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Climate change worry turns N-power into better global energy option

accentureAccenture, a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, has just released the findings of its 20-country, 10,500 person survey on attitudes to nuclear power, meant to sound out the popular appeal of different energy options for policy-makers.

Nuclear power is becoming a more attractive energy option around the world, thanks to concerns about climate change, but the industry is still dogged by persistent concerns about nuclear safety and nuclear waste, the survey found.

More than two-thirds of people around the world believe that their countries should start using or increase their use of nuclear power, according to findings of a global survey by Accenture.

The survey of more than 10,000 people in 20 countries shows that 29 percent of respondents support the use or increased use of nuclear power outright, another 40 percent say they would support nuclear power if their concerns were addressed.  But in a warning to nuclear generators and policy makers, sentiment has polarized in recent years.

The survey found that, overall, sentiment has swung in favour of nuclear energy, with 29 percent of respondents saying they are more supportive of their country starting or increasing the use of nuclear than they were three years ago.  However, one in five respondents (19 percent) said they are less supportive of their country starting or increasing the use of nuclear than they were three years ago.

About 69 percent of people favour adding more nuclear power; 31 percent are opposed. In the past three years, 29 percent of people have become more supportive, and 19 percent have become more entrenched in their opposition.

China and India lead the nuclear-power bandwagon, with the highest levels of unconditional support for nuclear power in the survey; in China, 50 percent of the respondents saying they’ve increased their support for nuclear power in recent years.

In the US, the picture is a little different. Overall support for nuclear power seems to be growing, with 37 percent of respondents saying they’ve become more supportive in recent years. And 81 percent favor using more nuclear power, with only 19 percent flat-out opposed to nukes. That opposition is due to concerns over plant safety, nuclear waste, terrorism, and cost, in that order.

The survey suggests that any big expansion of nuclear power in the US would be part of a cocktail of new energy investment, while 43 percent of respondents wanted only more renewable energy, 49 percent said they wanted both renewables and nuclear power.

“For the U.S., we can’t advance the low-carbon agenda without nuclear power. Just can’t do it,” said Dan Krueger, head of power generation and a managing director at Accenture.

One of the most surprising findings is the erosion of support for nuclear power in France, which gets almost 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear plants, and which is often held up by nuclear-energy proponents as a model for the US.

Hardcore French support for nuclear power stands at just 20 percent or to levels in anti-nuclear Germany. Over the past three years, opposition to nuclear power has grown in France more than in any of the other countries in the survey.

That contrasts with one of the readings from the US, where people who live near nuclear power plants are more likely to support an expansion of nuclear power. Actually, people who live near nuclear plants are fired up about all kinds of energy, the survey found, with more support for nukes, renewables, and even offshore drilling than the rest of the population.