Majority of French want to drop nuclear energy


PARIS – A majority of French people want to get rid of nuclear power, a poll on Wednesday showed, underscoring the impact of the Fukushima disaster on public opinion around the world. The poll conducted by OpinionWay found that 57 percent of respondents were generally in favour of dropping nuclear energy, with 20 percent strongly in favour of the idea.
Only 27 percent were prepared to accept a corresponding rise in electricity tariffs, however, compared to 72 percent against, the survey found. The French government has so far remained firmly in favour of its nuclear energy industry, which covers 75 percent of its power needs and ensures lower-than-average electricity bills for French consumers. The poll of 1,035 people was carried out between March 30 and 31, after the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan which crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant north of Tokyo, sending radioactive contamination into the air.
“Fukushima has unquestionably had a major emotional impact on the population,” said Matthieu Courtecuisse, head of SIA Conseil, the consultancy which commissioned the survey along with French weekly L’Express. The Fukushima disaster has triggered fierce debate over the safety of nuclear energy production, with calls to stop nuclear expansion projects and shut down existing plants. China last month suspended all approvals of new nuclear projects and European heavy-weight Germany has decided to phase out nuclear energy.
An earlier survey conducted by TNS-Sofres on March 15 and 16 and commissioned by state-owned power producer EDF in the immediate aftermath of the nuclear disaster found that 55 percent of the French public wanted to keep nuclear power.