European citizens want nuclear waste problem dealt with now

Europeans think that nuclear power generators should be responsible for their nuclear waste now, and not leave the problem for future generations to solve, a survey of 16,000 European citizens has revealed.

The survey was commissioned by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy and Transport, and comprised interviews investigating the opinions and knowledge about the nuclear industry of around 1,000 people aged 15 and over in each European Union country. The survey found that 80% of respondents believed that nuclear waste should be dealt with now.

One concern expressed about the nuclear industry was proximity to underground disposal sites, with 39% worried about the risk of leaks, and 38% concerned about long-term risk for future generations. Twenty nine percent of respondents were very worried about how radioactive waste is handled within their own countries, although in Sweden this figure is only 11% whilst in Greece it is 65%.

However, Europeans are far more concerned about how radioactive waste is handled in countries other than their own, with 49% being ‘very worried’.

Nevertheless, a majority of respondents also stated that if all waste is managed safely, nuclear power should remain an option for electricity production in Europe. However, the majority of people polled in Austria were opposed to continuing use of nuclear power, one explanation being the country’s fear of the notorious Czech nuclear plant at Temelin, just across the border (see related story).

Trusted sources of information include independent scientists and non-governmental organisations, whilst only 11% of respondents stated that they trust what the nuclear industry says.

Respondents’ level of knowledge on nuclear power issues varied. For example, over one-third of those polled across the Union were unaware that nuclear power produces less greenhouse gas emissions than other major energy sources. However, this varied considerably between countries, with only 3.6% in Sweden being unaware of nuclear power’s low greenhouse gas emissions, compared to 55% in Spain.

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