Local populations facing long-term consequences of nuclear accidents: lessons learnt from Chernobyl and Fukushima


Radioprotection 51(HS2), S155-S158 (2016)


After a large-scale nuclear accident, local populations face a high level of complexity, as their day-to-day life is seriously disrupted by the short and long term consequences of the event. Affected populations face numerous decisions related to their daily life and trade-offs in order to cope with a whole range of unfamiliar issues associated with the long-lasting radioactive contamination. This includes the choice to leave, stay or return in the contaminated zone. Feedback of the Chernobyl and Fukushima post-accident situations in Norway and Japan based on the results of the PREPARE European research project brings insights on the complexity of nuclear post-accident situations in modern democracies involving long-lasting contamination. The main goal of the project was to evaluate how and to what extent local populations can access reliable information to protect themselves and participate to collective decisions, as foreseen in the terms of the Aarhus Convention (1998) on public information & participation of the UNECE (United Economic Commission for Europe). After an accident, individuals and families, professionals, local communities, public authorities and experts have various response paths that are frequently conflicting. An analysis of the societal mechanisms was performed to identify the interactions of the different paths, the role of values in these social mechanisms as well as the impact of public policies on the resilience and social cohesion of local communities and on their capacity to build their own recovery strategies. It demonstrates the importance of a holistic approach that includes all the societal dimensions of the responses to post-accident situations. The capacity of local actors to build their response to the crisis depends on their capacity to build new forms of cooperation among themselves and with other actors and relevant networks.


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