Public Perceptions of Risk
Whether or not it is true that ‘transportation is the most vulnerable part of the entire fuel cycle from the point of view of accident or sabotage,’1 it is certainly the part of the nuclear fuel cycle which is the most vulnerable to public hostility. Transport from reactors to reprocessing is regarded as a main artery of the fuel cycle. Whereas immediate conflicts over reactors or other plant are at least localised, the transport of spent fuel is somewhat like a highly mobile siting issue. The analogy is emphasised by reminding ourselves that a single typical flask might have 0.5–1.5 million curies of radioactivity — as one critic put it, like ‘iodine-free reactors; unguarded and mobile’.2 The dislocation between meanings which different social groups give to the issue is reflected in the natural language they use to express their experience of it. Spent nuclear fuel is widely and unambiguously treated as ‘nuclear waste’ in popular perception, yet it is seen as a valuable resource to the industry. Indeed, one suspects that the common term ‘spent’ fuel has been expunged because of its negative connotations.
KeywordsNuclear Fuel Public Perception Fuel Cycle Spend Nuclear Fuel Nuclear Fuel Cycle
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- 1.L. R. Solon, ‘Some public health aspects in the transportation of radioactive materials involving the city of New York’, quoted in I. Welsh, Don’t Take the A-train; A Critical Examination of Nuclear Waste Transport (Edinburgh: SCRAM, 1981), p. 4.Google Scholar
- 2.C. Wakstein, The Ecologist 21 (April/May 1980), 131.Google Scholar
- 13.S. Rayner, ‘Effects of workplace organisation on the perception of occupational hazards’, paper to IIASA seminar (March 1983), IIASA mimeo.Google Scholar
- 14.M. Douglas and A. Wildaysky, Risk and Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982); M. Thompson, ‘Among the Energy Tribes’, IIASA WP-82-59, Laxenburg, Austria, 1982.Google Scholar
- 16.T. Pinch, ‘The sun-set: the presentation of certainty in scientific life’, Social Studies of Science, 11 (1981), 142–56.Google Scholar
- 17.B. Campbell, ‘Disputes among experts: the debates over biology in the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry’, Ph.D. thesis, McMaster University, Canada (1982).Google Scholar
- 18.Brian Wynne, Rationality and Ritual: the Windscale Inquiry and Nuclear Decisions in Britain (London: British Society for the History of Science, 1982).Google Scholar
- 24.C. Diver, ‘A theory of regulatory enforcement’, Public Policy, 28 (1980), 257–99.Google Scholar
- 25.Y. Ezrahi, ‘The authority of science and politics’, in E. Mendelsohn and A. Thackray (eds), Science and Values (New York: Humanities Press, 1974).Google Scholar