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.
KeywordsTransportation Defend Plutonium Alan
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