ArticlePDF Available

What Do Lay PeopleWant to Know About the Disposal of Nuclear Waste? A Mental Model Approach to the Design and Development of an Online Risk Communication


Abstract and Figures

Public participation requires the involvement of lay people in the decision-making processes of issues that concern them. It is currently practiced in a variety of domains, such as transport and environmental planning. Communicating risks can be a complex task, as there may be significant differences between the risk perceptions of experts and those of lay people. Among the plethora of problems that require public involvement is the site selection of a nuclear waste disposal site in the United Kingdom, which is discussed in this article. Previous ineffective attempts to locate a site provide evidence that the problem has a strong social dimension, and studies ascribe public opposition to a loss of public trust in governmental agencies and decisionmakers, and to a lack of public understanding of nuclear waste issues. Although the mental models approach has been successfully used in the effective communication of such risks as climate change, no attempt has been made to follow a prescriptive mental model approach to develop risk communication messages that inform lay people about nuclear waste disposal. After interviewing 20 lay people and 5 experts, we construct and compare their corresponding mental models to reveal any gaps and misconceptions. The mental models approach is further applied here to identify lay people's requirements regarding what they want to know about nuclear waste, and how this information should be presented so that it is easily understood. This article further describes how the mental models approach was used in the subsequent development of an online information system for the site selection of a nuclear waste repository in the United Kingdom, which is considered essential for the improvement of public understanding and the reestablishment of trust.
Content may be subject to copyright.
What do lay people want to know about the disposal of nuclear waste? - A
mental model approach to the design and development of an online risk
*The definitive version is available at
Skarlatidou, A; Cheng, T; Haklay, M; (2012) What Do Lay People Want to Know About the Disposal of
Nuclear Waste? A Mental Model Approach to the Design and Development of an Online Risk
Communication. Risk Analysis , 32 (9) pp. 1496-1511. 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2011.01773.x.
A. Skarlatidou1, 2*, T. Cheng2, and M. Haklay2
1 Department of Computer Science, University College London, UK
2 Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, University College
London, UK
*Address correspondence to A. Skarlatidou, 104 Chadwick Building, University College,
London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT, UK; tel: +44 (0) 297 679 2781;
Public participation requires the involvement of lay people in the decision-making processes of issues
that concern them. It is currently practiced in a variety of domains, such as transport and environmental
planning. Communicating risks can be a complex task, as there may be significant differences between
the risk perceptions of experts and those of lay people. Amongst the plethora of problems that require
public involvement is the site selection of a nuclear waste disposal site in the UK, which is discussed
in this paper. Previous ineffective attempts to locate a site provide evidence that the problem has a
strong social dimension, and studies ascribe public opposition to a loss of public trust in governmental
agencies and decision makers, and to a lack of public understanding of nuclear waste issues. Although
the mental models approach has been successfully used in the effective communication of such risks as
climate change, no attempt has been made to follow a prescriptive mental model approach, to develop
risk communication messages that inform lay people about nuclear waste disposal. After interviewing
20 lay people and 5 experts, we construct and compare their corresponding mental models, to reveal
any gaps and misconceptions. The mental models approach is further applied here to identify lay
people’s requirements regarding what they want to know about nuclear waste, and how this information
should be presented so that it is easily understood. This paper further describes how the mental models
approach was used in the subsequent development of an online information system for the site selection
of a nuclear waste repository in the UK, which is considered essential for the improvement of public
understanding and the re-establishment of trust.
KEY WORDS: Mental Models; Risk; Nuclear Waste Disposal
Democracy, which is the most defining characteristic of much of western civilisation, necessitates
the involvement of the public in issues that concern ordinary citizens, especially after the gradual loss
of confidence and trust in governmental institutions. The last decade, therefore, saw heightened interest
in the importance of public involvement within institutional democratic frameworks (1). In order to
achieve publicly acceptable solutions (2), public involvement and participation in decision-making
processes are essential in a variety of domains (e.g. transport, land-use, environmental and health-care
planning). There is evidence that public participation is also essential for the site selection of a nuclear
waste repository in the UK (3,4), which is the case discussed in this paper.
Public participation involves a set of methods that can be used to consult, involve, inform and allow
lay people to have their say, and to provide their input to a decision-making process(5). Different
methods are used to provide different levels of public empowerment, and these can vary from simply
providing information, to enable the people to make a decision for themselves, as found in public
participation models, such as the citizen participation ladder (6,7). However, two significant concerns are
associated with traditional approaches to public participation and are widely acknowledged in the public
participation literature (8-11).
First, traditional methods such as open meetings, discussion groups, citizen panels and so on,
although potentially capable of promoting two-way communication, introduce some forms of exclusion.
The time and location of meetings may restrict participation, and some disabled people, for example,
cannot attend meetings. In addition, it is not unusual to observe a knowledgeable minority dominate the
discussions, and switches the conversations into detailed analyses. In this context, Information and
Communication Technology (ICT) is seen as a “democracy reshaper” (12), because it enhances public
participation because it is “interactive, relatively cheap to enter, unconstrained by time or distance and
inclusive (12, p.5).
Second, participatory bottom-up approaches are used to achieve broad policy objectives, and
dialogue can be promoted and trust can be enhanced, which means that the participants need to have a
common understanding of the issue under discussion, especially when risks are involved in the policy
making. However, communicating risks to lay people is a complex task, because risks are not perceived
in the same way by all individuals, as risk perceptions are influenced by a set of cognitive, affective and
social factors (e.g. previous knowledge). Studies in the risk communication field provide several
examples of the successful communication of risk messages for such issues as radon in homes (13) and
climate change (14), using the mental models approach, which is a public centred methodology that
assists the development and testing of risk messages.
There is a plethora of problems and risks that could benefit from the mental models approach. One
such problem is the site selection of a nuclear waste disposal facility, especially where public opposition
is evident in countries such as the UK. In the UK, the Governmental plan emphasises a voluntary,
partnership-based approach to identifying a solution that will become publicly acceptable. Several
studies explain that one important reason behind public opposition to locating a nuclear waste disposal
facility is the lack of public knowledge about nuclear waste issues (15). Although the mental models
approach can assist in the development of risk communication messages that aim to improve public
understanding, the majority of studies in this area are descriptive, which means that “no application of
the mental models methodology to risk communication has been reported in the field of RWM
[Radioactive Waste Management] (16, p.23). Neither technical competency, probabilistic risk
assessments of a high standard, openness through consultation or public hearings can guarantee public
acceptance. Negotiation through compensation may resolve Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) type
conflicts, but improving public understanding is highly important in eliciting public acceptance.
At the same time, the majority of existing risk communication studies focus on the design of
information brochures. To our knowledge, there is no study that makes use of an approach that designs
and develops online information. The popularity of the Internet and the Web has established an
important area for communicating risk information to lay people, in addition to the more traditional
communication channels, to enable them to participate in public debates. Online information that is
easily accessible, and open to a wider population, may support the development of comprehensive and
accurate mental models. Thus, the mental models approach could prove beneficial not only in terms of
improving public understanding but also in the design of such online risk information.
