State of Nuclear Energy Support in the UK and its Driving Forces

Nuclear energy has record public support and is now the UK’s second favorite source of clean energy. Further gains in support may be realized if the importance of energy reliability increases or awareness of nuclear’s ability to tackle climate change improves, especially among women and Labour voters.

Welcome


The Nuclear Confidence Project was launched to better educate the nuclear industry about what the public needs and expects from clean energy, the project tracks public perceptions of clean energy sources and what drives those attitudes. The Nuclear Confidence Project is the UK’s largest publicly-released study on attitudes towards nuclear energy. Surveying is conducted by YouGov with data spanning over 1,800 respondents, 45 questions and 10 demographic breakdowns.

“After decades of poorly communicating the risks and rewards of nuclear energy, the nuclear industry has a confidence problem. Our research indicates the industry may be more afraid of the public than the public is of it.
In order to be responsible and effective stewards of the energy sector, we believe the industry must learn what really motivates the public to act, not just its fears but also its hopes and ambitions.”

Mark W. Nelson, Founder and CEO at Radiant Energy Group


“Record support for nuclear energy is to be celebrated. Without support, the UK would be politically handicapped in its efforts to tackle climate change, energy security, and energy poverty. While Great British Nuclear is riding an unprecedented wave of public support there are sharp gender and political demographic splits that could harm the industry. To mitigate risk, the industry should listen and act on the public’s desire for an energy source that tackles climate change."

Richard Ollington, Manager at Radiant Energy Group


 

Executive summary


Confidence in nuclear energy

  • Public support for nuclear energy in the UK is at record levels* With more than double the supporters (44%) of nuclear energy than opposers (19%) net support for nuclear energy’s use for generating electricity in the UK is at its highest level in over ten years.

  • Nuclear energy is the UK's second most preferred clean energy source 18% of the public think Britain should focus on nuclear energy’s use for moving the UK towards its net zero goal, behind 23% for wind and ahead of 16% for wave/tidal and 13% for solar energies.


Relative support for nuclear energy

  • Nuclear energy is the only major clean energy source to have an annual increase in net support* While net support for nuclear energy has risen 3%pts year-on-year to +24%, net support has dropped 5%pts for on- and off-shore wind and 13%pts for solar energies.

  • Net support for nuclear energy lags that of wind and solar energies Net support for nuclear energy is +24%, behind that of on-shore wind (+59%), off-shore wind (+67%), and solar (+69%) energies.


Preference for nuclear energy

  • Energy experts have a significant preference for nuclear energy 38% of people who self-identify as having a lot of knowledge about how all of nuclear, wind and solar energies work have a preference for nuclear energy, over twice as many as for wind (18%) and over three times as many as for solar (11%) energies.

  • People who favor a mix of all major clean energy sources have a significant preference for nuclear energy 33% of people who support the use of nuclear, wind, and solar energies in the UK have a preference for nuclear energy, higher than the 22% preference for wind or 11% preference for solar energies.


Key drivers of support

  • Perceived ability to tackle climate change is the most important driver of support for nuclear energy Shapley Regression analysis is used to determine the relative importance of eight energy considerations in driving support for nuclear energy. The ability to tackle climate change is the most important attribute analyzed with a weighting of 35%, twice as important as reliability (18%), and triple that of health & safety or waste management considerations (11%). People who view nuclear energy as a solution to climate change are 13x more likely to support its use (76%) than oppose it (6%), and 4x more likely to support its use than people who do not view nuclear energy as a solution to climate change.


Splits in support

  • Nuclear new builds at approved sites in Sizewell, Bradwell, and Oldbury, could benefit from high levels of local support Nuclear energy is the preferred clean energy source in the East of England, North West, and East Midlands and has high net support in the South West and West Midlands.

  • A positive redressing of the gender imbalance in nuclear energy confidence should significantly benefit UK-wide levels of net support Driven by concerns over nuclear energy’s ability to tackle climate change, net support for nuclear energy in women is +5%, significantly behind the +44% levels in men.

