuclear power, 44% of those questioned said they would protest if a nuclear waste facility were to be located 10 miles from their home and with just 32% saying they would not protest.

IMechE said the results of the survey indicate that there is a "general unawareness" of how the UK deals with its nuclear waste. One third of respondents said they did not know how nuclear waste is disposed of and 61% claimed they did not know how much nuclear waste the UK has to dispose of annually.

These results are in line with a survey carried out on behalf of the UK Nuclear Industry Association in November 2014, which found that just one third of respondents were aware of the UK's current arrangements for disposal of radioactive waste and one fifth were aware of its future disposal plans.

Commenting on the results of the recent survey Dr. Jenifer Baxter, Head of Energy and Environment at IMechE said: "Most of the public realise the vital role nuclear has to play in keeping the lights on in the UK. But there is a lack of knowledge about nuclear technology and the way nuclear waste is managed."

Baxter said there is a "critical need" for industry and government to raise awareness about the economic and employment benefits of nuclear power, as well as to highlight the comprehensive range of safety procedures in place to mitigate risk and environmental damage, with both nuclear power generation and the management of nuclear waste.

The IMechE survey carried out by ICM Unlimited on 23-25 September polled 2003 members of the public.

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