Attitudes toward Nuclear Energy: Familiarity and Salience

Van-der-Pligt, J., Eiser, J. R. & Spears, R. (1986). Attitudes toward nuclear energy: Familiarity and salience. Environment and Behavior, 18, 1, 75-93.

Examined attitudes toward the building of a nuclear power station in one's locality. 648 residents (mean age 47.7 yrs) of 4 small rural communities that were selected as possible locations for a new nuclear power station in southwest England (one of which was already located near an existing nuclear power station) were surveyed to assess the effects of having lived near a nuclear power station on perceptions of the various possible consequences associated with this technology. Results show that attitudes toward the building of the nuclear power station were a function of its perceived consequences and the importance attached to these consequences. Pro-nuclear Ss were more optimistic about and attached greater value to the importance of the possible economic benefits, while antinuclear Ss were more pessimistic about the risks and attached greater value to the various risks of building and operating the station. Ss in the community located near the existing station had more favorable attitudes than Ss in the other 3 communities. Experience of having lived near a nuclear power station affected not only respondents' perceptions of the various potential costs and benefits of the building and operation of a nuclear power station in one's locality, but also the importance respondents attached to the various consequences. Findings suggest that psychological risks play a crucial role in local acceptance of a nuclear power station and emphasize the importance of anxiety factors in attitude formation. (25 ref)

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