  • Unless support improves among Labour voters, the UK’s long-term nuclear energy program may be at risk to changes in government Conservative voters have significantly higher levels of net support (+43%) for nuclear energy than political rival Labour (+12%). This dynamic is seen regardless of gender, age, or social grade. There is a risk to the nuclear industry that the current Conservative government is replaced by a less-supportive political party. Operating over long timeframes the nuclear industry is highly exposed to changes in policy.


* Based on comparison of YouGov data with historical BEIS data. Both surveys used the same question and similar answer wording with differences in response collection, weighting, and sampling methodology. BEIS: Public Attitudes Tracker



 

1. Confidence in nuclear energy

1A. Current support for nuclear energy


There is significant public support for nuclear energy in the UK.


With more than double the supporters (44%) of nuclear energy than opposers (19%) net support for nuclear energy’s use for generating electricity in the UK is at +24%.


There is significant potential for nuclear energy support to grow. 37% of the public either don't know or neither support nor oppose the use of nuclear energy. The share of the public without an opinion for/against nuclear energy is high relative to the 22-25% shares seen in wind (on/off-shore) and solar energies.




1B. Historic support


Net support for nuclear energy is at its highest level since BEIS records began in 2012*.


The previous peak in support for nuclear energy was in 2014 when news that Hinkley Point C had been recommended for approval was reported a week before the survey was conducted. The 2022 snapshot avoided a similar skew by surveying before the announcement of Sizewell being granted a Development Consent Order.


The increased support for nuclear energy is most apparent among men where net support grew 10%pts within a year, whereas over the same period, it fell 6%pts among women.


Net support for nuclear energy lags that of wind and solar energies.


Net support for nuclear energy is +24%, behind that of on-shore wind (+59%), off-shore wind (+67%), and solar (+69%) energies.

However, the gap in net support between nuclear energy and wind and solar energies has been narrowing since its highest point in 2019. Where in 2019 nuclear energy lagged on-shore wind’s net support by 62%pts, in 2022 the gap narrowed to 34%pts.


Nuclear energy is the only major clean energy source to have an annual increase in net support*.


While net support for nuclear energy has risen 3%pts year-on-year to +24%, net support has dropped for on-shore wind (6%pts), off-shore wind (5%pts), and solar (13%pts) energies.




1C. Current preference


Nuclear energy is the UK's second most preferred clean energy source.


18% of the public think Britain should focus on nuclear energy over other sources in order to reach the UK’s net zero goal, behind 23% for wind and ahead of 16% for wave/tidal and 13% for solar energies. Of the energies surveyed, gas with carbon capture and storage (CCS) is the UK's least preferred clean energy source with 3% of the UK public having a preference for its use in reaching net zero.


In 2020 the UK obtained 12.7% of its primary energy from low carbon sources. Of low carbon sources, 51% was from nuclear, 31% from wind, 6% from solar, and <1% from gas +CCS or wave & tidal sources. There is a large discrepancy between wave & tidal's 16% share of public preference and its negligible share of the UK's primary energy mix.



* Based on comparison of YouGov data with historical BEIS data. Both surveys used the same question and similar answer wording with differences in response collection, weighting, and sampling methodology. BEIS: Public Attitudes Tracker



 

2. Energy attributes

2A. Ranking of key energy attributes


Ability to combat climate change, reliability, and cost are the UK public’s three most valued energy attributes.


When asked to select the three energy considerations of most importance to them, 50% of the public selected tackling climate change, 44% selected reliability, and 44% selected cost to be one of their top three considerations. Other considerations available for selection included: natural resource use, well-regulated industry, health & safety, waste management, job opportunities, don’t know and other.


The same three energy attributes are of most importance for the majority of demographic breakdowns. Exceptions to this are: people aged >65 for whom a well-regulated industry is of high importance; and people in the highest 'A' social grade for whom natural resource use is a more important energy attribute than cost impact on energy bills.


