A Comparative study of risk communication and perception scenarios : nuclear waste disposal and radon

Project Details


Objective: To analyse the present communications policy and strategy in issues involving radioactivity (nuclear waste and radon) in order to study the feasibility of a consensus-finding approach for a subject that evokes polar ised reactions and public opposition on the one hand, and disbelief and a lack of reaction on the other hand.The problem-in-contextWhen perception of the problem differs and when the issue involves technical details and uncertainties, finding a solution to the problem becomes all the more difficult. A lot of attention (and money) is being paid to communication strategies and methods that can be used in these circumstances. The disposal of radioactive waste is one such issue where there is a lack of public participation in decision-making processes. In direcy contrast to this, is the perception of radon-related risk, where a different communication gap is observed; a general lack of reaction to repeated efforts by the government to publicise the issue of high concentration of radon (in certain areas) and the probable connection to lung cancer. Here too, polarised view-points are seen arising from different perceptions of risk. Risk communication in this context implies the highlighting of radon risk, and a study has been begun on finding out how the public perceives radon and the communications programme currently on, with the aim of adapting the communications strategy accordingly.In both case-studies, the problem will be studied looking at both the 'hazard' (probability of risk, its magnitude etc...) aspect and the 'outrage' (amount of trust present, involuntariness of risk etc...) aspect and thus attempts to steer away from the traditional approaches used so far. In most of the communications strategies in the nuclear industry, and to a great extent in health-awareness programmes, the underlying attitude imbued is that of an informed risk communications expert enlightening an ignorant and emotional public. The aim of this thesis is to try and pin-point the crucial areas that are to be tackled so that the communication gap is removed at its source. Thus approaches proposed at consensus-building, dialogue-inducing mechanisms and accountability clauses will be explored (components of sustainable solutions). Thus the methodology will include discussion with the different actors involved (authorities, individuals of the public, trade-unions, representatives from the industry, scientists, environmentalists, etc...). Insights provided by these interviews will be used to analyse existing strategies and propose new proposals. This grass-roots approach has been applied for radon communication (two studies in Wallonia have been carried out in the last six months) and the results so far have provided the beginnings of a radon-perception map in Belgium.
Effective start/end date1/04/9730/09/97


  • communication
  • medicine

Flemish discipline codes

  • Media and communications
  • Kernenergie (On)besproken

    Eggermont, G., Chayapathi, L., Laes, E. & Meskens, A., Dec 2007, Kernenergie. Leuven, A. (ed.). Acco, Vol. 0543. p. 1-367 367 p. (ViWTA Samenleving en Politiek; no. 222).

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter