Opposition to building new UK reactors is at its lowest level for six years

Public opposition to new nuclear power stations in the UK is at its lowest level for six years, according to research from the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA).

The trade body said that 19% opposed the replacement of existing plants – the lowest proportion since polling began in 2002 – while 44% supported it.

Around one-quarter of people said they would oppose further growth of the nuclear sector, while 40% said they would back it.

Support in the North-west of England, where communities have benefited from jobs created by Sellafield, was the most pronounced. Scotland and Yorkshire were least in favour.

The public's main concern over nuclear power continues to be how radioactive waste is stored, according to the poll, carried out by Ipsos MORI.

Energy minister Mike O'Brien said: “The public view about nuclear is changing but we must recognise that some people still have concerns about waste, safety, security and whether new nuclear would mean less renewables.

“A transparent and open approach is important in building and maintaining public support for new nuclear power stations.”

NIA chief executive Keith Parker added: “The public are increasingly aware of the importance of tackling global climate change and the need to ensure secure and affordable supplies of energy for the UK.

“These results show that the public understands the crucial role that nuclear power plays in keeping the lights on and emissions down.”

Results of the poll will be presented at NIA's Energy Choices conference today.