Insight and inspiration

“Yes, in my back yard!” – public support of nuclear has turned a corner

It’s an important time for nuclear power in the UK. Not only is the Government planning the biggest roll-out in new nuclear generation capacity in decades, it is also planning a series of public consultations on the process. Westminster is seeking views on its proposed approach for siting new nuclear power stations, as well as asking the public for opinions on alternative routes to market for new nuclear projects.

The Government’s plan is to increase the amount and type of sites where it’s possible to build a nuclear power plant. For developers of small modular reactors (SMRs) such as MoltexFLEX, these consultations are hugely important because SMRs need to be installed in a huge number and variety of locations. Traditional nuclear power plants are generally built some distance from centres of population. But reactors such as our FLEX and other SMR designs can be built within local communities and industrial areas.

This is partly because advanced nuclear technologies (ANTs) such as the FLEX reactor have the potential to offer a more inherently and passively safe solution than traditional designs. Molten salt reactors such as the FLEX need almost none of the expensive safety and containment systems needed by traditional reactors; in the event of any failure, any radioactive material will be contained within the plant itself.  

However, another reason is because ANTs can output heat as well as electricity. They can be used to provide process heat to directly decarbonize industry, or be used for domestic heating schemes, hydrogen production and more.

So, how will the public react to the planned expansion of nuclear power? Contrary to what you might expect there’s every reason to suppose that the response will be positive.

It’s become a reflexive habit for media pundits and even people working in the nuclear industry to believe that most people don’t support nuclear power. But in recent years this mindset has become more and more inaccurate. In fact, the opposite is true.

Traditionally, nuclear has been a divisive subject. Although it has often enjoyed support, safety concerns have led to scepticism from some. But recent opinion polls show that these anxieties are now much less prevalent.

For example, in the UK net support for nuclear increased by 25% between June 2021 and March 2023, according to a poll by international strategy consultancy Stonehaven. This chimes with a YouGov poll in October 2022, which found that almost half of Britons (48%) are in favour of nuclear energy, while only 31% are not. More recent YouGov results show nuclear is almost as popular as wind power and more popular than solar power. Also, more Britons support increased government investment in nuclear power than oppose it.

And this attitude is reflected within the UK Parliament; a recent report by Cavendish Consulting carried out last year on behalf of the Nuclear Industry Association found that just over two-thirds (68%) of MPs support advanced nuclear technology in their constituency, with 88% of Conservative MPs and 54% of Labour MPs in favour of nuclear. 

It’s tempting to think that events such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the resulting spike in global energy prices, have caused the recent surge in nuclear’s popularity. And it’s true that since the war started more people have recognised the ability of nuclear to provide low-cost and reliable power while ensuring energy security.

But the pro-nuclear trend was increasing long before the war started. Even in 2012 – the year after Fukushima – an Ipsos MORI poll showed more people supported nuclear energy than opposed it (50% for versus 20% against). What’s more, a greater proportion of people have supported nuclear energy than have been against it since 2002.

So, the burgeoning support for nuclear energy isn’t a new phenomenon. But neither is it one that’s confined to the UK. In Japan, more people now support nuclear than oppose it. And even in Germany – which has long been an anti-nuclear stronghold – two-thirds of people now support the technology. It’s a similar story almost everywhere in the world.

Why has there been such a sea-change in opinion? The biggest reason is that people around the world are realizing that nuclear can provide abundant zero-carbon power to combat climate change and energy poverty. And this is great news for developers of advanced SMRs such as our FLEX reactor.

It’s why we at MoltexFLEX never tire of telling people about the benefits that FLEX reactors can bring. The more people that realise how our molten salt technology can transform the energy landscape, the easier it will be install FLEX reactors throughout the UK and beyond.

You can have your say in the alternative routes to market consultation at, before the deadline on 12th April.

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