The aim of this work is twofold. The first aim is to understand the mental models of lay people in
the UK regarding nuclear waste disposal and its site selection process, and to document further any gaps
or misconceptions, as well as any requirements. It is noteworthy that descriptive studies of this issue
refer to a wider population from different countries, although it is widely acknowledged that populations
from different countries have both similarities and differences in their mental models. The second aim
is to show how the mental models of lay people can be taken into consideration in the design of online
information, in this case a Web Geographical Information System (GIS).
This paper begins with an overview of nuclear waste disposal issues, to demonstrate that public
opposition is evident in this area. This is followed by a review of the mental models approach in risk
communication studies. Section four describes the methodological approach, and specifically the
mental models interviews that were conducted, together with the results of the study. In the fifth section
we show how the findings supported the design of an online information system. Finally, we conclude
with a discussion of the strengths, limitations and the future research directions of the mental models
approach in the case of nuclear waste disposal.
Nuclear or radioactive waste contains radioactive chemical elements that must be disposed of.
Nuclear waste is generally classified into three types (3): Low Level Waste (LLW) (e.g. radioactive
waste generated from hospitals), Intermediate Level Waste (ILW) (e.g. nuclear reactor products) and
High Level Waste (HLW) (e.g. Uranium and Plutonium -239). The latter (HLW) contains the highest
level of radioactivity, and must be isolated for millions of years. Several governments consider
geological disposal the most preferred disposal option for this waste (3,4). Geological disposal is based
on the principle that a repository within a suitable geological formation can act as a physical barrier that
ensures that harmful radioactivity levels will not reach the surface environment.
Several environmental and site selection problems must face the challenge of public
acceptability, and also have a strong social dimension and significant technical considerations that must
be scientifically grounded, but nuclear waste disposal “demonstrates this juxtaposition most clearly”
(17, p.2). To demonstrate this, it is necessary to review briefly the historical evidence of the several
ineffective attempts to locate a nuclear waste disposal facility in the UK.
The search for a HLW disposal facility in the UK started in 1976 following the Sixth Report of
the UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (also known as The Flowers Report) and
continued for five years, until 1981. The main concern of this period was the technical dimensions of
the problem, although it quickly became evident that gaining public acceptability was of equal
importance (17). Public inquiries and the public opposition groups that formed during this period
expressed opposition, and as a result most such planning permission applications were rejected (e.g. by
Kyle and Carrick District Council in 1976; by Alnwick and Berwick District Councils). By the end of
1981 attention had turned to finding a site for the disposal of LLW and ILW, but again without success.
Several protest groups were formed, and several sites were rejected (e.g. Billingham, Elstow, Bradwell,
Fulbeck and Killingholme, Sellafield).
In 2001, the UK Government initiated the first stage of the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely
(MRWS) Programme, and later charged the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM)
with overviewing the different options, and proposing a long-term waste management strategy (18).
CoRWM suggested that transparency and openness are necessary in the implementation of a
partnership-based approach (3). In 2008 the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
(DEFRA) published its White Paper, in which CoRWM’s recommendations were adopted and, in
parallel, an invitation was issued to communities to express an interest in discussing the possibility of
hosting a geological disposal facility. Notably, thirteen Councils inquired and decided against hosting
the facility, and only two Councils, both in West Cumbria, expressed an interest (19).
Understanding the nature of this public opposition is fundamental to the successful
implementation of a nuclear waste management strategy, and the identification of a publicly acceptable
solution. For a long period of time, especially in the 1980s, there was a belief that public opposition to
a variety of facilities was driven purely by NIMBY-type behaviour. Schively explains that NIMBY
characterises the social response to unwanted facilities, sometimes called locally unwanted land uses
(LULUs)” (20, p. 255).
NIMBY-type behaviour has been the focus of many studies over the last two decades, and
several authors argue that attributing the public opposition to nuclear waste disposal to the
characteristics of NIMBYism is misleading (21, 22, 23). In 1986 a study was conducted to understand the
socio-psychological elements that influence the public’s perceptions, and in particular the perceptions
of those people who lived in four areas that were identified as suitable sites for a nuclear waste disposal
facility in the UK (24). It was found that it was not NIMBYism that influenced public perceptions at all
levels and of all individuals, but a series of additional factors, such as the social and cultural context,
the lack of confidence and trust in decision-makers, and psychological factors such as “unfamiliarity,
dread, and catastrophic potential” (17, p.14). In another survey of the concerns of people living near a
potential site for hazardous waste, it was suggested that there was a variety of different public concerns
(e.g. health and safety, efficiency, lack of information), but vocabularies of motive (25), which reveal
NIMBY-related attitudes, were infrequent (23).
It is not the intention of this paper to attribute only one dimension to this public opposition, as
it would be wrong to assume that all opposition arguments derive from a common rationale. However,
a growing body of literature ascribes public opposition to a loss of trust in government agencies and
decision-makers (26, 27), and to a lack of public understanding of nuclear waste issues. In fact two surveys
by the European Commission (28, 29) show that people are poorly informed about nuclear waste issues,
and are subject to several misconceptions. For example only 2%-3% of the interviewees thought that
they were well informed on the subject, and 10% were not even aware that nuclear power plants produce
radioactive waste (30). In a third Eurobarometer survey from 2005, with a sample of 25000 European
citizens, it was found that three out of four citizens did not feel well informed on the subject, and eight
out of ten thought that all radioactive waste was very dangerous (31) although there are different
radioactive waste types. The most common concerns include environmental and health impacts, and the
risk of leakage. Botella and colleagues suggest that only knowledge improvement has the potential to
lower risk perceptions (31).
Several approaches can support the development of risk communication messages, e.g., the
communication process, crisis, convergence, and three challenge communication approaches (32). Risk
communication messages developed using the mental models approach, which is discussed in this
paper, integrate audience analysis, which is essential in ensuring that the risk communication message
addresses the main public concerns, thus increasing the effectiveness of the approach and its success.
Although the mental models approach may support the improvement of public understanding, it is not
used to convince the public to think in the same way as scientists, which is one criticism of the deficit
model, which is discussed in the next paragraphs.
Opposition to controversial issues such as farming and food technologies, following bovine
spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), stem cell research, genetically modified organisms and “nuclear
power in the 1970s and 1980s” (33,p. 56), was previously seen as a result of the public’s ignorance of
scientific issues and science in general. The deficit model assumes that such public ignorance of
scientific facts creates unreasonable fears, and at the same time puts the experts above the ‘ignorant’
public. The Public Understanding of Science community “seeks to popularise… for example,
probability risk assessment and technology acceptance issues” (34, p. 112), and studies that are
theoretically grounded in the deficit model tend to have a pedagogic character. The assumption is that,
if the public is educated, it will reach the same conclusions, and thus opposition will be either minimised
or eliminated. In contrast, the mental models approach aims to identify the information that is important
to the public, in order to make informed decisions. This is discussed further in the last section of this
paper (Section 6).
The mental models approach has been used previously in the design of risk communication
messages associated with such problems as climate change (14). In this paper, the mental models
approach is applied to design risk communication messages intended for lay people and concerning the
disposal of nuclear waste, something that has not yet been attempted. The next section introduces the
mental models approach with existing case studies, and then presents a description of how the approach
is implemented in this study.
Risk communication involves supplying lay people with the “information they need to make
informed, independent judgements about risks to health, safety and the environment” (35, p. 4). Several
risk communication studies describe the mental models approach to the development and testing of risk
messages, which is discussed as this section unfolds.
