Attitudes towards Nuclear Power in the UK : A Local Survey to Create an Attitude Scaling Approach with a Focus on Generational Effects

Bosson, Samuel Anthony (2012) Attitudes towards Nuclear Power in the UK : A Local Survey to Create an Attitude Scaling Approach with a Focus on Generational Effects. [Dissertation]

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The production of nuclear power and the disposal of its waste has been, is, and will certainly continue to be of deep concern to the general public in the UK for the foreseeable future.
Current UK national policy is generally supportive of nuclear power developments as a core component of a ‘balanced’ energy plan because nuclear power is a low carbon approach and reduces reliance on depleting fossil fuels and on overseas fuel supply. However, many individuals and organisations (such as Greenpeace) are fundamentally opposed to any further nuclear developments mainly on the grounds that it is unsafe.
It is clear that there cannot be any final objective scientific answers to nuclear development questions particularly because of the impossibility of quantifying the long term expected costs associated with the perceived risks (in probability terms) involved: particularly of ways that serious radiation release could conceivably occur.
“Risk is the chance that something adverse will happen. To take a risk is deliberately to incur that chance; and estimating a risk involves defining that something precisely and finding a way of calculating how often it is likely to happen in particular circumstances”
Health and Safety Executive: The Tolerability of Risks from Nuclear Power Stations,HMSO, 1992
The lack of scientific answers to such (long term) risk assessment questions means inevitably that a wide range of opinions and attitudes must be regarded as legitimate, and that these attitudes are inevitably the basis for Political policies that, in turn, ultimately depend (in the UK) on democratic voting processes. For such political processes to be as informed as possible it is important to be able to measure and monitor effectively and efficiently levels and trends in public attitudes to nuclear power developments.
This dissertation examines these questions and aims to add to the (large) body of knowledge both of attitude scale development methods and quantifying currently held attitudes by respondent characteristics. Very many previous attitude and opinion surveys have been carried out (in the UK and elsewhere) but there remains scope for much more work of this nature to improve our understanding of attitudes – as between different sections of the community, ages, gender, place, over time and so on. Also there is a need for improvement in the methodology of how attitude surveys are designed, carried out and interpreted – in order to contribute to the development of a more cohesive body of work.
Specifically, this dissertation provides a critical appraisal and literature review of this body of work and makes a contribution to this research agenda by developing a preliminary attitude scaling instrument with the intention of discovering general attitudes towards nuclear power held by a respondent group differing mainly by age group.

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