Nuclear Energy Institute - Perspective on Public Opinion


The characterization of Yucca Mountain as a potential site for the first high-level nuclear repository is opposed by the State of Nevada. Responses to surveys conducted by the State of Nevada (most recently 2006) suggest that roughly 70 percent of Nevada residents who vote against a repository if they actually had a chance to vote on the project.

The State survey results primarily reflect the opinions of Clark County residents.

The State survey was intended to represent the views of the State in general, but provides little or no insight about the opinions and beliefs held by Churchill County residents with respect to the repository program.

As part of its impact assessment and oversight program, Churchill County initiated a community survey in 2008 to gage opinion about the Yucca Mountain Project and nuclear power and have polled the community each year since. Survey questions were directly related to the Yucca Mountain project and more generally related to nuclear energy, and transportation of nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain. Several of the questions used in this year’s survey were the same as those used by the Nuclear Energy Institute to gage public opinion about nuclear waste and nuclear energy. Over the years questions have changed to reflect major differences related to politics in Nevada as well as questions asking respondents whether they are in favor or opposed to Yucca Mountain.

Cover of churchill County community survey 2015
Updated survey 2015

The 2015 Survey questioned 344 registered voters. Approximately 75 percent of the survey respondents were familiar with the Yucca Mountain Project and the federal government’s efforts to store spent nuclear fuel in Nevada (Table 2- 1). The number of survey respondents familiar with Yucca Mountain increased slightly from last year. It demonstrates the effects of limited project activity occurring in the last few years and potentially the lack of awareness among new residents about the repository program.

Churchill County survey respondents were asked whether they are in favor or opposed to a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Approximately 44 percent of survey respondents are in favor of a repository at Yucca Mountain (Table 2-2). The decline in support for the repository program is somewhat surprising given the recent uptrend in support over the last several years. However, the response in question #1 is not outside the range of responses which have occurred over the last 7 years of the survey. In general Churchill County survey respondents remain equally split on support or opposition to a repository at Yucca Mountain.

An even higher percentage (60 percent) of survey respondents want to see the Yucca Mountain licensing review continue (Table 2-3), approximately 60 percent which is 16 percentage points higher than those supporting Yucca Mountain in this year’s survey. The percent supporting licensing is slightly less than last year, but in the range of survey responses registered over the last 6 years.

In question 3, survey respondents were ask to provide their preference for sources of base load electrical power. Survey respondents were also told that alternative energy such as wind and solar are not considered base load sources. Coal, natural gas, nuclear, oil and hydroelectric options were provided. Nuclear power was second only to natural gas as the preferred base load electrical source (Table 2-4).

Most interesting among this year’s survey results are the responses in Table 2-5 and Table 2-7. Over 73 percent of all respondents would support the Yucca Mountain Project if it were found to be safe. This is a 30 percentage point increase over the percentage of respondent who initially said they would be in favor of Yucca Mountain. The results in Table 2-7 further confirm support for the repository. Almost 70 percent of respondents said they would support the Yucca Mountain project if expansion of nuclear power would require a repository.

The results in Table 2-5 combined with the number of respondents supporting continuation of licensing, suggests that a large number of survey respondents are undecided about the repository and will likely support Yucca Mountain upon a successful conclusion of licensing and issuance of a construction authorization.

Updated survey for 2012 - 2013

Survey for 2012 (PDF)

Updated Survey for 2011 (PDF) You have the option of viewing as a Power Point slide show

Updated Survey for 2010 (PDF)

Community Survey 2008

The following slides were part of the student survey presentation at the San Onofre Nuclear Generator Station the summer of 2008. Students surveyed the Churchill County local residents selected from a population of 12,500 registered voters using a computer program and random number generation. Using the data accumulated from the survey students prepared the following presentation.

2008 Survey in PDF