Here is an news item embargoed until one minute past twelve today - Cardiff University led a study that reveals communities close to existing nuclear power stations show only qualified support for nuclear new build. A colleague, Jim Duffy from Stop Hinkley, will be going to the Royal Society to hear the results tomorrow but Ruscombe Green is ahead of the game and can bring you a synopses below - and it is to be welcomed. See my news release and comment tonight here.
Cartoon: One of the more wacky cartoons coming from local scribbler Russ!
The five-year study focused on people living near nuclear stations at Bradwell (Essex), Oldbury
(16 miles from Stroud)) and Hinkley Point (Somerset), exploring their attitudes towards and concerns about nuclear power.
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. Key findings include:
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:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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 people'€™s 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."€�
Just as I finish writing this here comes a comment from Jim Duffy who seems to also be working late! He says: "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. 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. 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."