TOO HOT TO HANDLE? by Charles A.; Leroy C. Gould & Edward J. Woodhouse--Eds. Walker


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In an attempt to clarify the facts and issues involved in the management of radioactive wastes, the three editors and five further contributors--a mix of academics in the fields of engineering, public health, psychology, and political science--offer a methodical survey of energy options, waste-disposal alternatives, perceived and real risks, and the chances of rational risk assessment and decision-making (technical methods, likely impediments). Despite a worthy attempt at objectivity, the editors and contributors clearly believe that nuclear power is needed, that the technological problems associated with waste disposal can be solved, that the public (as revealed in a number of polls) is grievously ignorant and limited in its capacity to make rational decisions, and that the most trusted sources of information tend to emphasize problems and hazards. They are equally and more openly certain, though, that the nuclear industry and the DOE have been unduly complacent and less than honest about the risks involved, and that the prevailing narrow technological focus has ignored broader questions of value (specifically, the acceptability as opposed to the extent of given risks) on which the public should play a major decision-making role. Their final recommendations are for a new federal agency with a broader, value-oriented view, which should facilitate debate on all sides rather than merely attempt to persuade, and for a legitimatizing process that ""even the losers will find acceptable""--probably nothing less than public referenda. Despite the public's lack of information and other resources, the editors conclude, its choices are unlikely to be worse than those made by the elites. On an issue of much heat, a conscientious outline of relevant considerations.

Pub Date: March 16th, 1983
Publisher: Yale Univ. Press