Beyond Paternalism and Strategy: Understanding Radiological Risks as a Mutual Learning Experience

Meskens, Gaston (2015). Beyond Paternalism and Strategy: Understanding Radiological Risks as a Mutual Learning Experience. Fukushima Global Communication Programme Working Paper Series. United Nations University.

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    Author Meskens, Gaston
    Title Beyond Paternalism and Strategy: Understanding Radiological Risks as a Mutual Learning Experience
    Series Title Fukushima Global Communication Programme Working Paper Series
    Volume/Issue No. 15
    Publication Date 2015-12
    Place of Publication Tokyo
    Publisher United Nations University
    Pages 10
    Language eng
    Abstract This discussion paper aims to elaborate on the issue or risk communication by situating it in a governance perspective that starts from the question of what it would imply to fairly deal with the complexity of nuclear risk governance. Taking into account the focus of the seminar in which this paper was invited as a contribution (namely the post-accident conditions in Fukushima), I also chose to enlarge the scope of the paper and to elaborate on the idea of fair risk governance in general and on conditions for post-Fukushima social justice in particular instead of restricting it to the ‘too narrow’ emphasis on risk communication as such. The reason is that the idea of ‘effective’ risk communication, although valuable in itself, remains problematic if not taken up as a necessary element of concern of a fair approach to risk governance. As nuclear energy risk assessment in general has to take into account knowledge-related uncertainties and value judgements, one can understand that all nuclear energy risk perception is ‘relative’, not only with citizens, but also with activists, scientists, engineers and policy makers. How good the intentions may be, one has to acknowledge that the approach to effective risk communication remains paternalistic if seen only as a one directional transfer of information from ‘experts’ to ‘lay people’ instead of as a dialogue set up as a mutual learning experience. Therefore, from a social justice perspective, involving the (potentially) affected in making sense of the risks and in consequent decision making should be the prime concern. In Fukushima, the uncertainties and fears among the population with regard to possible negative health effects of low doses are not only due to ‘ineffective communication’. Currently, scientific discussions are going on with regard to possible concrete health effects in the areas under investigation, and the Linear Non-Threshold hypothesis and the current limit of 1 mSv per year for the public should therefore be maintained as the principles to inform post-accident governance. In Fukushima, the issue of the so-called ‘100 mSv threshold’ is an issue in urgent need of formal public deliberation among all concerned actors. Although there is major scientific support for the vision that no such threshold exists, it now serves post-accident politics that are not to the benefit of the citizens.
    Keyword Risk governance
    Risk communication
    Copyright Holder United Nations University
    Copyright Year 2015
    Copyright type All rights reserved
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