• Perceived risk;
  • nuclear waste;
  • uncertainty

This paper presents survey results on perceived risk regarding the management of nuclear waste. Using data taken from random mail surveys of members of scientific, business, and environmental groups in Colorado and New Mexico in the summer of 1990, we examine differences between the groups in their expressed perceptions of risk and also their assessments of the certainty of their beliefs. We consider whether (a) greater uncertainty is associated with greater perceived risks and (b) whether there is greater responsiveness to new information for those whose beliefs are least certain. We find that there are connections between perceived risk and uncertainty, and there is a greater tendency to update risk assessements from a position of greater initial uncertainty. There are, however, differences between the groups as well as asymmetries in their responses to new information. The latter suggests that perceived risks will ratchet upward over time even when information is not biased toward more or less risk.