Background: The tradition of nuclear technology in Argentina dates far back to the fifties. Hence, the country has generated broad experience in research and technological development in this field. This situation has enabled the nuclear sector to become an exporter of high technology (nuclear research reactors, fuel storage plants, radioisotope producing plants, etc.) which is an infrequent fact for a developing country. Moreover, nuclear capacity has given the country two working nuclear plants (Atucha I and Embalse) which generate almost ten percent of electrical energy. In the last few years, there has been a social debate regarding Argentina’s electrical capacity to face the economic growth and the increasing demand of the industries. Two topics of this debate have been the need to increase electrical production and to diversify the energy matrix. By mid 2006, the central government announced a plan to enlarge nuclear sector participation in the generation of electricity ‐it included to restart the interrupted construction of a third nuclear plant (Atucha II) and extend the Embalse nuclear plant’s useful life. The announcement also contained financial support to develop applications of nuclear energy within industry and public health sectors. Nonetheless, we can not forget that nuclear power is a controversial technology always under social suspicion. Precisely, in the last few years there has been a controversy in Argentina –with some public level of exposure‐ between nuclear scientists and Greenpeace members motivated by the sale of a nuclear research reactor to the government of Australia.

Objective / Hyphoteses: We analyze in here how argentine people perceive nuclear risk. We show the level of information people have about both the announcement made by the government and the local production of electricity using nuclear plants. We also review how people perceive local scientific and technological capacities on nuclear power generation. We analyze, in addition, the level of confidence in different stakeholders as sources of information regarding the consequences of nuclear power. Finally, we examine the social perception of risk to determine whether Argentinean people might support, or not, a nuclear policy.

Methods: We use the data provided by the second Argentinean national survey on public perception of science. We make a statistical description and regression analysis by crossing sociological variables like gender, age and education, with information, values and attitudes. Results: Six of each ten argentine people are not aware that the country uses nuclear power to produce electricity. A similar proportion of the interviewed neither listened nor read about the announcement made by the government. Most argentine population does not perceive the scientific nuclear capacity of the country. The prevailing view combines negative assessment valorization with misinformation. Nearly half of the people consulted (45%) believed that the country has a poor, or even none, capacity in this technological field. Moreover, a little more than a quarter of respondents do not have a formed opinion on this subject. Half argentine people think that nuclear power is a technological risk that can be controlled. In contrast, slightly more than 20% point out that it is a risky technology and can not be controlled. In addition, a significant proportion of the public (23%) expresses no assessment on this subject.

Conclusions: There are polarized attitudes with respect to the evaluation of the nuclear risk. Most of those people who assume that the risk can be managed effectively are favorable to stimulate the nuclear production. Although, in this same segment, there is a group of people whom, in spite of thinking that the risk management is possible, would prefer that the country does not develop nuclear technology. Those that, on the contrary, think that the nuclear technology is a non controllable risk, are visibly inclined to reject it as a technological option. In this group there are also a significant percentage of people with a contradictory position: still evaluating that the risk cannot be controlled, they are favorable to foment its development. Also it is possible to be said that between these people opposed to the use of nuclear energy, the credibility in the scientists is lower than in environmental organizations.

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How Argentine people perceive nuclear risk

Carmelo Polino   Centro REDES

María Fazio   Centro REDES

Background: The tradition of nuclear technology in Argentina dates far back to the fifties. Hence, the country has generated broad experience in research and technological development in this field. This situation has enabled the nuclear sector to become an exporter of high technology (nuclear research reactors, fuel storage plants, radioisotope producing plants, etc.) which is an infrequent fact for a developing country. Moreover, nuclear capacity has given the country two working nuclear plants (Atucha I and Embalse) which generate almost ten percent of electrical energy. In the last few years, there has been a social debate regarding Argentina’s electrical capacity to face the economic growth and the increasing demand of the industries. Two topics of this debate have been the need to increase electrical production and to diversify the energy matrix. By mid 2006, the central government announced a plan to enlarge nuclear sector participation in the generation of electricity ‐it included to restart the interrupted construction of a third nuclear plant (Atucha II) and extend the Embalse nuclear plant’s useful life. The announcement also contained financial support to develop applications of nuclear energy within industry and public health sectors. Nonetheless, we can not forget that nuclear power is a controversial technology always under social suspicion. Precisely, in the last few years there has been a controversy in Argentina –with some public level of exposure‐ between nuclear scientists and Greenpeace members motivated by the sale of a nuclear research reactor to the government of Australia.

Objective / Hyphoteses: We analyze in here how argentine people perceive nuclear risk. We show the level of information people have about both the announcement made by the government and the local production of electricity using nuclear plants. We also review how people perceive local scientific and technological capacities on nuclear power generation. We analyze, in addition, the level of confidence in different stakeholders as sources of information regarding the consequences of nuclear power. Finally, we examine the social perception of risk to determine whether Argentinean people might support, or not, a nuclear policy.

Methods: We use the data provided by the second Argentinean national survey on public perception of science. We make a statistical description and regression analysis by crossing sociological variables like gender, age and education, with information, values and attitudes. Results: Six of each ten argentine people are not aware that the country uses nuclear power to produce electricity. A similar proportion of the interviewed neither listened nor read about the announcement made by the government. Most argentine population does not perceive the scientific nuclear capacity of the country. The prevailing view combines negative assessment valorization with misinformation. Nearly half of the people consulted (45%) believed that the country has a poor, or even none, capacity in this technological field. Moreover, a little more than a quarter of respondents do not have a formed opinion on this subject. Half argentine people think that nuclear power is a technological risk that can be controlled. In contrast, slightly more than 20% point out that it is a risky technology and can not be controlled. In addition, a significant proportion of the public (23%) expresses no assessment on this subject.

Conclusions: There are polarized attitudes with respect to the evaluation of the nuclear risk. Most of those people who assume that the risk can be managed effectively are favorable to stimulate the nuclear production. Although, in this same segment, there is a group of people whom, in spite of thinking that the risk management is possible, would prefer that the country does not develop nuclear technology. Those that, on the contrary, think that the nuclear technology is a non controllable risk, are visibly inclined to reject it as a technological option. In this group there are also a significant percentage of people with a contradictory position: still evaluating that the risk cannot be controlled, they are favorable to foment its development. Also it is possible to be said that between these people opposed to the use of nuclear energy, the credibility in the scientists is lower than in environmental organizations.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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