The mental models approach is based on the assumption that lay people may not be able to
understand a specific risk because important scientific evidence or information may not be known to
them, while they are unaware that this information exists. In such situations they are trying to make
sense of the information based on what they already know, or on other phenomena with which they are
familiar. Mental models research is strongly linked to theories of human memory and cognition.
According to several scholars, human memory is organised in schemas (36, 37) that describe how
an individual perceives a problem, or the world as a whole, and they depend highly on previous personal
experiences, knowledge, the activating stimuli and other factors. Some of these schemas are
competitive and, when humans are called to make a decision, certain schemas are activated that further
direct behaviour (38). In everyday situations these schemas are usually ready-made mental constructions,
while in complex situations new schemas are constructed, and, if used repeatedly, are stored in long-
term memory.
A mental model for a specific subject might contain several schemas. Therefore it is of
particular significance that these schemas are complete and accurate, to ensure that the generated mental
model is comprehensive. If lay people are provided with new expert information that does not match
their existing mental models, it is more likely that they will reject or distrust it. Taking this into
consideration, it would not be appropriate to “rely on the intuitions of technical experts regarding either
what lay people currently believe or what they need to know” (39, p.779).
The mental models approach involves the investigation of both experts’ and lay people’s mental
models. A comparison of these two types of mental models can assist the identification of what
information it is important to communicate, the expectations and needs of the lay people, as well as
their gaps and misconceptions, which should be corrected. It should be noted that within the risk
communication field there are two types of study: descriptive studies, which draw only conclusions
about the elicited mental models, using the mental models approach; and prescriptive studies, which
use the elicited mental models to develop communication and educational tools (16).
The mental models approach, amongst others, was used for indoor radon risk (13). In that study,
scientific resources were used to construct the expert mental model, and 24 people were interviewed
for the construction of the lay people’s mental models. Several misconceptions were revealed and, based
on their findings, two brochures were designed to inform lay people about radon and its risks. In another
study the mental models approach was used for the climate change problem, following a descriptive
approach (14). Similarly, several gaps and misconceptions were discovered, which in some cases
coexisted with correct information (14). Lave and Lave explored the risk perceptions and lay people’s
mental models associated with flood risks in a descriptive study, in which 22 lay people were
interviewed. Although the population sample was entirely derived from flood-vulnerable areas of
Pennsylvania, several misconceptions about flood risks were again revealed (40).
Some descriptive-only studies of the mental models methodology were also applied in the area
of radioactive waste management, although no direct application of the findings was documented for
communicating the risks to lay people (41-44). For example, Slovic and colleagues (44) collected 10000
images in an extensive survey of 3300 phone interviews, concerning a nuclear waste facility in the USA.
They suggested that concepts such as nuclear power plant accidents, nuclear war, and nuclear weapons
are all linked to the perceptions of the interviewees and their mental models for a nuclear waste facility,
which further influence their risk assessments. The same conclusions are also evident from the
Eurobarometer studies mentioned previously, which also demonstrate significant gaps in lay people’s
mental models of nuclear waste disposal.
The next section will use the mental model approach, first to identify the mental models of lay
people regarding the disposal of nuclear waste in the UK only, which has not previously been attempted.
In order to understand how the risk communication message concerning nuclear waste disposal
in the UK should be designed, we first interviewed experts with substantial knowledge of nuclear waste
disposal in the UK. This was followed by 20 additional interviews with members of the public, with all
the participants being British citizens. We compared the difference between the experts’ and the lay
people’s mental models, and identified gaps and misconceptions. A prescriptive approach is then
followed, discussed in Section 5, to guide the design and development of online information that meets
their needs and expectations, and aims to help lay people to correct any misconceptions, fill any gaps
and, finally, build a comprehensive and accurate mental model, which could subsequently improve their
risk assessments of the issue.
4.1. Interviews
For the construction of the expert mental model, five experts were recruited, with different
skills and expertise. One works for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), three are engineers
with more than 20 years experience in the nuclear industry, and one is a PhD student with an
environmental science background and broad knowledge of nuclear waste.
For the lay people mental models, 20 people were interviewed, with an age range from 19 to
67 (average=32.2 and mode=29). All participants have a university degree in different professional
backgrounds and they are British citizens, to ensure that each has the same possibility of knowing about
the UK disposal of nuclear waste plan. All participants are London residents, although it should be
acknowledged that people from different areas of the same country might have different mental models
of the same risk (41, 43). All interviews were conducted between October 2009 and January 2010. During
this period, there were no documentaries or newspaper articles on the nuclear waste problem that we
are aware of. A BBC documentary explaining nuclear issues was broadcast in February 2010, and
another in March 2010, but both were after the completion of these interviews.
Both the experts and lay participants were interviewed using the same questions, which were
developed based on the interview template of Bostrom and colleagues (14). Their interview template is
believed to be “...easier to replicate as well as less vulnerable to the criticism that the reported beliefs
are a function of how they are elicited” (14, p.960). Here we modified it to accommodate the issues of the
nuclear waste disposal and its site selection process in the UK (Table I). As can be seen in Table I, the
interview consisted of four parts (Part I-Part IV).
In the first part of the interview, the participants were asked to describe the first five words that
came into their minds for the “nuclear waste repository” concept, and also to explain which of these
words had a positive or negative meaning for them. The purpose of the first part was to identify the
images that the interviewees held of the concept, and to further understand whether these were negative
or positive, as was previously described by Slovic and colleagues (44).
Table I: Interview Template for the elicitation of mental models of nuclear waste disposal in the UK and the
subsequent site selection process.
Part I
Q1: Could you please tell me the first 5 words that come into your mind when you hear the words “nuclear waste
Q2: Which of these words have a positive and which a negative meaning for you?
Part II
Q3: What do you know about the issue of nuclear waste?
Part III
Q4: How nuclear waste is produced?
Q5: How important you think that nuclear power is to humanity?
Q6: Would you prefer to shut down nuclear reactors in order to reduce the production of nuclear waste?
Q7: What do you know about the disposal of nuclear waste, and what are your most critical concerns associated
with this issue?
Effects & Risks
Q8: Describe some of the risks associated with the disposal of nuclear waste, and rank them according to relative
Q9: In the case of a hypothetical accident in a nuclear waste repository, how would you imagine the situation and
the consequences?
Q10: Is there anything that would make you feel safer?
Q11: In your opinion, who should be responsible for the disposal of nuclear waste?
Q12: Rank in terms of trustworthiness the following sources (sources provided, similar to 27).
Part IV
Site Selection
Q13: What do you know about the Radioactive Waste Management Programme in the UK?
Q14: This is a list of criteria that will be used in that process. Please read them carefully and suggest some
weights, based on how important you think each of them is. (criteria listed, as described by 4)
Q15: What additional criteria would you add to that list? What do you think about each criterion?
Q16: Would you prefer to be informed before or after the Site Selection process? Consider the issue of trust in
your answer.
Q17: How would you feel if one of the selected as suitable sites was in your area and close to your house?
Q18: What evidence about the site selection processes would you like to see?
Q19: How would you expect to see the information presented?
