Wednesday, June 22, 2011

On the contribution of external cost calculations to energy system governance: The case of a potential large-scale nuclear accident
Abstract: The contribution of nuclear power to a sustainable energy future is a contested issue. This paper presents a critical review of an attempt to objectify this debate through the calculation of the external costs of a potential large-scale nuclear accident in the ExternE project. A careful dissection of the ExternE approach resulted in a list of 30 calculation steps and assumptions, from which the 6 most contentious ones were selected through a stakeholder internet survey. The policy robustness and relevance of these key assumptions were then assessed in a workshop using the concept of a ‘pedigree of knowledge’. Overall, the workshop outcomes revealed the stakeholder and expert panel's scepticism about the assumptions made: generally these were considered not very plausible, subjected to disagreement, and to a large extent inspired by contextual factors. Such criticism indicates a limited validity and useability of the calculated nuclear accident externality as a trustworthy sustainability indicator. Furthermore, it is our contention that the ExternE project could benefit greatly – in terms of gaining public trust – from employing highly visible procedures of extended peer review such as the pedigree assessment applied to our specific case of the external costs of a potential large-scale nuclear accident.

by Erik Laes 1, Gaston Meskens 2 and Jeroen P. van der Sluijs 3
1. Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO), Boeretang 200, 2400 Mol, Belgium
2. Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK-CEN), Boeretang 200, 2400 Mol, Belgium
3. Copernicus Institute, Department of Science Technology and Society, Utrecht University, Budapestlaan 6, 584 CD Utrecht, The Netherlands
Energy Policy via Elsevier Science Direct
Article in Press, Corrected Proof; Available online 14 June 2011.
Keywords: External cost; Nuclear power; Pedigree assessment

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