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News and Comment
MPs report on public perceptions of risk in energy generation
9 July 2012
The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report on public perception of energy risks is released today. The committee opened an inquiry into public risk perceptions in relation to energy infrastructure in November 2011 in response to mixed public and political reactions to the earthquake at Fukushima in March 2011. The committee heard from social scientists, the nuclear industry, media experts and independent safety regulators.
The report is called Devil's bargain? Energy risks and the public, read it here (PDF)
Recommendations in the report include:
- That more work is done to explain safety thresholds to the public. Read the committee's discussion including evidence from Tracey Brown.
- That more is done with the media to improve communication of risk associated with nuclear energy. Read the committee’s discussion, including input from Tracey Brown, Fiona Fox of the Science Media Centre and Mark Henderson, former science editor of the Times.
- That the body responsible for the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale reviews the scale to make it easier for members of the public to assess the risk of an event. Currently the scale is confusing as it classes Fukushima at the same level as Chernobyl, despite there being significantly lower levels of radioactive material released into the atmosphere and no deaths directly attributable to the Fukushima accident. This is something Sense About Science recommended in February 2012 at our discussion on Misreporting Fukushima at the AAAS conference in Vancouver.
- That independent regulators including the Health and Safety Executive, Environment Agency and Office for Nuclear Regulation make greater effort to develop their roles as trusted sources of information for the public because the public find it difficult to see the Government as an impartial source of information.