The second part of the interview was unstructured. The participants were asked to describe what
they knew about nuclear waste, in an attempt to identify the concepts that they think are most important
to them, without the influence of specific questions. After the respondents had exhausted their
descriptions, some neutral prompts were given to encourage conversation (e.g. how is nuclear waste
produced?). The participants were also given a list of potential information sources and asked to rank
them in terms of trustworthiness (1: less trusted to 5: most trusted source), similarly to a previous
Eurobarometer survey (28).
The third part of the interview was structured and contained different blocks of questions,
concerned with the production (Q4, Q5, Q6), disposal (Q7), and effects and risks of nuclear waste (Q8-
Q12). Part IV emphasised the site selection process for the identification of a disposal facility in the UK
(Q13-Q16). In addition, the participants were asked how they would feel if the disposal site was close
to their house, and whether this would change any of their concerns (Q17). Finally, the participants
were asked what information they would expect to find about the disposal of nuclear waste and the site
selection process on an online information system, and how they would like to see this information
presented (Q18, Q19).
During the third part, when the interview focused on specific issues, such as the UK Nuclear
Waste Management Programme, the participants were provided with some additional information (i.e.
the concept of the deep geological disposal was explained to them). In the fourth part they were also
asked to weight the site selection criteria, as these are described in the White Paper published by
DEFRA (4). Participants were asked to describe what they think would happen in the case of a
hypothetical accident in the disposal facility, and how they would imagine the situation and its
consequences (43).
The interviews data were transcribed and coded by one person, who has an extensive knowledge
of nuclear waste disposal issues and the site selection process in the UK. In the first part of the interview
all words the interviewees used to describe the “nuclear waste repository” concept were collected and
grouped as positive or negative based on their suggestions. Then, the expert mental models were
constructed, which were discussed with another two experts. The same person transcribed and coded
lay participants’ interview data, guided by the already constructed expert mental model. Indicatively,
expert concepts that were not mentioned by lay participants considered as not being existent in their
mental models; expert concepts that were also mentioned by lay participants considered as existent, and
the answers were further checked for their content and amount of detail provided and; expert concepts
described using wrong terms or additional concepts irrelevant to the context considered as
4.2. Interview Results
The first important finding, which is in line with previous studies, is that the majority of the lay
participants has a negative image of the “nuclear waste repository” concept, and most of the
interviewees used negative words to describe their perceptions (Table II). Also, from the words they
used it is clear that they have many misconceptions (i.e., “No-Civilisation” or “Chernobyl”, which was
mentioned by several respondents). The experts’ images are more accurate’, since the words they use
do not reveal misconceptions, while an almost equal number of negative and positive words are used to
describe the same concept. At the same time it should be noted that all the lay people (20/20) that
participated in the interviews have a positive attitude towards nuclear energy (e.g. “I imagine it is very
important because we are always concerned about future fuels”), which contradicts the findings of
previous studies (e.g. see Ref. 31).
Table II: Words describing a “Nuclear Waste Repository”. (Note that participants were asked to explain which
of these words have a positive or negative meaning).
Lay people
Words with negative meaning
Fear, Scared, Cancer, Disease,
Disaster, DangerDangerous,
Pollution, Environmental Pollution,
Polluted Soil, Harmful, Harmful to
Health, Harmful to Wildlife,
Contamination, Safety, Toxic,
Tricky, Radiation, Radioactive,
Long-Term, Uranium, Chernobyl,
Colorado Springs, Scotland,
Sellafield, Iran, Transportation,
Location, Money, Expensive,
Mines, No Civilisation, Agriculture,
Power-Nuclear Power, Landfill,
Land, Argument, Corruption,
Animals, Accumulation, By
Need, Problem, Drigg, Sellafield,
Volume, Selection, Decision, Public,
Words with positive meaning
Important, Disposal, Renewable,
Insulation, NDA, Sweden, Deep,
Geological, Safety, Containment, Long-
Term, Cumbria, Support
Words with neutral meaning
Green, Smoke cloud
The lay interviewees (19/20) admitted that they knew very little or nothing about nuclear waste
(e.g. “I know very little really…erm I don’t know anything about it to be honest”) or the Governmental
Plan for the disposal of nuclear waste in the UK (e.g. “No…nothing about the disposal…I only know
that they plan to build more nuclear power stations”). Interestingly enough, 18 of 20 lay people that
participated in the interviews did not know how nuclear waste is produced, which is in line with all
Eurobarometer findings (28, 29). On the other hand, the experts provided very detailed responses,
including descriptions of waste streams and background information, engineering principles and the
UK Nuclear Waste Management Programme.
Concerning their trust perceptions, (Table I - Part II Q12) lay participants admitted that they
trusted academic institutions and scientific papers most, and governmental bodies least, although most
of them also thought that the Government should be responsible for the disposal of nuclear waste.
Independent scientists were also the most trusted source, according to the findings of Eurobarometer
(28). The experts’ first most trusted source was independent governmental bodies, and their second most
trusted source was governmental bodies (e.g. “Government will not deliberatively mislead the public”),
while the least trusted source was Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
The lay people that participated in the study suggested that more information publicly available
(i.e. information about risks”, “accidents” and “how a problem will be treated in case of an accident”)
would increase their confidence and make them feel safer. Experts, on the other hand, focused on
scientific research and engineering principles, but also on the importance of transparency in the
decision-making process. When the participants were asked about the site selection criteria, the highest
weight was assigned to “Potential Impact on people” and the second highest to “Potential Impact on
natural environment”.
The mental models’ interviews revealed that lay participants emphasise the risks, but most
likely, lack of, as they do not mention, fundamental information. Although lay participants use a
different vocabulary to express their concerns (concepts), their conceptualisations are very similar. Most
participants emphasised the following risks: Safety (e.g. “leakage”, “accidents,” and most participants
referred to the “Chernobyl” and “Three Mile Island” incidents); Health Risks; Environmental Risks
(e.g. “groundwater pollution”); Disposal Site (e.g. “Where will the waste be disposed”, “the amount
of land that will be wasted”, and “transportation to site”); Future Waste (e.g. “what are they going to
do with future waste?”). Other risks, which were mentioned by one participant only, while these were
not existent in the expert mental model, and were thus treated as peripheral concepts, involved “what
will happen if the wrong model is applied by the government?”, “the risk of the material getting into
the wrong hands” and “mistrust of the government if something goes wrong”.
Figure 1 provides a simplified expert mental model, which illustrates only the top concepts
associated with the site selection of a nuclear waste repository. The concepts in doubled-line circles
illustrate those concepts that also appeared in lay participants’ mental models. As can be seen from
Figure 1, concepts such as Risks, Safety and Transportation issues were the only ones mentioned by lay
participants. Concepts that referred to the waste streams that influence the packaging, storage and
disposal options (e.g. LLW can be disposed of in near-to-surface facilities, while deep geological
disposal is the preferred option for HLW) were not mentioned by lay interviewees. These components,
which most likely do not exist in lay people’s mental models, do however directly influence how the
risks associated with the disposal of nuclear waste are perceived. In a similar perspective, the expert
mental model revealed the importance of public acceptance and additional site selection criteria for the
final disposal facility. Again the interviews revealed that lay participants were most likely unaware of,
as they did not mention, anything about the site selection process and the subsequent criteria, although
it is believed that these elements too have a direct impact on their risk assessments.
