A Mori poll commissioned by EdF Energy found a mixed bag of results for nuclear in the run-up to the UK national energy debate promised by prime minister Tony Blair. Although a large proportion of the British public recognised the importance of reducing carbon emissions and the energy generation shortfall after 2020, few had a clear idea of nuclear’s ability to safely address both issues.

Of the 1931 British adults interviewed, 43% knew that a large part of Britain’s coal and nuclear generating fleet would need replacement by about 2020, leaving a large energy gap. 37% of people recognised that was a major challenge for the government and the country as a whole, and 83% thought the UK should be self-sufficient in energy.

Wind farms, both on- and offshore enjoyed strong support among the public with 66% expressing favourable opinions of the technology. However, 60% recognised that wind power does not work continuously and 39% thought it spoils the landscape.

Although 54% of people said Britain needs nuclear as part of the energy balance, it remained the least supported generation method to fill the energy gap beyond 2020 after wind power, clean coal and gas.

Safety, waste disposal and terrorism remain the main concerns among the public. These issues were recognised as a disadvantage of nuclear technology by 69%, 64% and 76% of interviewees respectively.

Positive attributes of nuclear technology that were not well known to the public were its low-carbon status and the relative stability of the nuclear fuel market. 37% thought nuclear fuel prices were not stable or the supplies came from unreliable or unfriendly countries and 24% thought nuclear contributed to global warming through carbon emissions.