Public opinion | World Survey
Public opinion: country by country views23 July 2010
A round up of recent public opinion survey findings in Russia, Japan, USA and Canada.. By Caroline Peachey
Russia: robust reactions
Almost three-quarters of Russians think that the country’s level of nuclear power should be maintained or increased, according to an April poll by the Levada Center. This is higher than any figures for countries in EU-27 or Canada (see Figure 1).
Overall, 37% of respondents said that nuclear power should be actively developed in Russia, with the same number saying it should be kept at the current level. Only 10% thought Russia’s share of nuclear energy should be reduced, with 4% voting for it to be totally abolished.
Contrary to the USA, the younger generation of Russians proved to be most in favour of nuclear energy. 85% of those aged 18-24 voted for nuclear to be actively developed or kept at current levels, compared with just 69% of the respondents over 50.
The number of positive responses in the survey was up on the equivalent poll in April 2009, which saw 70% in favour of increasing or maintaining the share of nuclear energy in Russia, compared with 16% that said it should be reduced or phased out.
In both years almost 43% of respondents recognized nuclear energy as a substitute for oil and gas, compared with just 15% choosing hydro and around 8-9% coal.
1601 people aged 18+ were surveyed on 16-19 April 2010 by the Levada Center. The sample was said to be representative of the Russian population.
Japan: fears still linger after Tokai-mura
Ten years after a criticality incident at Tokai-mura in Japan, a survey shows that fear of another accident still lingers with many villagers.
The disastrous accident occurred in 1999, killing two workers and exposing no less than 660 residents to radiation. Ten years on, the NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute conducted a survey of residents in Tokai-mura on how they perceive nuclear power and accidents.
The poll, published in January 2010, found that 87% of the respondents know about the criticality accident. However, some in the relatively young female demographic and among those who moved in the village after the accident did not know about it.
Two out of three, or 68%, of the respondents fear that another nuclear accident similar to the criticality accident may occur. Women tend to worry about it more than men do.
More than three-quarters, 80%, appreciate the measures taken after the accident including the establishment of a nuclear disaster prevention center.
As to what would be necessary as a preparation for any possible nuclear accidents, responses included “developing a means of contact,” “improving the nuclear facilities,” and “developing evacuation measures.” However, 70% of the residents polled said they have not participated in nuclear disaster drills designed for confirming measures of contact and evacuation.
Following the Tokai-mura incident a poll showed an unexpectedly high proportion of people, 58%, were in favour of nuclear power, despite the concern over the accident. Another Japanese poll from 2008 showed that just 40% were in favour of nuclear energy, with around 35% opposed to it (Asahi Shimbun poll on nuclear energy, 2008).
USA: a social divide
A poll carried out by Bisconti Research in October 2009 on behalf of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) shows positive support for nuclear energy, with over 60% of those polled in favour of its use in the USA compared with 36% opposing it. But the social divide is widening, with greater support from males, college graduates and those over 50.
The long-standing gender gap in attitudes toward nuclear energy widened during 2009. The percentage of women favouring the use of nuclear energy dropped significantly from 70% in 2008 to 52% in 2009. The drop for men was less pronounced: 79% to 71%.
Respondents aged over 50 were most supportive of nuclear energy (81% of men, 56% of women) compared with those aged 18-34 (59% of men, 43% of women).
Education also accentuates the gender gap with 60% of women college graduates favouring nuclear energy, compared with 48% of women who are not graduates.
A telephone survey of 1000 US citizens was carried out 1-4 October 2009 by Bisconti Research in conjunction with GfK Roper.
Canada: down, down, down
Just 43% of Canadians support nuclear energy, compared with 53% that are against it, according to a September 2009 poll by Ipsos on behalf of the Canadian Nuclear Association.
This is an improvement on the 2005 poll, which saw 35% supporting nuclear energy and 64% against it. But it represents a fall from the high of 2008 where half of respondents supported nuclear.
In terms of regions, the province of Ontario is most in favour of nuclear energy with support at 62%, while Quebec is the least with just 19%.
Nuclear power contributed a 14% share of electricity production in 2009, according to the IAEA. When asked how they see the role of nuclear energy in Canada over the next few decades, the largest group of respondents, 37%, said its share should increase rather than stay the same or increase (see Figure 1).
The second-largest group, 28% of those polled, said that their confidence in the nuclear industry had decreased in the 12 months to end August 2009, compared with 21% polled in December 2008. The main reasons for the worsened confidence were the medical isotope shortage (10%), issues surrounding Chalk River and AECL (10%) and safety concerns (9%).
Overall, fewer respondents supported upgrades and refurbishments of existing plants (64% vs 67% in poll at end of 2008) and new build (46% vs 49% in 2008).
A total of 1156 Canadians were surveyed by telephone from 18-20 August 2009.
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