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Why DOE's Messages on Transportation Don't Resonate with the Public (and What DOE Can Do to Fix the Problem)

Lisa R. Janairo
Ken Niles
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This paper describes the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) challenge in addressing public perceptions about the planned transport of spent nuclear fuel and high-level nuclear waste to a national repository. The authors focus on ways to improve one small but important component of a well-designed effort to manage social risk – namely, public outreach. After reviewing fundamental principles of risk perception, the authors examine DOE’s own public information materials from various radioactive waste shipping campaigns to determine the extent to which DOE uses such messages. This review reveals that, not only are these suggested messages seldom if ever incorporated, but DOE’s reliance on five key messages likely provides little benefit and could actually heighten public concern. To improve the outcome of DOE’s future public outreach activities, the authors recommend specific changes to DOE’s key messages on transportation of radioactive waste to better reflect the underlying factors that influence public perception of risk. (Waste Management 2008 Conference, February 24-28, 2008; Phoenix, AZ)
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