D4.2 Comparative cross-country analysis on preliminary identification of key factors underlying public perception and societal engagement with nuclear developments in different national contexts

Wilifred Konrad, Josep Espluga, Anne Bergmans, Ioan Charnley-Parry, Matthew Cotton, Ann Enander, Jan-Henrik Meyer, Gene Rowe, John Whitton

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Abstract

This report deals with the history of nuclear-society interactions from a social science perspective.
Since the beginning of project HoNESt in September 2015, historians have elaborated 20 socalled
‘short country reports’ covering most European and major non-European countries (e.g.
USA). On the basis of this comprehensive collection of individual studies – each encompassing
about 60 years of history – we have selected seven countries to be analysed in terms of public
perception of, and public engagement with, nuclear energy: Austria, Bulgaria, the Federal
Republic of Germany (FRG), the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom (UK), and the United
States of America (USA). Our findings reveal that each country follows its own nuclear
development path with corresponding preference profiles and engagement traditions. However,
there are similarities among countries allowing researchers to classify them analytically as either
neutral to supportive (e.g. UK) or refusing (e.g. FRG) with regard to deploying nuclear power for
electricity production. The varying preference profiles of each country hints at the fact that people
refer to a broad scope of heterogeneous evaluation criteria when assessing nuclear technologies.
Arguments such as security of energy supply, (dis)trust in decision-makers, climate change, or
national prestige play an important role in the debate. Citizens argue from different points of view.
Their perceptions and arguments reflect the complexity of the debate comprising environmental,
economic, social, and political considerations. Except for the UK and Bulgaria, where protests
only occasionally occurred, all countries have faced active civil society opposition against nuclear
issues, i.e. public forced communication activities. Pro-nuclear communication processes
commissioned by regulators and industry promoters of nuclear power are part of the history of
nuclear-society interactions in each country. However, there is only a handful of examples of
consultation initiatives, and just one case of a public participation process.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherEuropean Commission – Council of Europe
Commissioning bodyEuropean research and training programme 2014-2018
Number of pages69
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Grant agreement no. 667268

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    Konrad, W., Espluga, J., Bergmans, A., Charnley-Parry, I., Cotton, M., Enander, A., Meyer, J-H., Rowe, G., & Whitton, J. (2018). D4.2 Comparative cross-country analysis on preliminary identification of key factors underlying public perception and societal engagement with nuclear developments in different national contexts. European Commission – Council of Europe.