Public Perceptions: Nuclear Power

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers commissioned research into public attitudes towards nuclear power, in particular its role as a low-carbon electricity source.

There is a low level of awareness among young people that nuclear power is a low carbon source of energy. The Government needs to ensure that nuclear is included, in all its communications about low carbon power and energy sources. The nuclear industry should create stronger messaging about the potential possibilities for nuclear to help create a low carbon, prosperous future for the UK. This will open up greater possibilities for solutions from low carbon fuel production to increased electrification and ensure the UK can meet its net-zero vision.

The responses to the poll show that in order for greater public acceptance of new nuclear power stations, it is important to communicate a credible plan for waste disposal, for example either a geological disposal facility or recycling spent radioactive material.


Key Findings

  • Just over four in ten people support the use of nuclear energy for producing
    electricity in Britain (42%).
  • A similar number (45%) support the use of gas for electricity generation. This
    compares to over eight in ten who support electricity production from renewable
    sources (84%).
  • Only a quarter of people (26%) aged 18-24 understood nuclear power is a lowcarbon
    source of energy, compared to 61% of 65-74-year olds.
  • Men are around twice as likely as women to be positive about nuclear
    power, with nearly six in ten men supporting it (56%), compared to three in ten
    women (29%).
  • People aged 45 and over are most likely to back nuclear power. There is an
    almost linear relationship between age and support for nuclear power – as
    age increases, so does the level of support for nuclear.
  • Highest level of support seen in Scotland (49%) and lowest in Wales and the
    West (39%).
  • The most frequently cited benefits of nuclear power are ‘reliability of
    energy supply’ (43%), ‘low carbon energy’ (37%), and ‘security of future energy
    supply’ (34%).
  • The most commonly selected concerns about nuclear power that people have
    are ‘nuclear waste / disposal of nuclear waste’ (58%), ‘safety concerns such
    as the risk of accidents’ (44%), and ‘radiation’ (35%).
  • Just over a quarter of people would support the construction of a nuclear
    power station in their local area (27%), while, a much larger proportion, four
    in ten would oppose (41%).
  • People overestimate the contribution of nuclear power to the UK’s
    electricity mix, saying on average it produces 42% compared to around 20% in
  •  In contrast, estimates of the contribution of renewable energy were spot
    on with people saying 31% on average compared to 33% in reality.


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