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Public Underst Sci. 2008 Apr;17(2):145-69.

Reframing nuclear power in the UK energy debate: nuclear power, climate change mitigation and radioactive waste.

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  • 1Department of Geography, Durham University, UK.


In the past decade, human influence on the climate through increased use of fossil fuels has become widely acknowledged as one of the most pressing issues for the global community. For the United Kingdom, we suggest that these concerns have increasingly become manifest in a new strand of political debate around energy policy, which reframes nuclear power as part of the solution to the need for low-carbon energy options. A mixed-methods analysis of citizen views of climate change and radioactive waste is presented, integrating focus group data and a nationally representative survey. The data allow us to explore how UK citizens might now and in the future interpret and make sense of this new framing of nuclear power--which ultimately centers on a risk-risk trade-off scenario. We use the term "reluctant acceptance" to describe how, in complex ways, many focus group participants discursively re-negotiated their position on nuclear energy when it was positioned alongside climate change. In the concluding section of the paper, we reflect on the societal implications of the emerging discourse of new nuclear build as a means of delivering climate change mitigation and set an agenda for future research regarding the (re)framing of the nuclear energy debate in the UK and beyond.

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