Public ‘find it hard to trust government on nuclear’ say MPs

The public don’t fully trust the government when it comes to nuclear power and shale gas. That’s according to MPs on the Science and Technology Select Committee who have concluded […]

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By Vicky Ellis

The public don’t fully trust the government when it comes to nuclear power and shale gas.

That’s according to MPs on the Science and Technology Select Committee who have concluded the public don’t see the Government as an “impartial” source of information about risks linked to the energy sources.

The MPs suggest the UK Government’s backing of nuclear power makes it difficult for the public to trust it as “impartial”.

Instead, they say independent regulators such as the Health & Safety Executive and Office for Nuclear Regulation should take up a bigger “public profile” to communicate risks – because they are independent of Government.

Andrew Miller, Chairman of the Science and Technology Committee said: “The public must be able to trust the information it receives on the risks of nuclear power and other energy technologies – such as fracking or carbon capture and storage.

“Developing the public profile of independent regulators as trusted and authoritative sources may be one way of increasing public trust and understanding of such risks.”

The MPs point to the Japanese nuclear disaster at Fukushima as an example of how public perceptions were not managed as well as they could have been.

They say classifying Fukushima at the same ‘Level Seven’ magnitude as Chernobyl was “confusing” because there were significantly lower levels of radioactive material released and no deaths directly attributable to the accident.

Andrew Miller MP, Chairman of the Science and Technology Committee added: “Fukushima was no Chernobyl, but the public were left with a confusing picture of the real risks from the accident partly because it was classed as the same magnitude.

“The accident has made it clear that the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale is not up-to-the-job. The International Atomic Energy Agency should come up with a better and more accurate way of communicating the risks involved in any future nuclear accident.”