Figure 1: Expert mental model for nuclear waste disposal. This influence diagram shows only the top concepts,
as each concept can be further broken down into more detailed influence diagrams. Double-circled lines describe
the concepts that exist in lay people’s mental models.
Figure 2 provides a more detailed expert mental model that focuses more on the risks associated
with nuclear waste disposal. Again the concepts in doubled-line circles illustrate the concepts that exist
in lay participants’ mental models, as the other expert concepts are not included in their answers. Notice
that again there is a significant number of concepts that lay people are, most likely, not aware of.
Figure 2: Expert Mental Model for Nuclear Waste Disposal Risks (modified from 45).
It is evident that the risks described by lay interviewees are very abstract, and show several knowledge
gaps and misconceptions, including:
Lay participants are unaware of the regulations (and the fatal radiation levels) associated with
acceptable radiation levels close to nuclear waste sites.
Lay participants are not aware of the deep geological disposal concept, which introduced the
multi-barrier concept to minimise potential risks. As a result they fail to recognise the risks
associated with packaging and infrastructure, repository design, inadequate research and the
long time scales that establish uncertainty regarding the geological environment. These risks
are all included in the experts’ mental models, and are of critical importance. It is necessary for
lay people too to understand and appreciate these risks, and to understand that risk minimisation
can be achieved through future research, the multi-barrier concept and engineering and
packaging principles.
Experts describe the risks associated with current surface storage (short-term) of nuclear waste
and transportation issues. The consequences of an accident in a surface storage facility or during
transportation could be disastrous, as radioactivity could easily reach humans and the
environment. However, only one lay participant suggested that it was necessary to explain to
the public the “risk of not disposing of nuclear waste”.
Lay interviewees associate potential accidents with the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl
incidents. When the lay interviewees were asked to describe how they imagined a hypothetical
accident their answers included, amongst others: “That’s hard to tell. I imagine that waste
would come up over ground and this would have effects on a very very wide area”, “I imagine,
for example, that in the case of leakage there would be hysteria and of course that would be a
disaster. The towns should be evacuated and explosions are going on up to the ground”. Within
this context it is clear that people do not know much about the concept of deep geological
disposal, and the real risks associated with this disposal option.
An important part of the mental models approach is to identify lay people’s needs and expectations
regarding information about the disposal of nuclear waste, and about the site selection process that
should exist in the system. Although lay interviewees know very little about nuclear waste, they have a
very clear picture of what they need to know (Table III). Table III summarises what information the
experts think should be communicated to lay people, and what lay interviewees suggested that they
want to know about nuclear waste.
Table III: Information needs as described by expert and lay participants.
1. Radioactive Waste
Generation process
Radionuclide decay and duration
2. Disposal
Disposal Methods
Geological Disposal concept
3. UK Plan
Briefly, how the site selection process
will take place
4. Site Selection
Geology Characteristics
Benefits of suitable sites
(Provide Maps)
5. Risks
Explain that it is not an atomic bomb
Importance of repository’s stability
Consequences of not disposal nuclear
Information about accidents
Both the experts and the lay participants were asked what were their expectations of an online
system that provides information about nuclear waste disposal issues. First, the experts suggested that
technical information should not be communicated to lay people (e.g. “when it is too complicated
people will just switch off”), although it is essential to more knowledgeable people. Both lay
interviewees and experts suggested that a combination of media was necessary to communicate the
issue effectively. Simplified text, with external links to provide more technical information and maps,
graphs and diagrams, were suggested by experts and lay interviewees. For analogies the experts
recommended that these should be made using terms and examples that the public can understand (i.e.
“the existing volumes of nuclear waste can fill the Royal Albert Hall five times”). Finally, only the lay
people who participated in the study suggested that they should be allowed to comment, and to have a
say through the system.
Following the study, an online system needs to be developed to provide information about
nuclear waste, its disposal and the site selection process. To achieve this, we first investigate whether
existing online sources satisfy people’s requirements, based on the findings listed in Table III. We focus
on lay participant’s requirements, as it is more likely that lay people who will decide to interact with
such sources will firstly look for specific information, which satisfies their needs and expectations.
The following Websites were included in this investigation: the Committee on Radioactive
Waste Management (CoRWM:, Independent Governmental source);
Greenpeace UK (, Non-governmental source); Nuclear
Decommissioning Authority (NDA -, Governmental source); and finally the
Spatial Decision Support System, for the site selection of a nuclear waste repository in the UK by Leeds
University (, Academic source). As Table IV shows,
none of the Websites meets all the information requirements of lay people. Neither have they focused
on gaps and misconceptions, in order to correct them.
Table IV: Comparison of different information sources for lay people’s information requirements. E.: Existent;
N.: Not Existent; R.: information provided by reports; L.: information provided by External Links
Lay people’s needs and expectations
1. Radioactive Waste
How produced
Life of Waste
Types and Categories (and health impacts for
each category)
Nuclear power stations and storage of nuclear
Accidents (e.g. deaths from cancer)
How to reduce
2. Disposal
Disposal Methods
Geological Disposal concept
Area Needed for geological disposal
3. UK Plan
UK Site Selection Approach
Timelines and Process
Plans for future Waste
How long will remain on site
4. Site Selection
Why a site is suitable compared to other
Criteria used to select a site
(Provide Maps)
5. Risks
How long it will be dangerous
Side effects
Effects on future generations
Terrorist attack
The design of online information for the communication of risk messages is very different from
designing a brochure or any other text-based information. First, it cannot be expected that people will
spend a substantial amount of time in front of a computer screen reading about the disposal of nuclear
waste. Second, a Website, in contrast to a brochure, does not require purely linear reading, as the user
can navigate between different sections, search for specific information, download additional
information and refer to external sources.
Atman suggests that “Poorly structured or superfluous risk information may bore recipients or
frustrate their attempts to understand what is really important” (14, p.796). The information was therefore
grouped, based on the mental models results, and user information needs and expectations, as described
in Table III. The menu of the system provided has the following sections: Home, Radioactive Waste,
Disposal, UK Plan, Risks, Site Selection, Maps, Blog, Contact Details and FAQ (Frequently Asked
Questions). Figure 3 illustrates the Radioactive Waste page, which provides the following information:
what is radioactive waste, its types (how each type is produced) and volumes, its radioactivity and the
life of nuclear waste, the waste sites and how nuclear waste can be reduced. Organising the context
according to the needs and expectations of lay people is expected to improve navigation, and to increase
satisfaction. A search function is also provided to help users find specific information.
Figure 3: The Radioactive Waste page of the online information system designed to inform the UK public about
the disposal of nuclear waste and the site selection process in the UK.
The information content was built using lay participant’s vocabulary, for example, the “life”
(term used by lay interviewees) of nuclear waste, instead of “radionuclide decay and duration” (term
used by experts), so that the information can be easily communicated. Each page provides an outline
describing its contents. The headings of the outline are also based on lay interviewee’s vocabulary (e.g.
“How it can be reduced” instead of “Waste minimisation”). It should also be noted that headings and
outlines are used to further support information recall (47, 48), although this is subject to further
evaluation. Breadcrumbs are also used to further support navigation and hypertext, to increase the
efficiency of the information structure.
The majority of information is provided in a textual form with the option to be printed, but
images and videos about nuclear waste issues are also provided, as all the participants suggested. For
example, information that corrects misconceptions, such as that the Chernobyl accident happened in a
nuclear power station, not in an underground disposal facility, is provided in text-based form, and
relevant videos are also available.
