Survey shows confidence in existing plants but little enthusiasm for new ones
A fresh poll from the Field Research Corporation shows statewide support for nuclear power plummeting.
The survey, taken earlier this month, shows that support for expanding nuclear power in California has dropped to 38%, from 48% last year, when only 44% opposed the idea. In the newest poll, 58% surveyed said they did not agree that more nuclear power plants should be built in the state.
Field analysts say the numbers are a clear reflection of the shift in sentiment worldwide, since the Fukushima nuclear crisis in Japan, a tense series of events that have remained front page news since March 11. Since then, Germany, Switzerland and Italy have all decided to scrap their nuclear energy programs.
In spite of it all, confidence in California’s existing nuclear plants remains high. Only two plants remain in service, PG&E’s Diablo Canyon facility on the Central Coast, and the San Onofre plant, operated jointly by Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric. And according to the Field Poll, Californians expressed confidence in the safety of those installations by almost two-to-one (56%-32%). Just 39% of respondents said that the state should phase out nuclear power over ten years.
A report accompanying the poll results says that attitudes toward nuclear power have closely tracked high-profile incidents over the years, with support dropping after accidents at Three Mile Island (PA) in 1979 and Chernobyl (Ukraine) in 1986. Support peaked in 1976 at 69% and has not crested 50% since the Three Mile Island incident. Statewide, opposition is most concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area, according to Field.
The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.6 percentage points.
UPCOMING Coverage: In July, Climate Watch and our content partners will provide a series of reports on seismic safety and the problem of accumulating nuclear waste at California’s nuclear power plants. The latter will include a three-part radio series, to air on KQED’s The California Report, in advance of a national commission report, due out on July 29.