The poll released by the Angus Reid Institute Wednesday found that 57 per cent of Canadians who were surveyed would like to see further expansion of nuclear energy in the country. That’s an increase from 51 per cent support just a year and a half ago. Meanwhile, 30 per cent oppose any development on nuclear power generation.
“With many countries setting net zero emissions goals, there is significant appeal in nuclear power as a low emission energy source,” read an analysis of the poll results on the Angus Reid website.
The online survey which included more than 5,000 Canadian adults was conducted between Nov. 28 and Dec. 3, 2022.
This comes as experts forecast more fluctuations in oil and gas prices for several years, with weather and political instability all being contributing factors.
In an interview with Global News Friday, Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute, said the “ongoing climate change discussion” with the subsequent desire to transition away from the oil and gas sector over the long term is part of the reason why we are seeing “more openness to nuclear energy” than we have in the past in Canada.
The increasing price of fuel and the overall rise in the cost of living may be driving the renewed focus on nuclear energy as well, she added.
When it comes to support for nuclear energy in Canada, men were more likely than women to say they would like to see further development, the Angus Reid poll showed.
“The gender divide over nuclear power support has been seen in public opinion dating back to the 1970s,” the poll’s analysis noted.
Canada has four nuclear power plants – three in Ontario and one in New Brunswick. Quebec shut down its only nuclear power plant back in 2012 following safety and cost concerns.
Even though a majority of Canadians (59 per cent) said they would be comfortable having a nuclear plant in their province, there are concerns about the proximity of these plants given the potential risks of exposure.
While 500 kilometers was an acceptable distance between one’s home and a nuclear plant for 58 per cent of respondents, 42 per cent said they would not be comfortable with that proximity, according to the poll.
Meanwhile, two-in-five (43 per cent) said they would be comfortable with a nuclear plant operating within 50 kilometers of where they live.
High support for green energy
The poll also asked Canadians about other energy sources.
An overwhelming number of people want to see the expansion of solar energy (81 per cent) and wind power (74 per cent), but less (50 per cent) are on board with further development of fossil fuels.
The federal government has set a target to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
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As part of that commitment, in the latest fall economic update, the Liberal government added new incentives for clean energy development.
Experts say the big challenge for Canada in the next few years is how the government is going to interact with the oil and gas sector, which is the largest greenhouse gas emitter, accounting for 27 per cent of total emissions in the country.
The Angus Reid poll showed regional differences when it comes to support for the oil and gas sector, with the largest backing in Alberta, followed by Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Kurl said these divisions are based on where the oil and gas jobs are found in the country.
There were also differences seen in terms of gender and age demographics.
“Younger Canadians, particularly younger women and women in general, (are) far less likely to say that they support the expansion of oil and gas operations,” said Kurl.