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UK support for nuclear plants falls

Public support for building new nuclear power plants has slipped amid uncertainty over the future of the power source in the UK.

The proportion of people in favour of building new reactors to replace the UK's ageing fleet fell from 50 per cent in December 2011 to 42 per cent in December 2012, the latest Ipsos Mori poll into attitudes to nuclear power revealed.

But opposition to nuclear new build has remained stable, at a fifth of those polled (20 per cent).

The proportion of the 1,046 people quizzed who were undecided or neutral about the issue rose eight percentage points to 38 per cent, the highest level Ipsos Mori has recorded in a decade of polls.

Support for new reactors in the UK is well above what it was after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in March 2011, but below what it has been at several points in the past few years.

People's attitude to the nuclear energy industry has also worsened slightly, with the proportion saying they had a mainly or very favourable impression of the sector falling to 35 per cent from a high of 40 per cent a year earlier.

The percentage who say they have a mainly or very unfavourable opinion of the industry also fell by one percentage point to 18 per cent.

Robert Knight, research director in the Ipsos Mori Reputation Centre said: "The uncertainty surrounding the future of nuclear power in the UK is starting to take its toll on public support.

"It's not that the public are actively opposing it; it's more about confusion at the intentions of the industry and the government."

The news that public support for new reactors is weakening is the latest in a series of setbacks for plans to construct a new generation of nuclear power plants in the UK.

In the past few weeks, Centrica has announced it is pulling out of involvement in building new reactors and the Public Accounts Committee published a report saying the costs of cleaning up existing nuclear waste was £67.5bn and rising.

Cumbria County Council has also voted against considering options for a huge underground nuclear waste facility in its area.

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