By Beth Daley. Globe Staff
A new Gallup poll is finding growing levels of support among Americans for nuclear energy.
While most people have supported nuclear power in recent years - usually in the mid-50 percent range - the poll found 59 percent now favor its use. And the number of people who say they strongly favor nuclear – usually around 20 percent – has soared to 27 percent.
President Barack Obama has pledged to re-examine nuclear energy, although that promise came under scrutiny earlier this month when his proposed budget cut most of the funds for a national nuclear waste repository atYucca Mountain in Nevada. His stimulus package also stripped billions for a loan program the nuclear industry wanted.
Still, Steve Chu, Obama’s energy secretary told a Senate budget hearing group two weeks ago "I believe in nuclear power as a central part of our energy mix. It provides clean, busload electricity," according to a story by the Associated Press.
Nuclear proponents say new plants could help solve America’s energy crisis, in part because plants do not emit any heat-trapping gases that contribute to global warming and could help with national energy security. Opponents, however, say nuclear plants are potentially too dangerous, too expensive and there is no safe place to put waste. Nuclear energy now produces about 20 percent of the U.S.’s energy load and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has received 17 applications for 26 new reactors.
The Gallup poll also underscores the large gender gaps in American’s view of nuclear power: 71% of men favor the use of nuclear energy, compared with only 47% of women. Still, both groups show their highest level of support for nuclear power to date.
The poll also found, as in past polls, higher-income Americans favor nuclear energy more than lower-income Americans. Still, while 56 percent of Americans believe nuclear power plants are safe, a “substantial minority” of 42 percent believe they are not safe, according to the poll.
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