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Changing value priorities in nuclear energy

We analyzed changing value priorities in research on nuclear reactors.  We focused on five values identified by Taebi and Kloosterman (2015). Safety refers to the protection of humans against unintentional harm. Security is the protection of people from “malicious intentional harmful effects”. Sustainability relates to the protection of the environment and the responsible use of resources. Economic viability refers to financial durability of technologies, their competitiveness on markets and their attractiveness for consumers. Finally, intergenerational justice is the “equitable sharing of goods over the course of generations”.

Percentage of articles addressing values for nuclear energy between 1970 and 2020

The figure shows that economic viability was the most important value for nuclear energy technologies until the 1980s. Safety seems to have become more important afterwards. This is likely due to successive nuclear energy accidents: the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, the Chernobyl accident in 1986, and the Fukushima Daiichi accident in 2011.

For more details, see de Wildt, T. E., van de Poel, I. R., & Chappin, E. J. L. (2021). Tracing Long-term Value Change in (Energy) Technologies: Opportunities of Probabilistic Topic Models Using Large Data Sets. Science, Technology, & Human Values