Taking into consideration the learning curve, and any additional future needs that might be
created, external links are available from all pages of the website, and they direct users to sources such
as the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s website, where users can find more detailed information.
In this perspective, scientific reports and additional documents are available for downloading.
A Web GIS application is provided, and it describes the different criteria and different scenarios
possible using maps, but a further description of the Web GIS interface would be beyond the scope of
this paper. A blog, a message board and a forum are also available, so that people can comment and
express their opinions about the site selection process in the UK, as was also suggested by the lay
Finally, it should be noted that the tools that provide information to lay people, and that also
allow participation in decision-making processes, should be “rational and trusted” (12, p. 11). Therefore,
a set of trust-based guidelines, developed by Skarlatidou and colleagues for interface design, was also
taken into consideration in the development of the proposed system. These include elements that
emphasise the development of the Web GIS application, but also the development of the overall user
interface design, which was developed after an investigation of similar systems that provide lay people
with environmental information to understand what influences lay people’s trust perceptions while they
are interacting with such applications (49, 50). Some of these guidelines refer to the colour combinations
used, contact details, external links and a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section, which are also
suggested by additional trust-related studies from the e-commerce domain (51-53).
This paper describes the investigation of lay people’s mental models for the disposal of nuclear
waste in the UK, and its site selection process. It also describes the subsequent development of an online
information system, which may help lay people to build accurate mental models. Several studies from
the risk communication field have highlighted the importance of the mental models approach in the
design of effective risk communication messages, and despite the fact that descriptive studies of the
nuclear waste domain have documented the gaps and misconceptions in lay people’s mental models, a
direct implementation of these findings (the prescriptive approach) was never attempted, and this paper
attempts to fill this gap. Moreover, the mental models for the nuclear waste disposal issue were never
investigated for the UK context only.
The previous ineffective governmental attempts to locate a nuclear waste disposal site in the
UK were mainly the result of public opposition, and the current governmental plan focuses on a
voluntary, partnership-based approach that may minimise NIMBY-type conflicts. However, several
studies highlight the importance of improving public knowledge about nuclear waste issues, in the
attempt to minimise additional opposition arguments, and to provide the basis for meaningful and
effective public involvement in the decision-making process. This knowledge improvement could be
achieved in different ways and through different means (i.e. by providing the public with scientific
material), and it is first necessary to ensure the effectiveness of the approach. The mental models
approach aims to improve lay people’s knowledge, but to avoid the flaws of the deficit model, some of
which are particularly important for the nuclear waste disposal case. These are discussed in the
following paragraphs.
It was explained in Section 2 that studies grounded on the deficit model have a pedagogic
attitude, and they communicate scientific facts and figures to the public in an attempt to improve the
public’s knowledge. In this perspective, the deficit model was criticised for its simplistic nature, because
attitudes towards science are more complex, and are influenced by several factors that also depend on
the topic or hazard under discussion. One such criticism, which is particularly relevant to the context of
nuclear waste, is the decreasing levels of trust in experts and governmental bodies. For example,
CoRWM (3) and DEFRA (4) emphasise the importance of transparency in the site selection process, in
order to build public understanding, trust and confidence. Given this, a pedagogic dialogue, channelled
by governmental bodies, that attempts to educate lay people about scientific facts, and to prove to them
that the experts are correct, could have the opposite results, if trust has not first been established, and if
the information provided cannot be understood by lay people.
On the other hand, the goals of the risk communication studies and the mental models approach
are to identify the gaps and misconceptions of lay people, and to try to educate people by providing the
information they need, and which will help them to formulate comprehensive and accurate mental
models. In this context, as Sturgis and Allum explain, “It has been argued that risk communication
delivers benefits that advocates of the deficit model overlookfor example, such communication
supports democracy, by allowing the public to make informed and educated choices” (33, p. 115). Therefore
the aim is not to provide lay people with probability assessments and scientific figures and facts, which
might further alienate them, make them feel uninterested and possibly decrease trust.
As has already been demonstrated, people are not interested in learning about nuclear science
and extensive scientific data. Instead they want to learn the fundamental information. This is that
communicating information about the chemical elements of Uranium and Plutonium-239 and their
properties is very different from introducing lay people to basic concepts, such as the multi-barrier
concept of deep geological disposal, which is strongly related to the risks. Moreover, it was also
demonstrated that what experts believed should be explained to the public differs from what lay people
want to know. It should be noted, that future work is necessary to address some concerns with respect
to the population sample and the fairness of the procedural framework. For example, this involves
extending the population sample to further include people, who live in different areas in the UK in order
to investigate their mental models. This is essential before it can be confidently suggested that the
proposed online risk information, contributes in the construction of accurate and comprehensive public
mental models on the nuclear waste disposal.
It should be further noted that there are several ethical implications associated with the mental
models methodology. One such ethical implication is that such systems can be used to change views
and influence opinions, which is unethical from a moral and scientific perspective. From the users’
perspective it is also unethical, as lay people do not expect that these systems may mislead them. Thus,
it is necessary for the developers to design such systems without the intention of misinforming the final
user, to ensure and safeguard the system’s credibility and avoid its abuse. During the interviews, some
experts suggested that in the proposed system risks should be simplified, or that some of them should
be “hidden”, because “talking about risks raises awareness”, as one expert suggested, which is also
believed to be unethical. The Forum On Stakeholder Confidence (FSC) recommends that the mental
models methodology can be used to communicate problems when The primary goals of
communication may be encouraging behaviour change or facilitating participation in public
discussions, but these goals are pursued indirectly, by conveying substantial information about a
hazard, rather than directly trying to influence choices” (16, p.5), which are the exact intentions of the
proposed system.
It is widely recognised that if a risk communication is not effective then the results of these
systems may have the opposite results (e.g. see Ref 35), and may also confuse and frustrate users.
Therefore further research is required for the evaluation and subsequent redesign of the system.
According to Bostrom and colleagues, such an evaluation includes “whether recipients understand the
message, remember it when they have finished reading, hearing or seeing the communication, and make
appropriate inferences from it” (14, p.796). Such an evaluation is currently underway and includes
evaluation of the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the constructed mental models using a
confirmatory questionnaire. Despite the fact that a further discussion of this evaluation is beyond the
scope of this paper, it should be noted, that eye-tracking equipment will be also used to investigate
whether the structure of the information is effective, as well as, how the users read and process the
information and whether they like it and trust it.
To conclude, the risk communication approach adopted here does not ignore all the other factors
previously mentioned that potentially influence public attitudes towards nuclear waste. Neither it can
be ignored that there are other elements, such as motivated reasoning and cultural cognition that may
further influence public beliefs in such controversial issues as is the nuclear waste disposal. Yet the
intention of this paper is to fill the gap in linking risk communication and information system design.
There is also a further belief that it is only ethically correct, and a social obligation, to help people
appreciate and understand the real risks associated with the disposal of nuclear waste. This is possible
a way to re-establish trust, because transparency means not only involving the public in a decision-
making process (but nevertheless trying to hide information that might “raise” awareness), but also
discussing openly all the elements that could help people to make informed decisions.
This project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
and Arup via Engineering Doctorate Centre VEIV at University College London.
