Fukushima Decommissioning Representatives Visit TMI-2, Discuss Risk Communication

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April 27, 2022 – EnergySolutions hosted representatives from the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) for a tour of TMI-2 and a benchmarking session on the importance of managing risk communications throughout the nuclear decommissioning process.

Among our visitors was Dr. Mariko Nishizawa, risk policy and communications expert currently serving on the Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee (NRMC). The NRMC was established in 2012 as an advisory board to monitor and advise TEPCO’s Fukushima decommissioning activities from an external standpoint.

“By visiting the iconic nuclear site which I’d only seen in textbooks, I have realized that people have been making painstaking, long-term efforts to clean up the troubled reactor. With respect to the Fukushima site, given the magnitude of the accident, much bigger and longer efforts will be needed,” Dr. Nishizawa noted.

Following the TMI-2 tour, Dr. Nishizawa gave a presentation to TMI-2 Regulatory Affairs staff on the subtle but significant differences between risk and risk perception, while emphasizing the need to share knowledge between our unique nuclear decommissioning projects. “Risk and risk perceptions are two different entities. For us, it is not always easy to grasp the extent of risk and fear accordingly. Technical people are experts in dealing with actual risks, but are not necessarily experts in communicating risks. Knowing and telling risks require different capability,” Dr. Nishizawa said.

Dr. Nishizawa also shared footage of interviews she conducted with residents in the surrounding region of Fukushima who were displaced by the accident – many of whom have yet to return home. A prominent issue, from their perspective, is a lack of clarity regarding their own safety. The on-going risk communication problem, as Dr. Nishizawa explained, is in-part a linguistic challenge – the Japanese word for risk is 危険 (pronouned “ki-ken”), which is usually associated with dangers or hazards. Therefore, the “risks” themselves can be difficult to translate, which often leads to amplified or attenuated risk perceptions.

“There are common issues between TMI-2 and Fukushima as both sites are symbolic in nuclear accidents and experienced sensationalized media attention, public furors and stigmatization. By sharing knowledge, both sites can teach each other how risk communication is to be more fully deployed or implemented,” Dr. Nishizawa concluded.

More information about the Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee can be found here