The Tri-Cities really, really likes its nuclear energy.
A poll conducted for Energy Northwest of 300 people living within 10 miles of its nuclear power plant near Richland found that 94 percent support nuclear energy.
Support for the Richland nuclear plant, the Columbia Generating Station, was not quite as strong at 87 percent.
Almost all of those people said they would like to see another nuclear energy facility located within Columbia Generating Station, which is on leased land at the Hanford nuclear reservation.
The poll was conducted in October and November by Bisconti Research and has a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percent.
The company conducted a similar study for the Nuclear Energy Institute of people who lived within 10 miles of a nuclear power plant nationwide. Households with a person who worked at a nuclear power plant were excluded from both surveys.
In general, Tri-City-area residents surveyed were more pro-nuclear on average than those living near other nuclear plants in the nation.
For instance, 94 percent of those surveyed locally said options to build more nuclear power plants should be kept open, compared to 78 percent in the nationwide study.
And 86 percent of Tri-City-area residents would find it acceptable to add a new reactor at the Columbia Generating Station, compared to 68 percent nationwide who said it would be acceptable to add another reactor nearby.
The Columbia Generating Station is a topic on which both Democrats and Republicans could find some common ground. Of the Democrats and Republicans who were polled, 90 percent had a favorable impression of the local nuclear power plant. Among independents, 87 had a favorable view.
That contrasts with the national view broken down by politics. Just 80 percent of Democrats nationwide had a favorable view of the nearest national plant.
“The people closest to us who know us best, give us the strongest support,” said Mark Reddemann, chief executive for Energy Northwest, which owns and operates the Columbia Generating Station as a public agency.
“They see the tangible impact of a thousand good-paying jobs,” he said. Of those surveyed near the Columbia Generating Station, 95 percent said the plant helps the local economy.
At least two-thirds of those responding locally also said that they associated nuclear energy with clean air, reliable electricity and affordable electricity.
But just 52 percent saw nuclear energy as part of a solution for climate change, though still higher than the 40 percent response nationwide.
“The views on climate change are important,” Reddemann said.
“If we’re to solve this problem responsibly, we have to know which source provides most of our carbon-free electricity, and many people simply don’t,” he said. “It’s good to see a majority in our community grasp the value nuclear provides there.”
Despite the generally positive results of the survey, one in five neighbors of the Columbia Generating Station said they believed it was likely that people living near a nuclear plant are exposed to harmful levels of radiation.
In fact, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says that people who live within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant would received an average radiation dose of about 0.01 millirem per year as a result.
To put that into perspective, the average person in the United States receives an exposure of 300 millirem per year from natural background sources of radiation, such as airborne radon and radiation bombarding the Earth from outer space.
The Columbia Generating Station is the only nuclear power plant in the Northwest and produces enough electricity to power a city about the size of Seattle.
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