Nuclear in Alberta: What is our Perception?

So if you dug into my link on Friday to the Alberta Nuclear Consultation document, at the end of it you would have seen a survey that was given out back when that was published in 2009 for residents and interested parties to fill out.

One astute reader pointed me in the direction of the released data from this survey and other surveys conducted on the topic via different methods and I think it would be interesting to showcase my favourite parts of it.

First things first is that the survey was voluntary, but there were two styles of survey completed at the same time. one was the usual random telemarketer calling, the other was a group of people who consented to be a part of a work group where they were given literature about the proposed nuclear project. The differences between the two are intriguing. For example, there was a noticeable drop (30%) in people choosing middle of the road, case-by-case answers from the random sample to the workshop group. As much as I would like to say that this is because the voluntary workshop group is more likely to be filled out by people with stronger, more well informed opinions on the topic that would be speculation and bias. As such all I can really say is that the people that answered that survey are more likely to volunteer to take part in work groups… maybe. And this is why I hate statistics.

thank you randall munroe, and your delightful comic xkcd, for being so accurate.

I don’t want to just regurgitate the executive summary but it does provide a good opening to some of the more interesting conclusions in the document. Most interesting to me is this quote:

Knowledge [of nuclear topics] seems to be a necessary but not sufficient requirement for support while opposition was relatively stable across self-assessed levels of nuclear knowledge. Support grew dramatically as knowledge [of nuclear topics] grew.

Alberta Nuclear Consultation – Report, Innovative Research Group, page 5,
https://open.alberta.ca/dataset/446a8c59-73dc-44b0-bc60-2e71d7770f57/resource/238b5f26-f9e4-40ba-a802-969edc623ef0/download/albertanuclearconsultationfull.pdf

Now I know I almost literally just said that drawing conclusions from this kind of data would be pure speculation but I can’t help myself with this. Most pro-nuclear people would probably want to think that an opposition to nuclear energy would be due to a lack of knowledge about nuclear topics. But the outcomes also do not become more equivalently polarized with increased knowledge which is potentially more interesting. Instead the middle seems to migrate towards the, what I would claim to be, positive viewpoint.

So by the data it seems as though opposition to nuclear energy is not related to knowledge or lack there of about nuclear energy but rather some other external factor. What that is, I will let you come to your own conclusions.

The rest of the document goes over in very thorough detail the reactions to the 3300+ Albertans who took part in this report survey. There is no way I can cover it all in appropriate detail here so instead I will simply encourage people to read it for themselves, along with the workbook I linked in the previous post. There is a lot of very good, unbiased information in these documents not only about nuclear energy but also about the responses that people have given to them. Even if some people didn’t think so

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