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Risk Perception and Energy Production

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Mean risk magnitude judgments expressed by Belgian and French students on 107 items combining a particular energy domain (wood and biomass, coal, gas, oil, nuclear, water, wind, geothermal and solar) and a particular aspect of the energy production process (obtaining raw materials, storage of raw materials, transport of raw materials, energy production, waste products related to energy production, energy transport, waste products transport, waste products storage, utilization of energy) are reported, and analyzed. Questions were of the form: What is the level of risk (for health and the environment) associated with the item "Electrical energy production by thermodynamic conversion"? Concerning energy domains, nuclear energy received the highest ratings, almost regardless of the aspect of the energy production process considered (from the extraction of raw materials to the storage of production wastes). This was followed by oil, obtaining the next highest ratings after those for nuclear energy, then gas, considered more risky than biomass and coal. The brand image of these two latter energy sources would be almost as positive as that of water, solar, geothermal and wind energy if a solution could be found to the problem of atmospheric emission of carbon monoxide. Concerning production process aspects, waste products (as well as the transport and storage of waste) received the highest ratings. This is not unrelated to the fact that the vast majority of studies devoted to a particular area or particular aspect have concerned nuclear waste. In contrast, no very high degree of concern was found regarding the energy (electrical) transport aspect.

Keywords: energy; risk perception

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, France 2: Université Charles-de-Gaulle, Villeneuve d'Ascq, France 3: Université François-Rabelais, Tours, France

Publication date: 1998-02-01

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