Stop Hinkley Press Release:

29 September 2008

Study on local public acceptance of new nuclear power stations

Stop Hinkley (Shut Oldbury) campaigners have welcomed a five year Cardiff University study that shows only qualified support for nuclear new build in communities near potential sites.

The report, based on thousands of interviews, shows despite overall support for new build at Hinkley (61% for and 23% against) (50% for and 31% against at Oldbury) there is a clear ambivalence towards nuclear power in over one third of supportive local residents (38%). Many of these want to see climate change and energy security issues addressed but see nuclear as risky and could easily change their mind on local new build. The substantial group who are totally opposed to nuclear reactors nearby feel the risks far outweigh the advantages, distrust the industry and government on the matter and prefer renewable energy.

The vast majority, 84% of local Hinkley (and Oldbury) residents said they want proper local consultation by the Government and industry on plans for new build, which would be undermined if local concerns were not fully taken into account. The study's authors suggest the industry cannot be complacent over support they assume will be there. This support is tentative and could be eroded, considering the combined weight of those opposed and those who are ambivalent.

Jim Duffy, Spokesman for Stop Hinkley (and Shut Oldbury) who attended the Royal Society presentation in London , said: "I think the industry might have hoped for better results than this. There seems to be a big chunk of nominally supportive local people who have mixed feelings and, when reminded of the risks, tend to shy from nuclear."

"Professor Pidgeon reveals that over the five year study, local people have demanded 'consultation in a proper manner' but the Government has already failed on this point with its rigged 2006 Energy Review which buried the low figures for nuclear's usefulness towards climate change at the back of its bogus consultation. We're still waiting for the results of Greenpeace's complaint to the ombudsman."

"The definition of 'local' might also be important here. Burnham-on-Sea is a long distance by road but only five miles downwind from Hinkley. Our own, less scientific, poll in the town showed 72% against Hinkley C in 2002 (Note 1). This could be due to fewer nuclear jobs held by Burnham residents than in West Somerset while health effects seem to be remarkably common there according to our commissioned studies. The county town of Taunton gave a 99% verdict against Hinkley C in the same year (Note 2)"

"Thornbury residents also gave the thumbs down for new build at Oldbury in 2002, together with Bristolians, people in Stroud and Cheltenham with a combined 73% against new nuclear (Note 3)"

Jim Duffy, Stop Hinkley/Shut Oldbury Coordinator, 07968 974805

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Cardiff University led study reveals communities close to existing nuclear power stations show only qualified support for nuclear new build.

As the Government and Energy Companies press ahead with preparations for a new generation of nuclear power plants in Britain, the results of a new study show that many residents living near to existing nuclear stations give only qualified support to the construction of new nuclear power stations in their locality.

The five-year study focused on people living near nuclear stations at Bradwell (Essex), Oldbury (Gloucestershire) and Hinkley Point ( Somerset ), exploring their attitudes towards and concerns about nuclear power. The results of the study are published today, 30th September 2008.

A key factor in siting new nuclear stations will be public acceptance amongst local communities at the existing sites. Professor Nick Pidgeon of the School of Psychology at Cardiff University, who led the research team, explained: It is clear that the proponents of nuclear power have made the assumption that it will be far easier to develop new stations at the existing sites, because, among other factors, they believe that local communities will be very supportive.

However, we know very little about what members of such communities in Britain really think and feel about nuclear power today. This new research, which combined extensive interviewing with a major survey, helps us to understand more about this critical aspect of the current nuclear energy debate.

The study was carried out by researchers from the School of Psychology and the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University, and from the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia.

The results, which are being presented this morning (30th September) at the Royal Society in London, include the following key findings:

On Experiences of Living with Nuclear Power

Interviews with residents living close to Bradwell and Oldbury revealed that:

  • On a day-to-day basis residents view their local nuclear station as familiar and unremarkable. This sense of ordinariness, combined with a belief that local operators can be trusted to keep the plants safe, underpins local confidence in nuclear power.
  • However, the reassuring narrative of familiarity is disrupted at specific moments when residents are reminded by external events such as terrorist activity that there might be risks associated with their local plant. In such moments people can, and do, experience anxiety about living with nuclear power.

On Support for Local New Build

The survey showed that 50% at Oldbury and 61% at Hinkley Point supported new nuclear build at their local site. Opposition to local new build was significantly greater at Oldbury (31%) than at Hinkley Point (23%).

The Need for Local Consultation

Regardless of their opinion on nuclear power, the vast majority of people surveyed (84%) wanted the industry and Government to fully involve local people in plans for siting new nuclear power stations locally.

On Differences within Communities

Although attitudes towards nuclear power were generally positive, the researchers found important differences in attitudes which showed that local residents are not simply pro- or anti- nuclear power. At all three locations they identified four distinctive points of view, which were confirmed by the survey conducted around Hinkley Point and Oldbury. These points of view were as follows.

  • Beneficial and Safe. This group (34% of the survey respondents) believe that nuclear power brings local benefits and invest high trust in local operators to keep the plants safe.
  • Threat and Distrust. This group (16%) believe the risks of nuclear power far outweigh any benefits, want to see renewable energy developed in response to climate change, and are highly distrustful of both the nuclear industry and government.
  • Reluctant Acceptance. This group (38%) are ambivalent about nuclear power. They view it as risky but are prepared to accept it locally because it may be needed for addressing climate change and energy security. The ambivalence voiced by this significant segment of the local populations surveyed suggests that, for many, their support is highly provisional and potentially subject to change.
  • There is No Point Worrying. This group (12%) although barely noticing the power station, and expressing few concerns about it, are highly critical of those in authority and unsympathetic to critics of nuclear power who they see as exaggerating the issue.

Professor Pidgeon added: The findings suggest that failing to consult in a proper manner, or in a way that does not fully recognise and respond to local peoples concerns, would almost certainly undermine the local confidence and trust in local plant operators which has been painstakingly built up in all of the locations that we studied over a considerable period of time.

Despite the apparent level of support for nuclear power that exists in these communities, our research also demonstrates that many remain ambivalent towards nuclear power, and strong mistrust of both the industry and Government is voiced by a further significant minority of residents. Accordingly, any such erosion of local confidence could have adverse consequences for relations between the nuclear industry and local communities, and for the nuclear new build programme as a whole. This clearly argues against complacency about the future.

A full copy of the report is available from http://www.kent.ac.uk/scarr/SCARRNuclearReportPidgeonetalFINAL3.pdf

The full title of the report is Pidgeon, N.F., Henwood, K.L., Parkhill, K.A., Venables, D. and Simmons, P. (2008) Living with Nuclear Power in Britain: A Mixed Methods Study. School of Psychology, Cardiff University .

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Notes:

(1) Parents Concerned About Hinkley and Stop Hinkley members canvassed 300 shoppers in Burnham High Street, during the first Govt. Energy Review, November 2002. (This Energy Review rejected nuclear power)

(2) Taunton Friends of the Earth canvassed 100 shoppers in Taunton High Street, November 2002.

(3) Gloucester Green Party and Friends of the Earth canvassed 400 shoppers in four local towns, November 2002.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page Updated 30-Sep-2008