Ouest France shows that support for nuclear energy has risen over the last two years, to the point that the percentage of people who do not support it has become strikingly small – at least among those with an opinion. Since there is no English version of the site, let’s look at the numbers as reported by World Nuclear News:
Of the 2004 respondents, 36% declared themselves to support the use of nuclear energy in France, up from 33% in November 2011 and 32% in July 2011. Meanwhile, the proportion expressing opposition to the use of nuclear energy had fallen to 14%, down 3% from the November 2011 figures and 6% from July 2011.
That leaves out half the population. What about them?
About a third of the population polled (34%) described themselves as "hesitant", or undecided, towards nuclear energy. Ifop [the polling firm] notes that for the first time since Fukushima, the pro-nuclear percentage of the population outnumbers the undecided. Meanwhile 16% of respondents said they had no opinion at all on the subject.
Hesitant and undecided are not the same thing, so I’ll assume these are two different groups squashed together. These folks are reachable – if Electricite de France is working for their support, it’s working. From an American perspective, meanwhile, the high number of hesitants can seem a case of French intransigence. But that’s a cliché,right?
59% of those polled agreed that France should maintain its current nuclear share in order to ensure its energy independence, up from 54% in a study carried out in March 2013.
The high on this metric was 67 percent in 2008, so the number here is getting better from what I assume is its low after the Japan accident. And it shows that the French fully understand that their country is rather resource poor – the reason it invested so heavily in nuclear energy back in the 70s.
Why care? Well, in a way, we need not. France could do with a little energy diversity – putting all its eggs in the nuclear coop has caused some issues in charging electric cars, at least it might theoretically – and French President Francois Hollande wants to reduce the share of nuclear energy from about 80 percent to 50 percent. The poll numbers suggests this might be a harder sell than when Hollande ran for office last year, so, consequently, there will be a good deal of interest in his administration’s new energy policy when it is issued this fall.
This policy seems to be at the root of the poll and some of the news stories emerging in the French press now. Nuclear energy wasn’t precisely on the ropes last year when Hollande won the presidency and it’s even less so now. It’ll be interesting to see the reaction if the policy is markedly nuclear–unfriendly.