Britons are becoming more positive towards nuclear energy

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
October 04, 2022, 10:06 AM GMT+0

Net support for nuclear energy is up 21 points since summer 2021

New YouGov tracker data reveals that Britons are increasingly supportive of nuclear energy, even though perceptions of its safety remain unchanged.

From late 2019 to summer 2021, Britons were divided on using nuclear power. Around four in ten over that time period supported doing so, while a similar number opposed it.

Since then, support has been on the rise. Almost half (48%) of Britons now back the use of nuclear energy, compared to 31% who are opposed.

Over the same time period, the number of Britons who say nuclear power is the source they support most for helping meet Britain’s future energy needs has risen from 16% to 24%, seemingly eating into the traditional renewables vote slightly.

Likewise, there is now greater belief that the government is right to pay energy companies more to help develop nuclear power. While only 31% said so in late June, that has since risen to 45%. The number of people who think this would be wrong has fallen eight points over the same time period, to 30%.

That said, backing for investment in nuclear power still lags that for traditional renewables by a long margin. Willingness to see government spending on solar, wind, and tidal technologies is some 30 points ahead of nuclear, at between 74% and 77%.

These changes in perception are not related to concerns over safety, which have remained unchanged over the time period. Between 54-59% of Britons during the three-year span of the tracker have said that nuclear energy is safe, while the number considering it unsafe has never been higher than a quarter.

Conservative voters are more pro-nuclear

Across all the tracker measures, Conservative voters are notably more pro-nuclear than Labour, although support among each group has grown over the last 13 months. Six in ten Tories now support nuclear energy (up seven points from 54% in June 2021) while four in ten Labour voters say the same (up 12 points from 28%).

Likewise, 35% of Tories put nuclear at the top of their energy mix wishlist, versus 14% of Labour voters, and 57% support more government investment in nuclear to Labour’s 38%.

Conservative voters are likewise more likely than Labour voters (by73% to 52%) to consider nuclear power safe.

A separate YouGov survey conducted in late 2021 in Europe and the US found that most Britons thought nuclear energy would be necessary in the fight against climate change, but that many mistakenly believe it to be a source of significant carbon emissions.

See the latest tracker results on support for nuclear power and investment here and for nuclear safety here, and the historical tracker data at each of the following links:

Support for nuclear power

Which form energy generation has the most support

Should the government pay energy companies to help develop solar power

Should the government pay energy companies to help develop wind power

Should the government pay energy companies to help develop nuclear power

Should the government pay energy companies to help develop tidal power

How safe or unsafe is nuclear power

Explore more data & articles