Support for nuclear power amongst the French public is on the rise. However, although twice as many people now favour nuclear energy than oppose it, half of the population remains uncommitted.
The poll was carried out on behalf of the Dimanche Ouest France newspaper by independent polling company Ifop at the end of May, tracking attitudes to nuclear power two years on from the Fukushima Daiichi accident. Of the 2004 respondents, 36% declared themselves to support the use of nuclear energy in France, up from 33% in November 2011 and 32% in July 2011. Meanwhile, the proportion expressing opposition to the use of nuclear energy had fallen to 14%, down 3% from the November 2011 figures and 6% from July 2011.
About a third of the population polled (34%) described themselves as "hesitant", or undecided, towards nuclear energy. Ifop notes that for the first time since Fukushima, the pro-nuclear percentage of the population outnumbers the undecided. Meanwhile 16% of respondents said they had no opinion at all on the subject.
The respondents to the survey were selected to be representative of the adult population of France in terms of gender, age and occupation. The study found strong correlations between age and opinion on the use of nuclear, with younger people tending either to oppose nuclear or have no opinion with their older peers being more in support: 57% of those aged over 65 expressed themselves as pro-nuclear but only 24% of adults under 24 years old were in favour. Not surprisingly, political affiliations were also reflected in the results: acknowledged supporters of the antinuclear French Green party (Europe Ecologie les Verts) were resoundingly opposed (50%) or undecided (39%), while the majority of supporters of the pro-nuclear UDI and UDM parties also tended to support the use of nuclear power in France.
The survey also sought opinions on the future role of nuclear in the French energy mix, and compared them with findings from surveys carried out by Ifop both before and after Fukushima. 59% of those polled agreed that France should maintain its current nuclear share in order to ensure its energy independence, up from 54% in a study carried out in March 2013. According to Ifop, the findings are indicative of a post-Fukushima return to favour for nuclear, although still short of the 67% recorded in 2008, the most recent pre-Fukushima survey quoted in the report.
Some 41% of the May 2013 respondents agreed that France should reduce its nuclear share "because it is dangerous".
Some 75% of France's electricity is nuclear-generated thanks to a strategic decision in the early 1970s aimed at ensuring energy security for the country which has few indigenous fossil fuel resources.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News