The UK's current energy crisis is expected to have driven support for reliability and cost concerns. Conversely, low UK unemployment is expected to have contributed to the low prioritization of job creation as a key energy attribute.




2B. Performance against key energy attributes


Despite being the UK’s lowest carbon source of energy net approval for nuclear energy’s ability to tackle climate change is considerably lower than that for wind and solar energies.


There is +22% net approval (47% a great deal or fair amount, 26% not very much or not at all) for nuclear energy’s ability to tackle climate change, considerably lower than +61% and +58% net approval for wind and solar energies respectively.


Less than half of the UK public (47%) view nuclear energy as helping a great deal or a fair amount in tackling climate change, significantly below the >70% who view wind and solar as climate change solutions, and out of sync with expert views that nuclear energy is the lowest carbon source of energy available and use of nuclear energy is required to reach net zero.


People not concerned about climate change are similarly likely to view nuclear energy as a climate change solution, or not, as groups concerned about climate change.


A significant variation is seen between men’s and women’s perceptions of nuclear energy as a climate change solution. Men are almost twice as likely to view nuclear energy as helping a great deal or a fair amount in tackling climate change (62%) as women (34%).


The belief that nuclear energy is not a solution to climate change is declining. While in BEIS data between 2012-2020 a consistent 50-60% of the public opposed the idea that nuclear energy would help combat climate change in the UK, this latest YouGov data finds that just a quarter (26%) think nuclear energy would not help tackle climate change*.



The public considers nuclear energy to be the most reliable major source of clean energy.


On balance, nuclear energy is perceived to be the most reliable major source of clean energy in the UK with over 6x more people believing nuclear energy to be very or fairly reliable (62%) than not very or not at all reliable (10%). By contrast, wind and solar energies are viewed by 20% and 30% respectively as being not very or not at all reliable and viewed by 65% and 55% respectively as being very or fairly reliable.


Women are significantly less likely to view nuclear energy as a reliable source of energy (48%) than men (78%). The majority of the variation is attributable to differences in people answering 'don't know', with only 12% of women and 8% of men believing nuclear energy to not be reliable.

The belief that nuclear energy does not provide a reliable source of energy has declined. Between 2012-2020 a consistent 40-50% of the public did not support the view that nuclear energy is reliable, in 2022 this declined to 10%*.


There is large uncertainty over the cost impact on bills from the use of all major clean energy sources.


37% of the public do not know whether the use of nuclear energy would make energy bills cheaper, this share is 27% for wind and 26% for solar energies. By contrast, levels of uncertainty average 27% for nuclear energy and 14% for wind and solar energies on questions about energy reliability and ability to tackle climate change.


The public is significantly more unsure of nuclear energy's impact on energy bills than wind or solar energies. High levels of uncertainty detract from nuclear energy being viewed as much of a low-cost energy source as wind or solar energies.


Among women, there is significantly higher uncertainty over nuclear energy’s cost impact on bills, the share of women who don't know about nuclear energy's impact on bills (49%) is double that for men (23%). Among people with a view on nuclear energy’s impact on bills, there is similarly positive net approval from women as men.


Few people (16%) believe the growing use of nuclear energy would lead to slightly or much more expensive energy bills, and concern over the use of wind and solar energies are similarly small, 13% and 14% respectively.


People not worried about energy bills are marginally more likely to believe that nuclear energy's use would reduce their bills in the future (31%) than people worried about energy bills (27%).


Nuclear energy is considered the leading major source of clean energy for creating a large number of well-paid jobs.


There is +41% net approval for nuclear energy’s ability to create new job opportunities, higher than that for wind (+38%) and solar (+34%) energies. Of the job opportunities created, jobs in nuclear energy are most considered well paid with +43% net approval, higher than that for wind (+28%) and solar (+26%) energies. Across energy sources, levels of “don’t know” answers are high for questions about job creation potential (47-52%) and job pay (29-31%).


