Survey shows growing public support for nuclear in France

21 October 2021

For a majority of French people, the nuclear sector is seen as an asset for the country's energy independence, a public opinion poll conducted by research and consulting firm BVA on behalf of Orano has found. The survey also found 53% of French people consider that nuclear power is essential for the country's energy independence.

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The survey on people's knowledge and perceptions of nuclear energy and its future as a source of tomorrow's energy in France was carried out online between 3-6 May this year with a sample of 1500 people, representative of the French population aged 18 and over. It followed a similar poll conducted in April 2019, with a representative sample of 2400 French people, who were interviewed by telephone.

The results found that for 50% of those questioned, nuclear power is an asset for the country. Among the reasons given by respondents in favour of nuclear energy were the energy independence of France (53%, up from 46% in 2019) and the low cost of electricity (30%). Those questioned also cited the positive role of nuclear as a source of uninterrupted electricity production (39%). In addition, the proportion of French people who identify nuclear as a handicap fell from 34% in 2019 to 15%, showing the erosion of opposition to this form of energy.

Asked more specifically about France's energy independence, 42% of respondents made the production of nuclear energy in the country the most important argument concerning the link between nuclear power and France's independence, while 36% said it is better for France to maintain control of its energy sector.

Orano said the results of the poll indicate the knowledge of the French people is improving on the role of nuclear in the fight against climate change and on the country's future energy mix.

While a majority of French people (58%, down from 69% in 2019) still believe that nuclear power contributes to the production of greenhouse gases and to climate change, only 19% now say that this impact is significant (compared with 34% in 2019). This improvement, the company said, demonstrates the effectiveness of the educational work of nuclear players on this issue, which must be pursued. At the same time, the share of French people believing that coal, oil and gas produce less CO2 than nuclear has halved.

The poll found that 64% of respondents believe France's future energy mix will be composed of nuclear energy and renewables (up from 54% in 2019), while 21% believe it will be based entirely on renewables (down from 26% in 2019). 59% of those questioned said they expect the use of nuclear power in France to increase or remain stable in the future.

The survey showed radioactive waste remains a matter of concern for the French. Although 66% of respondents said they were aware of the possibility of recycling used nuclear fuel, 59% said they were concerned about the production of non-recyclable radioactive waste. However, the treatment of nuclear waste is seen as a less central issue for future generations than the fight against climate change or the preservation of natural resources (30%, 53% and 36%, respectively).

"The results of this study confirm the improvement in the perception of nuclear power by our fellow citizens, as a source of continuous low-carbon electricity supply contributing to the fight against climate change," said Orano CEO Philippe Knoche. "We must continue the educational work carried out by the group and the entire industry, in order to make more widely known the importance of the role of nuclear power in the energy transition."

France derives about 70% of its electricity from nuclear energy, due to a long-standing policy based on energy security. Government policy is to reduce this to 50% by 2035.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News