February 21, 2023 at 15:01 JST
For the first time since the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011, an Asahi Shimbun poll has found that a majority of respondents support restarting nuclear plants.
The Asahi Shimbun conducted a national telephone survey on Feb. 18-19 in which 51 percent of respondents said they are in favor of resuming operations while 42 percent said they want them to remain offline.
That marks a staggering reversal in public opinion, given that the annual polling showed a majority of respondents opposed restarting the plants for nearly a decade.
In each of the polls conducted since 2013, roughly 30 percent of respondents favored restarting plants while 50 to 60 percent remained opposed. But opinions started to shift in 2022, where 38 percent were in favor while 47 percent were opposed.
The survey asked if rising energy costs in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year have become a burden in their daily lives. The results paint a clear picture: 81 percent of respondents said they feel a greater burden, while only 18 percent said they did not.
The shift in attitudes toward restarting reactors comes as Prime Minister Fumio Kishida charts a course change from the past decade on nuclear energy policy, which was one of caution and hesitancy. His administration wants to construct new reactors to replace aged ones.
But polling shows that views on the construction of new reactors are much more divided, with 45 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed.