UK public backs government subsidy for new nuclear

29 May 2013

A new poll by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers has found that 43% of the public would support a Government subsidy for the construction of new nuclear power in the UK - which compares with just 28% who said they would not.

According to the poll of over 2,000 members of the public, 46% of the public say they want new nuclear power stations to be built in the UK, compared with 29% who said they did not.

Dr Tim Fox, Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: “For years now Government has been reluctant to offer nuclear power developers an overt subsidy, partly out of fear of the public back-lash. These poll results show that these fears could be unwarranted.

"The future of the UK new nuclear build programme is currently on a knife-edge. Without an agreed guaranteed commercially attractive long-term price for the electricity from new nuclear plants (the 'strike price'), and a suitable source of investment finance, there can be no progress on building new UK reactors.

“Government needs to provide more leadership and help on financing nuclear power if they are serious about a new build programme in the UK and we are to see the development of nuclear plants at sites like Hinkley Point, Sizewell and Wylfa. These poll results suggest that the public want Government to take decisive action to support nuclear power.

“All low-carbon generating technologies require a high initial capital investment but have low operating costs. Therefore if the Government is to encourage carbon reductions, developers need incentives which may appear as a subsidy at the start but, if structured correctly, could prove to be a good investment for the Government in the long run.

“Apart from helping to secure future low-carbon electricity supplies, these projects could support thousands of jobs, develop UK skills and provide potentially billions of pounds worth of investment into the UK economy."

The poll asked people who supported the construction of new nuclear power in the UK their reasons for their support. 70% said because nuclear power plants ensure a secure supply of electricity; 55% said because nuclear is low carbon; 50% because nuclear is reliable; 50% said because nuclear power plants provide jobs; while 43% said because nuclear power is cheaper than other forms of electricity generation.

Of the people who do not support the construction of new nuclear in the UK (less than one third of those polled), the vast majority (73%) said that this was because nuclear power is dangerous; while 70% said because of issues related to nuclear waste and less than a quarter cited the cost as an issue.

The poll of 2,034 people was carried out by ICM, on behalf of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, on 3-6 May.

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