The level of pay and number of job opportunities created are both perceived to be highest in the use of nuclear energy, above that of wind and solar energies. 10x more people believe nuclear energy to be well paid than not well paid, a ratio that drops to 3.9x and 3.3x for wind and solar energies. 4x more people believe the use of nuclear energy to be a jobs creator than not, a ratio that drops to 3.3x and 2.8x for wind and solar energies.


Discrepancies between male and female net approval for nuclear energy as a creator of well-paid jobs are mostly attributable to differences in ‘don’t know’ responses. The share of women who do not know whether the use of nuclear energy would create new job opportunities (40%) is almost double that of men (22%). Over 50% more women do not know whether nuclear energy offered well-paid jobs (57%) than men (37%).


There is net concern about nuclear energy’s non-climate environmental impacts.


On balance, the UK public is concerned about nuclear energy’s impact on natural resource use (43% concerned and 31% not concerned), health & safety (59% concerned and 23% not concerned), and waste management (63% concerned and 18% not concerned).


Women have greater uncertainty over nuclear energy’s non-climate environmental impacts than men. However, of people who hold a view, women are consistently and significantly more concerned than men over nuclear energy’s non-climate environmental credentials.


The different wording of BEIS and YouGov questions about nuclear energy safety invalidates historical comparison. In BEIS’ 2021 survey, 21% of the public disagreed with the statement that nuclear energy provides a safe source of energy in the UK. By contrast in YouGov’s 2022 survey, 59% of the public were fairly or very concerned about the health & safety considerations from the use of nuclear energy in the UK.


Survey respondents were not asked about their views on wind and solar energies’ performance against natural resource use, health & safety, and waste management criteria.


* BEIS and YouGov use similar question wording to asses support for nuclear as a climate change solution or a reliable energy source however, different answer options, response collection, weighting, and sampling methodologies are used. BEIS: Public Attitudes Tracker



 

3. Drivers of confidence

3A. Drivers of support for nuclear energy


Perceived ability to tackle climate change is the most important driver of support for nuclear energy.


Shapley Regression analysis is used to determine the relative importance of eight energy considerations in driving support for nuclear energy. The ability to tackle climate change is the most important attribute analyzed with a weighting of 35%. Nuclear energy’s reliability is its best performing attribute with a net approval score of +53%.


The ability to tackle climate change is identified as the most important driver for the majority of demographic breakdowns. Exceptions to this are seen in groups who are not at all concerned about climate change, not at all worried about energy bills, are in social grade D, or have an annual household income below £20k for whom reliability is the primary driver. For social grade E, the pay of jobs in the nuclear industry is the most important driver of support for nuclear energy.



An improving public perception of nuclear energy’s ability to tackle climate change should drive support for nuclear energy more than an improvement in public perception of any other energy attribute. The ability to tackle climate change is the most important attribute analyzed with a weighting of 35%, almost twice as important as reliability (18%), and over 3x more important than health & safety and waste management considerations (11%).


A growing in the importance of energy reliability should drive support for nuclear energy more than a growth in importance of any other energy attribute. Nuclear energy’s reliability is its best performing attribute with a net approval of +53%, no other energy attribute can be expected to drive support in nuclear energy through growing importance as well as energy reliability. In combination with reliability being the UK public’s second most important driver of support for nuclear energy (18%), nuclear energy’s well perceived reliability can be seen as underpinning its public support.


Natural resource use, health & safety, and waste management are of secondary importance in driving support for nuclear energy. While these are nuclear energy’s worst performing attributes their below-average importance scores of 9-11% mean that an improving public perception in nuclear energy’s environmental credentials should have a 3x lower impact on the net support for nuclear energy than if the same improvement were seen in the approval of its ability to tackle climate change.


