Devil’s bargain? Energy risks and the public: the first report for 2012-13

 

Our inquiry found a lack of coordination across Government in risk communication. Asenior individual in Government should be visibly responsible for overseeing risk communication, research and training across Government and drawing together existingexpertise within Departments and public bodies, by leading a Risk CommunicationStrategy team which should sit at the centre of Government.Although it is useful to have a scale to enable the public to make informed comparativeassessments of risk, the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) is notan adequate communication tool for conveying risks. The International Atomic Energy Agency, in reviewing the INES, should pay particular attention to (i) the technical basis of the scale and whether it incorporates sufficient information about risk as well as hazard; (ii)how to better represent orders of magnitude; and (iii) how to make the scalecomprehensible to non-technical audiences. The IAEA and UK Government should alsoconsider whether the INES, or its successor, should communicate the likely impacts of anuclear accident on people and the environment, as well as quantifying the release of radioactive materials. Consideration should be given to the best method of communicatingacute and chronic impacts.Community benefits are an important way of building trust and negotiations can enablethe public to feel a greater sense of control, choice over and ownership of energy projects

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Devil’s bargain? Energy risks and the public
d)

Risk governance
: transparency, whether the responsible decision maker and/orregulation is competent, fair and caring; whether the risk is subject to contradictory statements from information sources (or, even worse, from the same source), thehistorical context within which a hazard arises (for example, links between civiliannuclear technology and its military uses) and the social commitments that a technology entails (the form of society and organisation required to keep a technology safe).
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24.

The fright factors provide a logic for why people are more accepting of some risks thanothers. They explain, for example, why someone may choose to smoke cigarettes and thuslive with an increased risk of developing cancer, but be unhappy about a nuclear powerstation being built near their home, because that person chooses to be exposed to theformer risk but not necessarily the latter. Looking at these factors it is clear that nuclearenergy provides a good case study for examining risk perceptions because it “ticks most of the boxes for ‘fright factors’ that influence risk perception”.
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Essentially, “the public fearsnuclear energy because of what the radiation might do”.
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Linking to the fright factors, thismay be, for example, because “radiation is feared and unknown, appears out of personalcontrol, affects the vulnerable and unborn, is complex and the information sources may beuntrustworthy”.
64
Germany’s Ethics Commission for a Safe Energy Supply identifiedsignificant factors for the change in German risk perceptions, including:

 

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