Published on 31 Oct 2022

A less than electrifying welcome

Despite the advantages of nuclear energy, there is low public support for its development in Southeast Asia, according to a study led by Prof Shirley Ho of NTU's Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and information.

Nuclear power plant with smoke

Nuclear energy is one of the world’s major low-carbon energy sources for generating electricity, with around 10% of the world’s electricity currently produced this way.

Despite the potential of nuclear energy to satisfy the world’s growing appetite for energy, a study conducted by researchers from NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information found low public support for nuclear energy development in Southeast Asia.

The researchers surveyed 1,000 people each in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand through door-to-door questionnaires. The participants were asked to rate how much they agreed with statements measuring their support of nuclear energy; their trust in entities such as the government, university scientists and business leaders in relation to nuclear energy; their nuclear knowledge; their attention to general news and nuclear-related information; and perceived risks and benefits of nuclear energy.

The results showed that more than half of the respondents in every country were against the idea of nuclear energy development, with the highest level of public support for nuclear energy development found in respondents from Indonesia, followed by Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand.

“The generally negative sentiment towards nuclear energy in the region could be a result of a lingering effect of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown,” says study leader Prof Shirley Ho of NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information.

“Our findings show that for controversial technologies like nuclear energy, trust in various entities and risk perceptions are cues that people usually use to interpret scientific information and make judgements,” Prof Ho explains. “Understanding these socio-emotional dimensions would be helpful for policymakers seeking to instil public confidence in nuclear technologies in countries where nuclear energy is a viable option.”

The study “Why support nuclear energy? The roles of citizen knowledge, trust, media use, and perceptions across five Southeast Asian countries” was published in Energy Research & Social Science (2021), DOI: 10.1016/j.erss.2021.102155.


The article appeared first in NTU's research & innovation magazine Pushing Frontiers (issue #20, June 2022).