Japan's nuclear crisis has stalled the growing support for a UK "nuclear renaissance", a new poll reveals.
As predicted by commentators last week, a substantial fall-off has occurred in numbers of people backing new atomic stations as part of Britain's energy future, according to the poll by GfK NOP, for Friends of the Earth.
More than a third of Britons – 37 per cent – say they are now more likely to oppose "new nukes" in the UK after the reactor catastrophe at Fukushima.
Almost half of the people surveyed – 44 per cent – said they were worried about the safety of UK nuclear plants, with support for replacement nuclear power stations dropping.
Fewer than 10 per cent of people now believe nuclear should be the priority for energy investment in coming years, while more than 75 per cent think that the Government's top energy investment priority should be either renewable energy, or energy saving.
Less than six months ago, research by Ipsos MORI for the Nuclear Industry Association saw 47 per cent of people saying they supported – with only 19 per cent opposed to – the building of replacement nuclear power stations – an increase in pro-nuclear attitudes on previous years. In that poll, conducted last November, seven out of 10 people agreed that: "Britain needs a mix of energy sources to ensure a reliable supply of electricity, including nuclear power and renewable energy sources."
The shift in view is likely to have real significance as the Government moves towards its aim of having 10 new nuclear plants built in Britain to replace ageing nuclear and conventional sites.
"This poll shows that the Government's plans for a major expansion of nuclear power in the UK are out of step with public opinion," said Craig Bennett, Director of Policy and Campaigns for Friends of the Earth.
"People want clean and safe energy – the Government needs to urgently refocus its energy policy, starting by improving the weak energy saving measures within its new Energy Bill.
"While the UK is not at risk of major earthquakes and tsunamis, our nuclear stations are vulnerable to sea surges, rising sea levels and terrorist attacks. We can keep the lights on and cut the UK's reliance on oil and nuclear by cutting energy waste and harnessing our vast renewable-power potential."
Mike Childs, of Friends of the Earth, said: "Recently the nuclear industry has believed its time had come again, but our new poll suggests the tide is turning against nuclear yet again."