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The Emergence of Transparency

Nuclear communicators often face strong scepticism and/or disbelief from many members of both the public and the media. Highly publicized events such  as the Fukushima Daiichi, Chernobyl, Goiania and Three Mile Island nuclear accidents; nuclear bomb testing in the Pacific; and the sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine — these incidents and accidents came into public view in confusing and conflicting ways. The idea of transparency emerged from these events. Decision makers and community leaders determined communication on nuclear science and technology issues needed to be handled differently.

Research shows that people tend to accept nuclear science when the perceived benefits outweigh negative features. For example, medical nuclear applications are understood differently than other nuclear applications. Familiarity with the benefits of diagnostics like x-rays and treatments involving radiation changes how people perceive nuclear applications.

Guidelines in IAEA publications reflect interest in the idea of transparency in the communication of nuclear issues. These basic principles and strategies support proactive, timely communication and stakeholder involvement.

Social context and cultural differences may change some of the implementation strategies. There is not a “one size fits all” communications strategy. However, the basic principles of people-to-people interaction remain. For example, honest and transparent communications regarding nuclear issues has become the norm across the nuclear sector. It proves to be effective regardless of nationality or stakeholder diversity. Furthermore, the IAEA has developed a guide on Communication and Consultation with Interested Parties by the Regulatory Body.

Communicators must practice transparency above all else. Indeed, some of the worst consequences of past nuclear accidents are the result of inadequate and/or inaccurate public pronouncements or responses by nuclear authorities. There is a strong legacy to overcome: it will only be achieved through honesty, forthrightness and transparency.


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