Fukushima and Media Discourses on Traditional and Future Nuclear Energy

Friday, July 18, 2014: 9:30 AM
Room: F202
Oral Presentation
Luisa SCHMIDT , Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal
SÚrgio PEREIRA , ICS-UL, Portugal
This paper presents results of a collaborative research funded by the European Fusion Development Agreement, consisting in an international comparison of media coverage of fusion and fission energy in three countries (Germany, Spain and Portugal) and in the English language international print media addressing transnational elite, from 2008 to 2012.

The analysis showed that the accident in Fukushima in March 2010 did not have significant impact on media framing of nuclear fusion in the major part of print media under investigation. In fact, fusion is clearly dissociated from traditional nuclear (fission) energy and from nuclear accidents. It tends to be portrayed as a safe, clean and unlimited source of energy, although less credited when confronted with research costs, technologic feasibility and the possibility to be achieved in a reasonable period of time. On the contrary, fission is portrayed as a hazardous source of energy, expensive when compared to research costs of renewables, hardly a long-term energy option, susceptible to contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons or rogue military use. Fukushima accident was consistently discussed in the context of safety problems of nuclear power plants and in many cases appeared not as an isolated event but rather as a reminder of previous nuclear disasters such as Three Miles Island and Chernobyl.

The analysis suggests that the public discourse on fusion is constructed mainly around research challenges, clamorous events and scientific and technological achievements, rather than energy policy debate, climate protection or future economic compensations of fusion research.