1. Lane M. Public Participation in Planning: an intellectual history. Australian Geographer,
2005; 36(3): 283-299.
2. Stern PC, Fineberg HV. Understanding Risk: Informing Decisions in a Democratic Society.
Washington, DC: National Academic Press, 1996.
3. Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM). Managing Our Radioactive
Waste Safely: CoRWM’s Recommendations to Government. CoRWM’s Doc 700, July
2006. Available at:, Accessed on May 15,
4. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Managing Radioactive
Waste Safely: A Framework for Implementing Geological Disposal. A White Paper by
DEFRA, BERR and the devolved administrations for Wales and Northern Ireland, 2008.
5. Smith LG. Impact assessment and sustainable resource management. Harlow, UK:
Longman, 1983.
6. Arnstein SR. A Ladder of Citizen Participation. Journal of the American Planning
Association, 1969; 35 (4): 216-224.
7. Wiedemann PM, Femers S. Public participation in waste management decision making:
analysis and management of conflicts. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 1993; 33(3): 355-
8. Frewer LJ, Shepherd R. Consumer perceptions of modern food biotechnology. In: Roller
S, Harlander S, editors. Genetic engineering for the food industry: A strategy for food
quality improvement, New York: Blackie Academic; 1998. p. 27-46.
9. Wiedemann PM, Femers S. Public participation in waste management decision making:
Analysis and management of conflicts. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 1993; 33 (3), pp.
10. Carver S. The future of participatory approaches using Geographic Information:
Developing a research agenda for the 21st Century. URISA Journal. Special PPGIS Issue,
2003; 15(1): 61-71.
11. Rowe G, Frewer LJ. Public Participation Methods: A Framework for Evaluation. Science,
Technology, & Human Values, 2000; 25: 1, pp. 3-29.
12. Coleman S, Gotze J. Bowling Together. Online Public Engagement in Policy Deliberation.
London: Hansard Society, 2001. Available at, Accessed on May 21, 2009.
13. Bostrom A, Fischhoff B, Granger Morgan M. Characterizing Mental Models of Hazardous
Processes: A Methodology and an Application to Radon. Journal of Social Issues, 1992;
48(4): 85-100.
14. Bostrom A, Morgan MG, Fischhoff B, Read D. What do People Know about climate
change? 1. Mental Models. Risk Analysis, 1994; 14(6): 959-970.
15. Rosa E, Tuler S, Fischhoff B, Webler T, Friedman S, Sclove R, Shrader-Frechette K,
English M, Kasperson R, Goble R, Leschine T, Freudenburg W, Chess C, Perrow C,
Erikson K, Short J. Nuclear Waste: Knowledge Waste?. Science, 2010; 329(5993): 762-
16. Forum on Stakeholder Confidence (FSC) The mental models approach to risk research-An
RWM perspective. Secretariat Paper, NEA/RWM/FSC (2003) 7/REV 1, 2003.
17. Kemp R. The politics of radioactive waste disposal, Issues in Environmental Politics, UK:
Manchester University Press, 1992.
18. Department For Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Managing Radioactive
Waste Safely: A framework for implementing geological disposal. A public consultation
by DEFRA, DTI and the Welsh and Northern Irish devolved administrations. London: TSO,
19. Broomby R. UK nuclear waste strategy in jeopardy, 2009. Available at , Accessed on August 13, 2010.
20. Schively C. Understanding the NIMBY and LULU Phenomena: Reassessing Our
Knowledge Base and Informing Future Research. Journal of Planning Literature, 2007; 21:
21. Welsh I. The NIMBY Syndrome: Its Significance in the History of the Nuclear Debate in
Britain. The British Journal for the History of Science, 1993; 26 (1): 15-32.
22. Kemp R. Why not in my backyard? A Radical interpretation of public opposition to the
deep disposal of radioactive wastes in the United Kingdom. Environmental Planning, 1990;
A(22): 1239-1258.
23. Hunter S, Leyden MK. Beyond NIMBY: Explaining Opposition to Hazardous Waste
Facilities. Policy Studies Journal, 1995; 23 (4): 601-619.
24. Lee TR. Social attitudes and radioactive waste management. The 5th European Summer
School, 1989. London, IBC Technical Services Ltd.
25. Mills CW. Situated actions and vocabularies of motive. American Sociological Review,
1940. 5: 904-913.
26. Jacob G. Site unseen: The politics of siting a nuclear waste repository. Pittsburgh:
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990.
27. Dantico MK, Mushkatel AH, Pijawcka KD. Political Trust, and risk perceptions of the high-
level nuclear waste repository. Annual Conference of the American Association for the
Advancement of Science (AAAS), Washington, DC, 1991.
28. European Commission, Eurobarometer Survey. European Public Opinion on Radioactive
Waste. EB 50, European Commission, 1998.
29. European Commission, Eurobarometer Survey. Europeans and Radioactive Waste. EB
56.2, European Commission, 2001.
30. Taylor DM, Webster S. Public Opinion on Radioactive Waste Management in the European
Union. International Topical Meeting on Radioactive Waste Management: Commitment to
the Future Environment (ENS Topseal), Antwerp, Belgium, October 10-14, 1999.
31. Botella T, Coadou J, Blohm-Hieber U. European citizens’ opinions towards radioactive
waste: an updated review. European Commission, Directorate General for Energy and
Transport Unit Nuclear Energy and Radioactive Waste, 2006, Available at
pdf, Accessed on June 6, 2010.
32. Lundgren RE, McMakin AH. Risk communication: a handbook for communicating
environmental safety, and health risks. NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2009.
33. Sturgis P, Allum N. Science in Society: Re-Evaluating the Deficit Model of Public
Attitudes. Public Understanding of Science, 2004; 13(55): 55-74.
34. Hansen J, Holm L, Frewer L, Robinson P, Sandøe P. Beyond the knowledge deficit: recent
research into lay and expert attitudes to food risks. Appetite, 2003; 41(2): 111-121.
35. Morgan MG, Fischhoff B, Bostrom A, Atman CJ. Risk Communication: A Mental Models
Approach. UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
36. Schank PC, Abelson RP. Scripts, Plans, Goals and Understanding. Hillside, NJ: Erlbaum,
37. Minsky, M. Frame-system Theory. In: Johnson-Laird PN, Wason PC, editors. Thinking
Reading in Cognitive Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1977.
38. Mandler G. Consciousness: Its Function and Construction. Technical Report No. 117. San
Diego, CA: University of California, Center for Human Information Processing, 1988.
39. Atman CJ, Bostrom A, Fischhoff B, Granger Morgan M. Designing Risk Communications:
Completing and Correcting Mental Models of Hazardous Processes, Part I. Risk Analysis,
1994; 14(5): 779-788.
40. Lave T., Lave LB. Public Perception of the Risks of Floods: Implications for
Communication. Risk Analysis, 1991; 11(2): 255-267.
41. Vari A., Kemp R., Mumpower JL. Public Concerns About LLWR Facility Siting: A
Comparative Study. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 1991; 22(1): 83-102.
42. Kraft ME, Clary BB. Public Testimony in Nuclear Waste Repository Hearings: A Content
Analysis. In: Dunlap RE, Rosa EA, editors. Public Reactions to Nuclear Waste: Citizens’
Views of Repository Siting. Durham: Duke University Press; 1993. pp. 89-114.