The least significant drivers of support for nuclear energy are views on the level of pay of nuclear energy jobs (1%), the job opportunities created by the use of nuclear energy (8%), and the impact the use of nuclear energy has on energy bills (6%).


Given cost is identified as one of the public’s top three energy considerations it had been expected to be a more important driver of support for nuclear energy. High rates of “don’t know” responses when asked about the use of nuclear, wind, and solar energies’ impact on bills suggest that respondents are limited in their knowledge about how the choice of energy source impacts end consumer energy bills, an admittedly complex link that even experts can be in disagreement on. The importance of other cost metrics, like overnight construction cost and levelized cost of electricity, in driving support for nuclear energy may be higher than that identified.



3B. Impact on energy attribute performance on support for nuclear energy


The ability to tackle climate change is self-identified to be the public's most important energy attribute, it is also the attribute that most closely correlates with support for nuclear energy.


People who view nuclear energy as a solution to climate change are 13x more likely to support its use (76%) than oppose it (6%), and 4x more likely to support its use than people who do not view nuclear energy as a solution to climate change.


Conversely, people who do not view nuclear energy as a solution to climate change are 3x more likely to oppose its use (50%) than support it (18%), and 8x more likely to oppose its use than people who do view it as a climate change solution.


93% of people who view nuclear energy as helping a great deal with tackling climate change support its use. A similarly large correlation is seen in attitudes towards wind and solar energies. However, where c.40% of the UK public view wind and solar energies as helping a great deal with tackling climate change only 22% hold that view with nuclear energy.


Given current levels of support, a UK-wide public confident in nuclear energy’s ability to tackle climate change could be expected to have net support for nuclear energy as high as +70%, higher than that of on-shore wind (+59%), off-shore wind (+67%) and solar (+69%) energies.



Reliability is an important driver of support for nuclear energy but has a lower headroom of people not convinced than other energy attributes


Among people who do not view nuclear energy as reliable, there is large (64%) opposition to its use with little support (11%). People who do view nuclear energy as reliable are 5x more likely to support its use (66%) than oppose it (14%), and 6x more likely to support its use than people who do not view nuclear as a reliable source of energy.


With only 10% of the public viewing nuclear energy as not reliable, unless the importance of energy reliability to the public increases, there is little margin for national support for nuclear energy to grow as perceptions about its reliability improves.


Relative to climate change tackling ability and reliability, there is a low correlation between views on nuclear energy’s ability to provide a large number of well-paid job opportunities and support for its use.


People who view nuclear energy as a job creator are 4x more likely to support its use (64%) than oppose it (15%), and twice as likely to support its use than people who do not view nuclear energy as a job creator (28%).


The share of the public who view nuclear energy as providing well-paid jobs are 3x more likely to support its use (60%) than oppose it (20%), and almost twice as likely to support its use than people who do not view nuclear energy as providing well-paid jobs (35%).


There is net support for nuclear energy’s use regardless of whether it is viewed as making energy bills more expensive or not.


People who believe the use of nuclear energy would make their bills more expensive have similar levels of support (43%) for and opposition (34%) to nuclear energy as people who believe nuclear energy would make no difference to bills (48% support and 26% oppose). By contrast, the belief that nuclear energy’s use would make bills slightly or much cheaper aligns with large (76%) support for nuclear energy and low levels (9%) of opposition.


There is net support for nuclear energy’s use regardless of whether it makes energy bills cheaper (+68%), the same price (+22%), or more expensive (+9%).


There is net support for nuclear energy’s use regardless of concern, or not, over its non-climate environmental implications.


There is net support for nuclear energy’s use among people who are concerned about its natural resource use (+6%), health & safety (+9%), or waste management (+16%) implications. Net support is higher among people not concerned about nuclear energy’s natural resource use (+67%), health & safety (+80%), or waste management (+76%) implications.


The net support for nuclear energy regardless of non-climate environmental concerns aligns with Shapley Regression analysis showing the level of concern over natural resource use, health and safety and waste management are of low (9-11%) importance to overall support for nuclear energy relative to perceived ability to tackle climate change or reliability.


