Is Utah ready for a nuclear power plant? The answer, according to a new poll, seems to be, "Not quite."
The poll found that a plurality of Utahns oppose locating a nuclear power plant in Utah: Forty-five percent were against it, while 38 percent of those surveyed favored constructing such a plant in the Beehive State. Some people hadn't made up their minds: Twelve percent said they were uncertain. And 4 percent of those surveyed said their responses would depend on other factors not covered in the poll.
The Dan Jones & Associates poll for the Deseret Morning News and KSL-TV questioned 603 residents statewide. The survey was carried out from Oct. 29 to Nov. 1 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
Utahns who definitely favored building a nuclear plant in Utah amounted to 23 percent, while those who said they probably favored it were 15 percent, for a combined favorable impression of 38 percent. Probably against the plant were 16 percent and definitely against were 29 percent, for 45 percent opposed.
As recently as 2005, polls in Utah showed widespread opposition to all things nuclear. In November 2005, the Deseret Morning News and KSL-TV sponsored a poll on a plan by Private Fuel Storage to locate a "temporary" repository for high-level radioactive spent fuel rods, a facility that was planned for the Goshute Indian Reservation in Tooele County. The poll, conducted by Dan Jones & Associates, found that 84 percent of the Utahns surveyed opposed the repository.
Today, PFS is a dead issue, with the federal government refusing to grant it the needed right of way. But nuclear power is again an issue, with a nuclear plant proposed for somewhere in eastern Utah. If permitted, Transition Power Development would build a two-reactor plant in eastern Utah capable of 3,000 megawatts of electricity.
While the nuclear debate has reignited, opposition to nuclear power seems to have lost a great deal of steam.
A sharp gender divide shows up in the poll, with men nearly three times as likely to favor the construction than women. Men favored the plant, 56 percent to 30 percent. But women were opposed, with 60 percent against and only 20 percent in favor.
Political differences also showed up. Republicans like the plant by a small plurality, 42 percent to 38 percent. Democrats were heavily opposed, with 26 percent in favor and 64 percent against.Likewise, age was a factor. People in the youngest age group, from 18 to 24, were strongly opposed: Sixteen percent for and 76 percent against. The oldest group interviewed, those 65 and above, were the most strongly in favor, by 51 percent to 28 percent.