The nuclear industry provides about 15% of the UK’s electricity, makes a vital contribution to the country’s carbon cutting ambitions and is a remarkably safe form of energy with no major accidents since the Windscale Fire in 1957. But despite all this, it still seems to suffer from disinterest and distrust from the public and these factors continue to dominate the nuclear narrative. The industry is green, safe and has the potential to create many high-tech jobs. Why then is the nuclear industry so often seen as a guilty secret rather than a national treasure, with most of the public opting for ignorance or ambivalence? Perhaps one reason the public has so far failed to embrace nuclear power is that people feel excluded from the journey it is taking and lack any influence over how new nuclear solutions might emerge. It is high time the industry found a way to make its case and forge its future, hand in hand with the British public. So here are a few thoughts on why this is so important and how, over time, it might be achieved. One new approach to public consultation uses so called “hybrid forums”. These forums bring together scientists and a diverse range of concerned stakeholders (such as local citizens, pressure groups and academic experts). These forums are convened to let problems emerge and to create a vision of the future that is common to everyone. One example of a hybrid forum took place to address chronic flooding problems in North Yorkshire. The forum enabled everyone who took part to share their knowledge and expertise and alight on the radical alternative solution of gradually arresting the flow of floodwater, rather than providing expensive defences in the area itself. Today’s nuclear grand challenges – like providing affordable nuclear power stations and disposing of nuclear waste – are “social” problems with resolutions which lie in creating and maintaining public support over many years. This is a common feature which makes them well suited to such a hybrid approach.
The Conversation 28th Aug 2018 read more »