National Poll: Americans Split on Safety of Nuclear Energy

News Story: January 17, 2013
Ø Most Support EPA Designation of Carbon Dioxide as Public Health Threat
Ø Majorities See Danger in Nuclear Waste
Ø Wind Energy Perceived as Safest
Ø One-Third See More Nuclear Weapons as Plants Increase
Fairfield, Connecticut – A new national poll of 800 residents by the Sacred Heart University Polling Institute found a nearly even split between those suggesting nuclear energy was very or somewhat safe (46.1%) and those who said somewhat dangerous or very dangerous (44.7%).
“Americans are split about whether nuclear power is safe or not, and many people have specific security concerns about nuclear power. The two dangers that concern a majority of Americans are the problems with radioactive waste storage, a top criticism of nuclear power, and possible plant meltdowns,” says Dr. Josh Klein, assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Sacred Heart University.
A majority of Americans (58.4%), however, indicated that nuclear energy’s radioactive waste is a danger that humans will face for thousands of years to come.
Over one-third of respondents, 36.8%, expect the number of nuclear weapons to increase worldwide as a result of building more nuclear power plants.
Poll respondents did consider other energy sources as significantly more safe than nuclear energy. A large majority, 94.6%, saw wind energy as very or somewhat safe. This was followed by river and tidal energy (80.0%), geothermal energy (68.5%), fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas (56.1%), and biofuels (55.6%).
While over half of those surveyed, 53.6%, were concerned about the danger of future nuclear energy plant meltdowns, nearly the same percent (54.2%) suggested that nuclear power plants will be safer in the future because of newer technologies making plants meltdown-proof.
And, 36.8% did not see a proliferation of nuclear weapons because nuclear energy and nuclear bombs utilize significantly different technologies.
Three-quarters of Americans (76.5%) were aware the United States Environmental Protection Agency had begun the process of listing carbon dioxide emissions as pollution that endangers public health. And, 77.0% of all survey respondents strongly or somewhat supported the EPA’s decision to regulate carbon emissions.
According to Dr. Klein, “The survey mixed pro and anti nuclear statements in equal measure. As a result, we found that about the same proportion expressed concern about future meltdowns (53.6%) as said that nuclear energy will be safer because they will be meltdown-proof (54.2%). Similar splits occurred in this survey regarding other nuclear safety concerns. These reflect some confusion, which is to be expected, given the limited information in major media.”
  • Dr. Josh Klein is an assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Sacred Heart University. Prior to his full-time academic career, he worked in survey and public opinion research. His current research is about organized violence and state-corporate crime.
  • Jerry Lindsley, director, Sacred Heart University Polling Institute
To speak with these experts, please contact Funda Alp at 203-396-8241 or or Tracy Deer-Mirek at 203-371-7751 or
How the Poll Was Conducted
The Sacred Heart University Polling Institute completed 800 surveys nationally. All telephone interviews were conducted between May 27 and June 9, 2009. One survey instrument was used to elicit information from all respondents. Statistically, a sample of 800 completed telephone interviews represents a margin for error of +/-3.5% at a 95% confidence level.