Sun, Mar 24, 2013 - Page 8 News List

Nuclear experts lacking empathy

By Li Shang-jen 李尚仁

According to a report, the Fukushima disaster was caused by the large number of factors that lay beyond human reckoning or control. If one wants to say that this was some kind of experiment, what it proves is that we cannot rely solely on expert opinion when it comes to the question of safety.

Bryan Wynne, a science and technology studies academic, has done much research on the UK’s contentious nuclear energy policy.

He has pointed out that one of the reasons the British are distrustful of, and uncomfortable about, the nuclear energy industry, is the experts’ arrogance in their failure to recognize the limitations of their own knowledge in this area, and that, if a nuclear accident does happen, they will have to rely on these experts to deal with the serious and unknowable consequences of the accident.

The British government relies heavily on the opinions of a select few experts, reducing the scope for debate and policy considerations. They reject the public’s legitimate concerns, for the reason that “they do not understand anything about science.” The result of this is that the supposed democratic process behind the formation of government policy on science and technology descends into a dictatorial performance under the guise of a rational one. We have been seeing a similar phenomenon with the contentious issue of nuclear power in Taiwan for the past three decades, in the behavior of our heads of state and a section of nuclear experts.

Li Shang-jen is an associate research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of History and Philology.

Translated by Paul Cooper

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