Recalibrating risk

Putting nuclear risk in context and perspective

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Nuclear energy is crucial to meeting the world’s ever-increasing demand for energy, thanks to its ability to supply affordable, reliable, and sustainable electricity and heat. Despite the many benefits of nuclear energy, its deployment is hindered in some parts of the world due to long-standing misconceptions about its risks. Even with its safety record – unmatched by any other energy source – the perception of nuclear power as uniquely dangerous endures.


This is reflected in the regulatory burden placed on the nuclear industry, which is geared towards an “as low as possible” approach, demanding radiation levels to be far below the levels where health effects have been observed (and in many cases below natural background radiation). This has resulted in higher costs, without delivering any additional health benefits, and has resulted in policymakers choosing other, more risky energy sources. More often than not, those alternative energy sources have been fossil fuels, greatly exacerbating the well-known risks posed by air pollution and climate change.

Expanding the use of nuclear energy is essential for solving some of the biggest challenges facing humanity. Nuclear power has already played a major role in avoiding the emission of air pollutants and greenhouse gases, a role that will have to be greatly expanded in the future to ensure global energy supplies are decarbonized by 2050. Nuclear energy will also play a major part in ensuring that the transition to a low-carbon future is done in an equitable fashion, providing people across the world with a high-powered and sustainable future.

In order to fully unlock the potential of the atom, it is crucial that the gap between perceived and actual risks is addressed. The window of opportunity to act on climate change and other global challenges is closing fast – we must not delay increasing the contribution of nuclear energy on the grounds of myths and misconceptions.

Therefore, World Nuclear Association calls upon policymakers and regulators to adopt an all-hazards approach, where different risks associated with energy producing technologies are placed in perspective and the appropriate context, and examined in line with the latest scientific evidence. Policymakers and regulators must ensure that their decisions regarding radiation protection do not create greater risks elsewhere. This include the recalibration of existing regulations regarding nuclear power and radiation, weighing the cost of regulatory measures against the societal benefits provided by nuclear energy.