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Japan nuclear crisis puts UK public off new power stations

nuclear cooling towers UK

Public support for new nuclear plants in the UK has fallen significantly following the near-meltdown at Fukushima in Japan, according to a new national opinion poll.

The poll showed a drop of 12% in support for nuclear power to 35%, compared with a similar poll conducted in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Opposition to nuclear power has risen by 9% to 28%.

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Japan nuclear crisis puts UK public off new power stations” was written by Bibi van der Zee, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 22nd March 2011 00.01 UTC

Support for nuclear power in the UK has dropped by 12% following the near-meltdown at Fukushima nuclear power plant, according to a national opinion poll conducted since the earthquake near Japan that triggered a devastating tsunami.

The nuclear emergency, which the Japanese authorities are still battling to contain, looks set to make it more difficult for the UK government to push through its planned programme of new nuclear power stations. Of those polled, 37 percent said they were now more likely to oppose the building of new nuclear power stations in the UK and 44 percent said they were worried about the safety of nuclear power plants here.

Anti-nuclear campaigners have been quick to seize on the disastrous events at Fukushima as proof that nuclear power can never be 100% safe. Craig Bennett, a spokesperson for Friends of the Earth who commissioned the poll said: “This poll shows that the government’s plans for a major expansion of nuclear power in the UK are out of step with public opinion. People want clean and safe energy – the government needs to urgently refocus its energy policy, starting by improving the weak energy saving measures within its new energy bill.”

The poll, which was conducted by GFK NOP shows a drop of 12% in support for nuclear power to 35% compared with a similar poll conducted by Ipsos Mori in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Opposition to the technology rose 9% to 28%.

Nikki Clark of the anti-nuclear Stop Hinkley campaign said: “We have definitely had more interest since the events in Japan: when we protested over the weekend people really wanted to talk to us about what we were doing, and find out more about the campaign. I think people are realising just how dangerous nuclear really is.” She is one of several campaigners fighting EDF’s application for a new power station in Hinkley.

But supporters for nuclear power continue to hope that in the long run the Japanese events will not spell the end for a form of energy which is, they point out, carbon-neutral. Environmentalist Mark Lynas has gone as far as offering on his blog to eat the milk, spinach and fava beans which have shown above average levels of radioactive iodine. “The political fallout,” he writes, “will be more dangerous than anything physically radioactive.”

The GFK NOP poll was compiled between 18-20 March and based on telephone interviews with 1003 adults.

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