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Public Opinion and the 'Energy Crisis'

New YouGov tracker data reveals that Britons are increasingly supportive of nuclear energy, even though perceptions of its safety remain unchanged. From late 2019 to summer 2021, Britons were divided on using nuclear power. Around four in ten over that time period supported using nuclear, while a similar number opposed it. Since then, support has been on the rise: almost half (48%) of Britons now back the use of nuclear energy, compared to 31% who are opposed to its use.[1]

What has changed in the last year is the war in Ukraine, the relentless rise in the cost of living, and now the UK Government’s disastrous tax policies which have led to turmoil in financial markets.

The latter raises the prospect of further cuts in public services, an existential threat to the NHS, benefit cuts, mortgage rate rises and consequentially more fuel for inflationary increases.

The presentation by the mainstream media focuses however on nuclear as the only solution to the ‘energy crisis’ and it is this which is driving public opinion.

None of the arguments against nuclear have changed: long-term problems with the safe disposal of radioactive waste, the negative economic case and the escalating cost of building nuclear power stations. Even Government acknowledges that the cost of renewable electricity is now significantly lower than nuclear generation.

Yet we are faced with relentless media coverage that suggests the only solution to this energy crisis is to build more nuclear capability. And by the way, it’s a clean source of fuel and will help us avoid climate change. In previous blogs, I have addressed why these statements are not credible.

I am now however alarmed at how public opinion has been manipulated by powerful pro-nuclear forces. I am concerned at the potential waste of our country’s resources in pursuing an expensive energy solution at the expense of doing the simple, but boring, things that will really make a difference: home insulation, de-carbonising domestic heating systems etc. Lack of action in these areas also has knock on consequences for our ability to meet climate change targets.

Domestic heating accounts for about 14% of all the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions and 40% of all UK emissions come from household activities. [2] While emissions have been falling in other sectors, the reduction in domestic emissions has stalled. This has corresponded with Government lack of investment in insulation since 2019. At the current rate of Government grant awards for heat pumps, replacing all the UK’s gas boilers will take around 700 years. The UK Government will spend over £100 billion on the energy price freeze. To insulate every loft and cavity wall that needs it in the UK is estimated to cost £12.5 billion. That would save almost £4 billion a year in bills, enough to pay for itself within three years. [3]

All people with anti-nuclear views, and who support efforts to act on climate change should be alarmed at this YouGov poll. We need to get our message out there, to counter the pervasive and damaging influence of the nuclear industry and their supporters.

- by Sheila Durie

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