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Nuclear energy as seen by the French

1French people and nuclear energy : 2nd BVA-Orano study

Orano has once again partnered with the institute BVA to question a panel of the French public on their knowledge and perceptions of nuclear energy. The results of this study complete the information from the first edition carried out in 2019.*

Key results:

  • For 50% of the French public (+3 points compared to 2019), nuclear energy is one of the country’s assets.
  • For 64% of the French public (+10 points compared to 2019), tomorrow’s energy mix in France will consist of nuclear energy and renewables.
  • 53% (+7 points compared to 2019) think that nuclear energy is essential for France’s energy independence.
  • 58% (-11 points compared to 2019) think that nuclear power produces CO2 and impacts the climate.
  • 66% of the French public (+5 points compared to 2019) are aware of the possibilities of recycling nuclear fuel used in nuclear power plants. 

4The nuclear sector is perceived as one of France’s assets

  • For 50% of the French public, nuclear energy is one of the country’s assets. 
  • Among the advantages cited with regard to nuclear energy, two were already present in 2019: France’s energy independence (53%) and the low cost of electricity (30%). 
  • Those questioned also cited the positive role of nuclear energy as an uninterrupted source of electricity (39%). 
  • In addition, the proportion of French people who identified nuclear energy as a drawback fell from 34% to 15%, showing that opposition to it is eroding.
  • Among the arguments leveled against nuclear energy, the first 3 cited by the respondents are the same arguments as two years ago: the production of non-recyclable waste, the aging of facilities (in 2nd place this year), and the risk of accidents. 

 

2For a majority of the French public, the nuclear sector is an asset for the country’s energy independence

  • France’s energy independence is more than ever the most convincing argument for those in favor of nuclear energy. It is cited by 53% of respondents, gaining 7 points compared to 2019.
  • Questioned in further detail on this subject, 42% of the French public consider the domestic production of nuclear energy the most important argument for France’s energy independence, whereas 36% highlight the fact that because this sector is sensitive, it is best to remain in control of it
  • Also of note is the new item, “A source of electricity produced without interruption,” which is in 2nd place, indicating how important electrical supply security is for French people.

5French people’s knowledge is improving on nuclear energy’s role in fighting climate change and contributing to the energy mix of tomorrow

  • While 58% of French people (a drop of 11 points compared to 2019) still think that nuclear energy contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, only 19% now claim that this impact is significant (versus 34% two years ago). This improvement shows that the French public is becoming aware that nuclear energy is a low-carbon energy source.
  • At the same time, the proportion of French people who think coal, oil, and gas produce less CO2 than nuclear energy has been cut in half.
  • Another improvement is French people’s knowledge of the role of nuclear energy: 64% (10 points more than in 2019) of them know that France’s energy mix will consist of nuclear energy and renewables in the future (versus 21% who think that the future scenario will involve only renewables; this figure was 26% in 2019).
  • In addition, 59% (+4 points) believe that France’s use of nuclear energy will increase or remain stable in the future.

3Waste remains a subject of concern for the French public

  • The production of non-recyclable waste remains the main concern (cited by 59% of French people) despite the rise in the number of people aware of the possibility of recycling the fuel (66%, +5 points). 
  • The question of waste is mainly associated with the difficulty of disposal (53% of respondents cited it as the difficulty linked to waste).
  • Waste causes concern primarily due to its impact on future generations (46%), more than its impact on health or the environment (21% and 32%).
  • However, nuclear waste treatment is seen as less of a central issue for future generations than the fight against climate change or preserving natural resources (respectively 30%, 53%, and 36%).


6The nuclear sector is perceived as creating jobs, especially by younger generations

  • The nuclear industry is a sector considered to create jobs for 27% of the 18- to 24-year-old age group (20% for the larger French public). 
  • Similarly, job creation is cited by 28% of this age group as proof of its contribution to France’s independence (22% for the larger French public).

 

The results of this study confirm the improved perception of nuclear energy by the French public, who see it as a source of continuous, low-carbon electricity, contributing to the fight against climate change but also to the country’s energy independence. The pedagogical efforts made throughout the sector must continue, to make the important role of nuclear energy in France’s energy transition more widely known. 

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*Study carried out from May 3 to 6, 2021, via the Internet on a sample of 1,500 people representative of the 18-and-older French population. A previous survey was performed by BVA for Orano in April 2019.

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