Communicating on Radiation Risk: Between Science and Narrative


Second Conference on Science, Technology, and Society (STS) : Perspectives on Nuclear Science, Radiation, and Human Health: The View from Asia, Nagasaki, Japan, 10-11 November 2015


Radiation protection professionals suffer from a lack of confidence, which dates back to the history of the development of nuclear weapons and nuclear power. Their involvement in the management of accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima has not helped to restore this confidence and even in some cases has aggravated the gap with the population. For decades, the profession has tried to respond to criticism of all kinds, but also to the legitimate questions from citizens in trying to explain the nature of the health risk, its importance given the circumstances and to put it into perspective with other comparable risks. Despite all the deployed efforts ‘risk-communication’ has not succeeded to reverse the trend and the temptation is great for some professionals to think that the fear of radiation is powered by irrationality or even some kind of phobia.

Although there is certainly no miracle solution in this field, some experiences in relation to contaminated sites from past activities and the management of nuclear accidents show that it is possible to engage in constructive dialogue with the public if the goal is not only to explain science, but also to listen and respond to citizens' expectations. The aim of the presentation is to introduce how it is conceivable, relying on the experience of those affected by the Chernobyl and Fukushima accident, to develop a narrative about the risk of radiation. This narrative is based on the intimate experience of the persons concerned, the history of the major events of the past century, as well as the social and ethical values that underpin the radiological protection system.


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