The Attitude to Nuclear Power of Citizens and Governments

Xinjian Shi
March 27, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018


Fig. 1:World primary energy consumption for 1991-2016, including coal, renewable energy, hydroelectricity, nuclear, natural gas and oil. [1] (Courtesy of BP)

Fig. 1 shows the world energy usage width chart which reveals that there are several common used energy sources in which nuclear is not the dominated one compared to oil and coal so far. However, nuclear energy is more sustainable compared to the traditional fossil fuels. [1] The use of nuclear power has attracted plenty of attention since it comes out. The reasons includes the energy efficiency and sustainability, safety concern, and the waste treatment, etc.

Opinions from Public and Government

So far many people still have some misunderstanding on nuclear energy with other energy source. For example an examine based on citizens' understanding for energy-related issues reveal that although many of them can figure out the main energy sources at European Union, they have a hard time to give a clear response on the primary energy sources in their own country, and they tend to overestimate the use of renewable energy sources. [2]

Beyond the basic understanding of the energy source for citizens, the major issues people care about includes its impact to the environment. It has been reported that public majorities oppose the construction and local sitting of more nuclear plants, basically because of their concern for environmental and technological hazards from the nuclear plants. [3]

That being said, many people do agree nuclear energy has lower cost and other good effects. For example the report points out that around half people noticed that the nuclear energy make the energy prices lower and more stable, and around 46% people think it helps to suppress the global warming. [2]

In the view point of the governments, usually they care less on short-term profit but more on long-term effect on an energy style. The China government is determined to expand nuclear energy program as it is building four plants at a same time. [4] And also different countries have different response measures to the nuclear disasters such as the Fukushima nuclear accident, on the basis of their different national conditions. [5-7] For instance, Germany decided to shut down 17 nuclear power reactors while the United States government determined to retain nuclear energy as part of the national energy mix. [8]


Due to different viewpoints and national conditions, different citizens and governments may have different attitude to nuclear power, whose advantage and disadvantages are both very obvious. However, no matter what kind of opinions held by citizens and each government, nuclear energy will probably remain still be one of the most potential energy sources in the future of the world. [9]

© Xinjian Shi. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2017," British Petroleum, June 2017.

[2] "Public Attitudes to Nuclear Power," Nuclear Energy Agency, NEA No. 6859, 2010.

[3] E. A.Rosa and R. E. Dunlap, "Poll Trends: Nuclear Power: Three Decades of Public Opinion," Public Opin. Quart. 58, 295 (1994).

[4] Y.-C. Xu, "Nuclear Energy in China: Contested Regimes," Energy 33, 1197 (2008).

[5] J. Fyffe, "Anatomy of a Nuclear Accident: Fukushima Daiichi," Physics 241, Stanford University, Winter 2014.

[6] D. Sarkisian, "Effect of Fukushima Nuclear Disaster on Japanese Ecosystems," Physics 241, Stanford University, Winter 2017.

[7] E. Chang, "The Road to Recovery: Japan after Fukushima," Physics 241, Stanford University, Winter 2016.

[8] Y. Kim, M. Kim, and W. Kim, "Effect of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster on Global Public Acceptance of Nuclear Energy," Energy Policy 61, 822 (2013).

[9] J. Lee, "Attitudes Towards Nuclear Nonproliferation and Deterrence," Physics 241, Stanford University, Winter 2012.