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Public Perceptions of Nuclear Power in Lithuania: Symbolic Meanings, Public Participation and a Quest for Democracy Aistė Balžekienė, Leonardas Rinkevičius.

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Presentation on theme: "Public Perceptions of Nuclear Power in Lithuania: Symbolic Meanings, Public Participation and a Quest for Democracy Aistė Balžekienė, Leonardas Rinkevičius."— Presentation transcript:

1 Public Perceptions of Nuclear Power in Lithuania: Symbolic Meanings, Public Participation and a Quest for Democracy Aistė Balžekienė, Leonardas Rinkevičius Department of Sociology, Kaunas University of Technology 1 st ISA Forum of Sociology, Barcelona, September 8, 2008

2 Project Risk perceptions, public communication and innovative governance in knowledge society (RINOVA) Funded by the Lithuanian State Science and Studies Foundation

3 Structure of presentation: Focus and questions of the research Context - nuclear power issues in Lithuania Empirical findings: Risk perceptions Symbolic meanings of nuclear power Public participation and responsibility issues Discussion

4 Research questions: What social and environmental concerns are reflected in nuclear risk perceptions? What symbolic meanings of nuclear power are reflected in public attitudes? How nuclear risks are perceived among other threats? How public reflect upon participation and responsibility issues regarding nuclear power issues?

5 Theoretical background Theoretical framework of research is based upon theories of reflexive modernisation and risk society (Beck, Giddens) considering: the active public participation of society in the decision making processes considering risky technologies; the issue of trust in scientific knowledge and ability to cope with the consequences of technological development; the domination of environmental risk concerns in the perceptions of technologies.

6 Context Ignalina Nuclear power plant – 2 RBMK reactors, greatest installed capacity in the world EU Accession treaty – Lithuania commits to close both reactors. 1 st closed in 2005, 2 nd will be closed in 2009 INPP produces about 75% of total countrys energy production

7 Current issues: Decommissioning of Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant Initiatives to call a referendum for not closing the 2 nd reactor in 2009 Warnings from EU for possible sanctions in case of not closing the reactor in agreed time Building a new nuclear power plant Private capital Concerns for the project being not transparent

8 Public support for nuclear energy in EU countries vs. the share of nuclear energy production in EU countries Sources: a. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) b. Eurobarometer survey 2005 february – march.

9 Survey data Representative Lithuanian population survey, N=1000 June 19-30, 2008 Structured questionnaire on public perceptions of nuclear power, climate change, genetically modified food.

10 Attitudes towards a construction of new modern reactor, % RINOVA study, 2008, N=1000

11 Is referendum necessary considering new nuclear power plant in Lithuania, % RINOVA study, 2008, N=1000

12 Attitudes towards institutions, that should be responsible for nuclear energy issues Agree Neither disagree nor agreeDo not agreeDon't know Scientists Government European Union Parliament United Nations Other international organisations Business Local authorities Non-governmental organisations Society at large RINOVA study, 2008, N=1000

13 Perception of scientific knowledge,% RINOVA study, 2008, N=1000

14 Public perceptions of symbolic meanings of nuclear power plants in Lithuania, % of respondents agreeing with the statement *Q: In your opinion, what is the meaning for Lithuania of current nuclear power plant in Ignalina? **Q: In your opinion, what would be the meaning for Lithuania of new modern nuclear reactor?

15 Symbolic meanings Little differentiation in public perceptions of an old NPP and a new one Domination of positive symbolic meanings based on rational choices rather than environmental concerns New power plant regarded as more vulnerable to oligarchy threat than the old one, identifying public concern about the procedure of establishing a new plant.

16 Perception of threats Mean scores, 1 – low threat, 5 – high threat RINOVA study, 2008, N=1000

17 Decision making processes: Democratic procedures or imitation of democracy? EIA procedure: full report available, summary not available in Lithuanian; Establishing new NPP regulatory institutions, starting of planning works, etc, BEFORE the conclusions of EIA initiatives for referendum – related to 2 nd reactor, but not with new one.

18 Conclusions: Positive symbolic meaning dominate public perceptions of nuclear power plants in Lithuania, revealing economic and energy security concerns at the first place. Society is not perceived as important institution that should have responsibility or legitimized power to participate in nuclear power regulation issues.

19 Conclusions Survey revealed that public perceptions of nuclear power are relatively inconsistent: Despite public uncertainty about scientific knowledge, science is still regarded as the main actor taking responsibility for nuclear power issues. The support for new modern reactor is rather high, however it is still considered as posing threat of an accident.


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