The topic of nuclear energy in the Netherlands is a source of intense debate. With the government’s goal to phase out coal-fired power plants by 2030 and amplify the use of renewable energy sources, the consideration of nuclear power as a potential option to cut greenhouse gas emissions and ensure energy security remains contentious. But what do the residents of the northern Dutch provinces, the potential sites for new nuclear plants, think about the matter?
Drenthe: Skepticism prevails
A survey by RTV Drenthe, the regional public broadcaster, found that 31% of Drenthe residents oppose nuclear energy, while 28% support it. The survey also revealed that 41% are neutral or have no opinion.
Concerns about accidents, radioactive waste, and the high costs of constructing and maintaining nuclear plants stood as primary reasons for opposing nuclear energy. Conversely, proponents cited low carbon emissions, reliability in energy supply, and independence from foreign energy sources as favorable aspects.
When queried about the potential location of a new nuclear plant in Drenthe, only 13 percent expressed acceptance within their municipality, while 49 percent rejected the idea and 38 percent were undecided or had no preference. Preferred locations included Emmen, Coevorden, and Borger-Odoorn, while Westerveld, De Wolden, and Meppel were least favored.
Friesland: More open to nuclear power
According to a poll conducted by the Friesch Dagblad, the local newspaper, 36% of Friesland residents expressed support for nuclear energy, while 32% indicated opposition. The remaining 32% were either neutral or undecided on the issue.
Just like in Drenthe, supporters highlighted low carbon emissions, energy reliability, and economic contributions as reasons favoring nuclear energy, while opponents raised concerns about accidents, radioactive waste, and high operational costs.
Regarding the potential siting of a new nuclear plant in Friesland, only 16 percent expressed acceptance within their municipality, while 45 percent rejected the notion and 39 percent remained undecided or indifferent. Preferred locations included Harlingen, Súdwest-Fryslân, and Waadhoeke, while Ameland, Schiermonnikoog, and Terschelling were least favored.
Regional perspectives and the future of nuclear energy
The surveys reveal a divergence in attitudes among residents in the northern provinces toward nuclear energy, varying considerably based on region, municipality, and individual perspectives. While some perceive nuclear energy as a clean and reliable energy source, others regard it as a risky and costly option. Additionally, a great number of respondents across both regions displayed reluctance towards hosting a nuclear plant in their immediate vicinity, each with differing preferences for potential plant locations within their province.
These findings might significantly influence the future trajectory of nuclear power generation in the Netherlands, particularly as the government anticipates making decisions about new nuclear plant construction by 2025. The opinions and preferences of local communities could wield substantial influence over the political and social feasibility of such decisions, as well as the potential environmental and economic repercussions associated with nuclear energy.
Two years ago, Prime Minister Mark Rutte had to backtrack on his earlier suggestion to consider Groningen as a location for a new nuclear power plant. Rutte conceded that he had underestimated the opposition to such a proposal within the province.
The Netherlands currently has one functional nuclear power plant in Zeeland, which meets approximately four percent of the nation’s energy needs.