An EDF executive has said the company has to “live and breathe” its nuclear safety values or face a “lack of trust” among communities where new reactors are earmarked.

However, Richard Mayson told a UK parliamentary committee that there is a “strong desire” for new nuclear power stations in those communities.

“I think we have seen a lot of support for new nuclear,” he said. “I think we have seen a very strong desire to attract the enormous economic benefits which would accrue to new nuclear.”

He was giving evidence to the House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee, which is examining how the public perceives the risks associated with large energy infrastructure.

EDF operates the largest civil nuclear fleet in the world, has eight power stations in the UK and is bidding to build another four, two at Hinkley Point and two at Sizewell.

He said a “healthy debate” was needed on the pros and cons of new of nuclear and added that EDF believed in being as “open and transparent” as possible in its dealings with local residents.

Mayson’s comments come a week after a poll by Ipsos MORI showed that UK public support for nuclear, which had dipped following the Fukushima disaster last year, was now riding at a new peak of 50 per cent, while opposition to atomic energy had dropped from 28 per cent last June to 20 per cent.

On Monday, Piet Sellke, sociologist and political scientist at Stuttgart University, told the European Power Plant Suppliers Association in Brussels that nuclear suffers from the “perceived dread” of what could happen: “Human behaviour is not based on facts, it’s based on perception.”

He also said that the public tends to be far more conservative than decision makers and he believed if Germany had held a referendum on whether to keep atomic power, the country would still have nuclear reactors in its energy mix.

For more nuclear power news