Nuclear energy stands at a crucial moment in its history. At COP 28 in Dubai, a major coalition of nuclear powers, including the United Kingdom, France and the United States, signed a pledge to triple global nuclear capacity by 2050 as part of a transition to net zero emissions. The pledge recognizes high support for nuclear energy from around the world.

Radiant Energy Group commissioned a public opinion survey on nuclear and other clean energy sources, gathering over one million data points from 20,000 respondents from across 20 countries. The new Public Attitudes toward Clean Energy (PACE) survey tracks support and opposition for clean energy sources, what drives those attitudes, and how institutions can better cater to what the public wants. Fieldwork was undertaken before the COP 28 climate conference between October 17th and November 14th, 2023.

Key Findings in the UK: 

The public supports the continued and expanded use of nuclear energy.

  • 65% say the country should keep using nuclear energy

  • 46% say the country should keep using and build new nuclear reactors, over 2.5x more than the 18% that say the country should phase out and ban the use of nuclear energy.

  • The majority of those supporting nuclear new builds in the UK think the government should subsidize those new builds.

Net support for nuclear energy is 14%, significantly behind wind and solar and in line with gas with CCS, a technology set to be another cornerstone of the UK’s energy transition.

  • Net support represents the difference between the 43% supporting and the 29% opposing nuclear energy’s use in the country.

  • The country’s net support for nuclear is 14th highest of 20 countries surveyed, ahead of Canada and Japan but behind Germany, France and the USA.

  • Net support for nuclear energy is lower than for onshore wind (67%) and large-scale solar farms (66%) but in line with the net support for gas with carbon capture (13%).

There is large demographic variation in net support for nuclear energy.

  • In all 20 countries surveyed, men support nuclear energy at a greater rate than women. The range is stark in the UK, at 38% and with a majority of women opposing the energy. Of the nuclear powered nations surveyed, the UK’s gender gap in support is second only to that of Belgium.

  • In the UK, there exists the 2nd highest gap in net support driven by knowledge level. Of those who self-identified as “knowing a lot” about how nuclear energy works there is 43% net support for nuclear’s use, significantly higher than the 18% net opposition among those who “don’t know” how nuclear energy works.

A majority say they are concerned about nuclear waste management, but most of those still support nuclear energy’s use. 

  • 80% of Brits say they are concerned about nuclear waste management. 43% are “very concerned” and 38% are “fairly concerned.”

  • Of those who are concerned, 39% nonetheless support the use of nuclear energy in the country, exceeding the 33% opposing.

  • Whether people saw nuclear as reliable or not had significantly better correlation with support than concern over waste or safety.

Almost half say they view nuclear energy as a greenhouse gas emitter, detracting confidence in it as a solution to climate change.

  • 46% view nuclear energy as an emitter of greenhouse gas emissions. 22% say it creates “a great deal” and 24% say it creates a “fair amount”.

  • Those that view nuclear energy as a greenhouse gas emitter show a 2x higher level of opposition to the energy’s use than those viewing it as clean.

“This year may have marked a turning point for the nuclear energy industry. The COP28 pledge to triple global nuclear capacity by 2050 meets the public’s overwhelming demand for new nuclear to be built,” said Richard Ollington, the report’s author.

About the poll:

The Public Attitudes toward Clean Energy (PACE) Index is the world’s largest publicly-released study on attitudes towards nuclear energy. Surveying is conducted by Savanta, and commissioned and analyzed by Radiant Energy Group. Total sample size was 20,122 adults, aged 18+, evenly split across 20 countries. Fieldwork was undertaken between October 17th and November 14th, 2023, with the specific fieldwork periods varying slightly by country. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted to be nationally representative within each country across age, gender and region.

About Radiant Energy Group:

Radiant Energy Group is an energy consultancy that offers clear thinking and sound strategic advice on the energy transition. We provide leaders with the data-driven insights and roadmaps they need to bring about a low-carbon, high-energy future.