WIT Press

University Student Perceptions Of The Current And Future Role Of Nuclear Energy In The World


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3 - 13




282 kb


R. L. Mahler & M. E. Barber


The purpose of this paper is to document university student perceptions of the role and viability of nuclear energy in the world. Nuclear energy perceptions of 6,330 students at the University of Idaho (Moscow, ID, USA) were measured between 1993 and 2012. As part of a learning assessment study students in the large freshman environmental science class were asked several questions about the environment in a standardized survey on both the first and last day of class. In this way changes in student perceptions as a result of the course could be quantified. The two specific nuclear energy statements contained in the survey were: (1) \“Nuclear power is a serious problem from an environmental standpoint;” and (2) \“Nuclear energy is preferable to the use of fossil fuels.” In general 46.7% of students considered nuclear power a serious problem at the beginning of the course; however, at the end of the term less than 32% of students still held their initial negative opinion. In addition, a majority of students changed from indicating that fossil fuels were preferable to nuclear energy at the beginning of the course to a significant majority favoring or at least saying that nuclear power was no worse than fossil fuels at the conclusion of the term. Student major, year in college, gender and the year students were surveyed also had an impact on student answers. The significant finding of this study is that once students were educated in an unbiased way – including both the pros and cons of using nuclear energy they were more receptive to view the nuclear power option more favourably. Keywords: public opinion, student perceptions, nuclear energy concerns, nuclear energy as an option, nuclear education.


Keywords: public opinion, student perceptions, nuclear energy concerns,nuclear energy as an option, nuclear education.