All policymaking about nuclear power — every cost/benefit analysis, every regulatory decision, every discussion about risk — is framed in some way by a quantitative reliability assessment. Such assessments are invested with all the authority that ‘science’ and ‘calculation’ wield over ‘mere judgement’. And given the irrefutably exorbitant costs (human, financial and environmental) of rector meltdowns, it is clear that policymakers would struggle rationalize nuclear energy without them.
So what happens when an event like Fukushima seems to undermine that authority? How do the many institutions vested in nuclear energy shore-up public faith in an assessment practice that appears to have failed? This is a question I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. Listen here for some broad thoughts, or follow here for the much more in-depth journal article (assuming you can navigate the paywall).