U.S. nuclear power plants as terrorist targets : threat perception and the media
Author(s)Laughter, Mark, 1980-
United States nuclear power plants as terrorist targets
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Nuclear Engineering.
Michael W. Golay.
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In recent history, nuclear engineers and the nuclear power industry have been primarily concerned with two things: safety and waste. In the past few years, a third concern has risen to join these two at the top: terrorism. This change occurred on September 11, 2001. Americans now realize that terrorists are willing and able to attack on their home soil and that terrorists have no qualms about attacking civilians. This thesis examines in detail why people are especially afraid of nuclear power, from the standpoint of both safety and terrorist threats, more so than the other risks that we face everyday. This thesis then explores the role of the press in influencing and being influenced by public perception. The conclusions of this thesis can be boiled down to these main points: (1) The publics fear of terrorism against a nuclear facility has the same roots as the fear caused by safety concerns over nuclear power, and the strongest of these roots is the association of all things "nuclear" with the threat of nuclear war. (2) Terrorism risk perception is largely influenced by proximity to a particular threat. That is, people see more risk in threats that are close to themselves or their loved ones. Likewise, authorities assume that the public perceives greater risk in their particular area of responsibility.(cont.) (3) Since the purpose of terrorism is to incite terror, the public perception of nuclear power plants as tempting terrorist targets may be self-fulfilling. (4) Any public action by government or industry leads to increased media coverage, and any media coverage, positive or negative, increases public fear. Therefore, the nuclear establishment should take no action to lower terrorism risk with the hope that it will allay public concern. Instead, the establishment should take whatever reasonable actions it thinks will reduce the actual risk and make appropriate emergency response preparations, while avoiding additional media coverage.
Thesis (S.M.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Nuclear Engineering, 2005.Includes bibliographical references (p. 87-90).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Nuclear Engineering.; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology