Belief and Values in the Nuclear Debate1


  • 1

    This stduy was conducted while the second author was in receipt of a scholarship from the British Council the advice and assistance of Harry Stopes-Roe, Mary Stopes-Roe, and Michael Billig of the University of Birmingham is gratefully acknowledged. As will be immediately clear, this was writtenbefore the Harrisbung accident.


A questionnaire was administered to 47 participants attending a workshop on nuclear energy shortly after publication of a report on a proposed nuclear fuel reprocessing plant. Supporters and opponents of the proposed development differed markedly in their estimates of its possible consequences, and of the relative importance of these consequences. They also differed in their endorsement of pro- and anti-nuclear lobbies, and the factors which they felt contributed most to the “quality of life”. Overall, pro-nuclear subjects appear to place emphasis on the economic benefits of nuclear energy, while anti-nuclear subjects appearad more concerned with social and political risks, and regraded alternative energy sources as more viable. It is concluded that an analysis of such attitudinal differences requires a consideration not only of differences in beliefs, but also of differences in belief salience.