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The social acceptance of fusion: Critically examining public perceptions of uranium-based fuel storage for nuclear fusion in Europe

Jones, Christopher R., Yardley, Sophie and Medley, Sarah (2019) The social acceptance of fusion: Critically examining public perceptions of uranium-based fuel storage for nuclear fusion in Europe Energy Research & Social Science, 52. pp. 192-203.

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The public acceptability of emerging industrial technologies can affect their chances of commercial success. In large, demographically diverse samples from the United Kingdom (N = 438) and Germany (N = 390), we show for the first time the stigmatizing impact that the proposed use of depleted uranium (DU) as a tritium fuel storage option for nuclear fusion has upon public attitudes towards nuclear fusion. Participants’ attitudes towards nuclear fusion in both cohorts were assessed at four time points within an online questionnaire-based survey: pre-information about nuclear fusion (Time 1); post-information about fusion (Time 2); pre-information about DU (Time 3); and post-information about DU (Time 4). Attitudes towards nuclear fusion were generally more positive in the UK; however, both the UK and German cohorts showed a similar ‘flip-flop’ pattern in opinions over time. Specifically, an initial improvement in attitudes (Time 1 – Time 2), which was taken as evidence of the value of delineating nuclear fusion from nuclear fission, was followed by a significant downturn (Time 2 – Time 3) upon the announcement that DU would be involved in fuel-storage. This downturn in attitudes was tied to participants’ initial negative cognitive and affective evaluations of DU. The stigmatizing impact was found to partially reverse (Time 3 – Time 4) following the provision of information about the nature and purpose of DU within fusion. The study findings have clear implications for public engagement and communication efforts relating to current and future nuclear fusion demonstration projects.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences > School of Psychology
Authors :
Jones, Christopher
Yardley, Sophie
Medley, Sarah
Date : June 2019
Funders : EUROfusion Consortium
DOI : 10.1016/j.erss.2019.02.015
Grant Title : Euratom research and training programme 2014-2018
Copyright Disclaimer : © 2019. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
Uncontrolled Keywords : Nuclear fusion; Public perception; Attitudes; Stigma; Depleted uranium
Depositing User : Clive Harris
Date Deposited : 25 Apr 2019 08:49
Last Modified : 09 Mar 2020 02:08

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