Support for nuclear energy is highest among people who view it as reducing utility bills, a climate change solution, or who are not concerned about its natural resource use, waste management, or health & safety implications.


Over three-quarters of the public support the use of nuclear energy if they also hold the view that nuclear energy would reduce the cost of energy bills (76%), is a solution to climate change (76%), or are not concerned about nuclear energy’s natural resource use (76%), waste management (80%), or health & safety (83%) implications.


Opposition to nuclear energy is highest among people who view it as not reliable or not able to tackle climate change.


Over half the public oppose the use of nuclear energy if they also hold the view that nuclear energy is not reliable (64%) or is not able to tackle climate change (50%).



 

4. Demographic breakdowns in nuclear energy confidence


4A. Breakdowns in support and preferences for nuclear energy


The greatest variation in net support for nuclear energy is seen across levels of energy knowledge, gender, and political splits.


Across levels of energy knowledge, gender, and political demographic splits there is a 51%, 39%, and 31% variation in net support respectively. Net support of +51% among people who self-identify as knowing a lot about how nuclear energy works includes 70% support for nuclear energy’s use, triple the rate of support observed among people who do not know how nuclear energy works (23%) where net support is at +0%.

Demographic

Lowest net support

Highest net support

Max variance in net support

Nuclear energy knowledge

Don't know how it works: +0%

23% support

22% opposition

Know a lot about how it works: +51%

70% support

19% opposition

High: 51%

Gender

Women: +5%

30% support

24% opposition

Men: +44%

59% support

14% opposition

High: 39%

Political affiliation

Labour: +12%

38% support

25% opposition

Conservative: +43%

56% support

13% opposition

High: 31%

Age

25-34: +8%

29% support

21% opposition

>65: +33%

53% support

20% opposition

Medium: 25%

Social grade

E: +17%

36% support

20% opposition

A: +38%

58% support

20% opposition

Medium: 21%

Local siting of energy source

Area NOT used for nuclear energy generation: +37%

57% support

20% opposition

Area used for nuclear energy generation: +55%*

68% support

13% opposition

Medium: 18%

Region

Scotland: +17%

38% support

21% opposition

East Midlands: +34%

51% support

17% opposition

Medium: 17%

Area type

Rural: +20%

46% support

26% opposition

Town and fringe: +32%

49% support

17% opposition

Low: 12%

Ethnicity

Ethnic minorities: +18%

33% support

15% opposition

White: +26%

45% support

20% opposition

Low :8%

Household income

£10-20k: +21%

39% support

18% oppose

>£50k: +28%

52% support

23% opposition

Low: 7%


Support for nuclear energy is highest in the following groups:


People who self-identify as knowing a lot about how nuclear energy works (70%) or who self-identify as living in an area used for nuclear energy* (68%). Nationally support levels are 44%.

Opposition to nuclear energy is lowest in the following groups:


People who self-identify as living in an area used for nuclear energy* (13%), Conservative voters in 2019 (13%), people from social grade D (13%), men (14%), people aged 16-24 (14%), ethnic minorities (15%), and people with an annual household income of less than £10k (16%). Nationally, a 19% share of the public opposes the use of nuclear energy.

Pockets of significant net support/opposition for nuclear energy exist.


11% of the UK public identify as men who voted Conservative in the 2019 general election and who view nuclear energy as a solution to climate change. Within this group, there is +92% net support for nuclear energy, with the share supporting nuclear energy’s use (93%) over double the national average (44%).


By contrast, 4% of the UK public identify as women who voted Labour in the 2019 general election and who do not view nuclear energy as a solution to climate change. Within this group, there is –56% net support (56% net opposition) for nuclear energy, with the share supporting nuclear energy’s use (6%) 7x lower than the national average (44%).

People who favor a mix of all major clean energy sources have a significant preference for nuclear energy.


Of people who support the use of nuclear, wind, and solar energies in the UK, 1-in-3 have a preference for nuclear energy, over wind (22%) and solar (11%) energies.



Energy experts have a significant preference for nuclear energy.


38% of people who self-identify as having a lot of knowledge about how all of nuclear, wind and solar energies work have a preference for nuclear energy, over twice as many as for wind (18%) and over 3x as many as for solar (11%).


People who most value energy reliability and a well-regulated industry have a high preference for nuclear energy.


27% of the public who value energy reliability or a well-regulated industry have a preference for nuclear energy, for both of these opinion-based groups wind is the second most preferred energy with 22% of the public preferencing its use.


People who most value tackling climate change and minimizing natural resource use have a low preference for nuclear energy.


Nuclear energy is the fourth-most preferred source of clean energy among people who value tackling climate change or minimizing natural resource use with a 13% and 14% share of the public preferencing its use respectively.



*Not sufficiently statistically significant



4B. Opportunities, Assurances, and Risks


Opportunity: Nuclear new builds at approved sites in Sizewell, Bradwell, and Oldbury could benefit from high levels of local support.


Nuclear energy is the preferred clean energy source in the East of England, North West, and East Midlands and has relatively high net support in the South West and West Midlands.


Opportunity: A positive redressing of the gender imbalance in nuclear energy confidence should significantly benefit UK levels of net support.


Support for nuclear energy is almost twice as high in men (59%) as women (30%), with opposition higher in women (24%) than men (14%). If confidence in nuclear energy among women were to match levels seen in men national net support for nuclear energy would be expected to rise significantly from +24% to +44%.


Assurance: YIMBYism (Yes In My Back Yard) towards nuclear energy eases operational hurdles and lowers barriers to building new reactors.


While not sufficiently statistically significant people self-reporting as living in areas already used to develop nuclear energy have higher levels of net support (+55%) for nuclear energy's use than people self-reporting to live in areas not currently or planned to have nuclear energy facilities (+37%).

Assurance: As the public grows more informed about clean energy options net support for nuclear energy can be expected to grow.


Nuclear energy is more positively viewed the better energy is understood. People self-reported as having a lot of knowledge about how all of nuclear, wind and solar energies work have 3.5x higher rates of support (69%) for nuclear energy than opposition (20%).


Risk: Younger demographics could erode national support for nuclear energy as years progress.


Support for nuclear energy is lower among younger age groups. 53% of over 65s support nuclear energy whereas 29% of 25-34-year-olds do. As today’s youth filter through the population support for nuclear energy could erode.


Risk: Unless support for nuclear energy improves among Labour voters, the UK’s long-term nuclear energy program may be at risk to changes in government.


Conservative voters have significantly higher levels of net support (+43%) for nuclear energy than political rival Labour (+12%). This dynamic is seen regardless of gender, age, or social grade. There is a risk to the nuclear industry that the current Conservative government is replaced by a less-supportive political party. Operating over long timeframes the nuclear industry is highly exposed to changes in policy.




 

5. Conclusion


A significant improvement has been seen in UK public confidence in nuclear energy.


With over two times more Brits supporting nuclear energy’s use for generating electricity than opposing it net support is at its highest level in over 10 years*. Seen to be driving this shift is the growing appreciation by the public that nuclear energy is a solution to climate change and is a reliable source of clean energy. The current climate and energy crisis are expected to have contributed to these shifts.

Greater public appreciation of nuclear energy's climate credentials and greater concern over energy reliability would most drive improvements in net support for nuclear energy’s use.


The belief that the use of nuclear energy would tackle climate change is the most important driver of support for its use and nuclear energy’s reliability is its best performing attribute.

While a large share of the public is concerned with nuclear energy’s natural resource use, waste management, and health & safety implications, these groups all have net support for nuclear energy’s use, with there being a relatively low correlation between non-climate environmental concern and net support for nuclear energy.

Women and politically left-leaning demographics are least supportive of nuclear energy’s use.


Two of the most significant demographic splits in support for nuclear energy are seen across gender and political leanings, with +5% net support among women and +12% among Labour voters, significantly lower than the +24% national average.

Net support for nuclear energy can match the levels of support for wind and solar energies.


There is +92% net support for nuclear energy among the 11% of the UK public identifying as men who voted Conservative in the 2019 general election and who view nuclear energy as a solution to climate change. A progressive easing of gender and political splits in support and improved perception of nuclear energy’s climate credentials could drive net support for nuclear energy to match, if not exceed, that of solar (+69%) and wind (+59-67%) energies.


*Based on comparison of YouGov data with historical BEIS data. Both surveys used the same question and similar answer wording with differences in response collection, weighting, and sampling methodology. BEIS: Public Attitudes Tracker


 

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Methodology


This report presents insights from a study conducted by YouGov on behalf of Radiant Energy Group. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,802 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 24th - 26th June 2022. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are nationally and politically representative of all UK adults (aged 18+)

YouGov 2022 data collection This survey has been conducted using an online interview administered to members of the YouGov Plc GB panel of 185,000+ individuals who have agreed to take part in surveys. An email was sent to panelists selected at random from the base sample of nationally and politically representative UK adults, inviting them to take part in the survey and providing a link to the survey. YouGov Plc normally achieves a response rate of between 35% and 50% to surveys however this does vary dependent on the subject matter, complexity, and length of the questionnaire. The responding sample is weighted to the profile of the sample definition to provide a representative reporting sample. The profile is normally derived from census data or, if not available from the census, from industry-accepted data.


BEIS 2010-2021 data collection

All historical data is sourced from the UK’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) Public Attitudes Tracker respondent-level data downloads. YouGov questions about support for energy use for generating electricity in the UK make use of the same question and answer wording as the BEIS survey. Both surveys use different response collection methodologies, including YouGov’s use of online response collection and BEIS’s use of call-based response collection.

Radiant Energy Group’s questions and answer lists rationale In question 5, the list of energy options listed is based on energies with potential for widespread scaling in the UK and assessed as having a life-cycle greenhouse gas emission intensity of <100 gCO2eq./kWh.

In question 7, the list of energy considerations is selected to include a broad mix of economic (cost, reliability, jobs), environmental (climate change, natural resource use, waste management), social (health & safety), and governance (well-regulated industry) criteria.

Across multiple questions, the split in questions by nuclear, wind, and solar energies is chosen as these energies account for >75% share of the UK’s clean electricity mix and are assessed as having a life-cycle greenhouse gas emission intensity of <100 gCO2eq./kWh.

Calculation of net scoring Net support for energy sources is calculated by subtracting the share of the public that opposes the use of the energy source from the share of the public that supports the use of the energy source. Net support (%) = Total support (%) – Total opposition (%)

Net approval for how energy sources perform against energy attributes is calculated by subtracting the share of the public that does not approve of the energy source’s performance from the share of the public that does approve of the energy source’s performance. Net approval (%) = Total approval (%) – Total non-approval (%)

Totals are calculated using respondent-level data to improve accuracy of results. Analysis of cross-tab data may lead to rounding errors when compared with respondent-level data.

Shapley Regression analysis Regression analysis is used to identify the energy attributes that best correlate with support for nuclear energy. Where section 3A notes the energy attributes respondents stated as important to their decision making, regression analysis calculates the energy attributes that are observed to be most important in driving decision making.

Shapley Regression analysis corrects for problems of multicollinearity, data noise, mix of scale usage in predictor variables, and uncertainty about which predictors to use in the model. It is standard practice to use these techniques when performing driver analysis.

Questionnaire A list of questions can be viewed in the full report download.

For more information, please contact:

Richard Ollington Manager at Radiant Energy Group richard@radiantenergygroup.com