43. Litmanen T. Cultural Approach to the Perception of Risk. Analyzing Concern about the
Siting of a High-Level Nuclear Waste Facility in Finland. Waste Management and
Research, 1999; 17(3): 212-219.
44. Pijawka KD, Mushkatel AH. Public Opposition to the Siting of Nuclear Waste Repository:
The Importance of Trust. Policy Studies Review, 1992; 10(4): 180-194.
45. Slovic P, Layman M, Flynn JH. What Comes to Mind When You Hear the Words ‘Nuclear
Waste Repository’? A study of 10,000 Images. Carson City, NV: Nevada Nuclear Waste
Project Office, 1990.
46. Merkenhofer MW, Conway R, Anderson R. Multiattribute Utility Analysis as a Framework
for Public Participation in Siting a Hazardous Waste Management Facility. Environmental
Management, 1997; 21(6): 831-839.
47. Kobasigawa A, Lacasse MA, MacDonald VA. Use of Headings by Children for Text
Search. Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science, (1988): 20(1): 50-63.
48. Ausubel DP. The Use of Advanced Organisers in the Learning and Retention of Meaningful
Verbal Material. Journal of Educational Psychology, 1960; 51(5): 267-272.
49. Skarlatidou A, Haklay M, Cheng T. Preliminary investigation of WEB GIS Trust: The
example of the “WIYBY” website. Conference Proceedings of Joint International
Conference on Theory, Data Handling and Modelling in GeoSpatial Information Science,
Hong Kong, May 26-28, 2010.
50. Skarlatidou A, Haklay M, Cheng T. Trust in Web GIS: The role of the trustee attributes in
the design of trustworthy Web GIS applications, 2011, International Journal of GIScience
(In press).
51. Fogg BJ. Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do. San
Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 2003.
52. Wang YD, Emurian HH. An overview of online trust: Concepts, elements, and implications.
Computers In Human Behaviour, 2005; 21(11): 105-125.
53. Shneiderman B. Designing trust into online experiences. Communication of the ACM,
2000; 43(12): 57-59
... Concept mapping [37,39,56,58,[66][67][68][69][70][71]; cognitive mapping [72][73][74][75][76]; fuzzy cognitive mapping [77]; flow mapping, information world mapping, mind maps, and knowledge maps [38,61,63,84] An approach based upon or adapted from the Carnegie-Mellon/Morgan approach [15] which is dominated by the use of influence diagramming elicitation methods. [15,26,27,40,57,76,86,[88][89][90][91][92][93]95,98,99] Non-specific multi-method approaches An approach that used multiple methods or did not follow a specific design or approach from the categories above. If those techniques were present, they did not dominate the study as it was designed specifically to focus on a 'multimethod' approach, giving equal prominence to multiple data collection techniques or approaches. ...
... We can see that there are two distinct approaches to how the expert and lay phases relate. Hagemann et al. [40,89] utilised the expert model from phase 1 to inform the design of the rubric of the lay model interviews, while Bruine de Bruin & Bostrom [57] and Skarlatidou et al. [90] utilised the expert model codes to inform the analysis of lay interviews. In contrast, others focused primarily on the generation of a base 'expert' model of the decisions that a risk communication seeks to inform, usually constructed from a range of diverse disciplinary experts or expert groups (e.g., decision modelers, scientists, behavioural scientists). ...
... 960). Thus Bostrom et al. [119] utilised standardized open-ended questions to address this while also enabling a more uniform replicable task [see also 90]. ...
Full-text available
We present a scoping review of methods used to elicit individuals' mental models of science or risk. Developing a shared understanding of the science related to risk is crucial for diverse individuals to collaboratively manage disaster consequences. Mental models, or people's psychological representation of how the ‘world works’, present a valuable tool to achieve this. Potential applications range from developing effective risk communication for use in short-warning situations to community co-development of future communication protocols for the co-management of risk. A diverse range of tools, in diverse fields, have thus been developed to elicit these mental models. Forty-four articles were selected via inclusion criteria from 561 found through a systematic search. We identified a wide range of direct and indirect elicitation techniques (concept, cognitive, flow, information world, knowledge, mind, fuzzy cognitive, decision influence diagrams) and interview-based techniques. Many used multiple elicitation techniques such as free-drawing, interviews, free-listing, sorting tasks, attitudinal surveys, photograph elicitation, metaphor analysis, and mapping software. We identify several challenges when designing elicitation methods, including researcher influence, the importance of external visualization, a lack of evaluation, the role of ‘experts’, and ethical considerations due to the influence of the process itself. We present a preliminary typology for elicitation and analysis and suggest future research should explore methods to assess the evolution of mental models to understand how conceptualisations change through time, experience, or public education programs. These lessons have the potential to benefit both science and disaster risk communication activities, given best practice calls for mutually constructed understanding.
... Ground deformation is accompanied by minor and shallow seismicity and by changes in the composition of fumarolic gases. Observed changes led the civil protection authorities to shift the emergency level from green (background) to yellow (scientific attention on the phenomenon) in 2012 (Tamburello et al., 2019). ...
... Within this context, we decided to focus on existing mental models of volcanic eruptions by forming a collaboration with the local schools (primary and junior high). The exploration of mental models usually takes the form of interviews (Skarlatidou et al., 2012) or face-to-face surveys accompanied by follow-up questions (Lacchia et al., 2020). However, considering our particular target, we opted for a different approach. ...
Full-text available
Strategies of risk mitigation become effective when citizens facing hazardous phenomena adopt rational behaviours that contribute to the lowering of the risk. This is more likely to occur when endangered communities share a widespread understanding of natural phenomena and their impacts. To reach this goal, educational and outreach materials are often organised around the descriptions of the natural process and its effects. Unfortunately, however, receiving correct information does not automatically grant the adoption of safe behaviours. Our teaching efforts may fail because of pre-existing biases, beliefs, and misconceptions. The identification of these biases is important to plan effective educational campaigns capable of providing the concepts that are needed to actually inform citizens' choices about natural hazards. In this work, we present the results of an unconventional workshop on volcanic risk that we proposed to primary and secondary schools (aged 6–13) in Italy. The workshop is meant to explore the mental models that kids and youngsters have about volcanic eruptions, and it takes the form of a creative exercise. We asked the pupils to write and illustrate a story in four frames, describing the onset and outcome of an imaginary eruption. All stories were then presented to the class and always provided useful hints to spark discussion about volcanic processes and hazards. As a whole, the collected stories provide a multifaceted description of volcanic eruptions and their potential impacts as imagined by the kids. A careful analysis of this material provided several insights useful to improve future outreach material and educational plans. The workshop is simple to reproduce, even remotely, and could easily be extended to different types of hazards. While very simple to organise, this approach grants the secure engagement of most participants and offers a very different perspective on pupils' understanding of natural phenomena.
... Para tal, os investigadores têm utilizado extensas entrevistas semiabertas para construir diagramas de influência e modelos mentais "retratando o conhecimento, atitudes, crenças, valores, perceções, e mecanismos de inferência das pessoas relativamente a determinados perigos" (Paul Slovic, 2016a, p. 28). Os modelos mentais são uma técnica de investigação qualitativa introduzida pela psicologia cognitiva e social, aplicada sistematicamente nas áreas da perceção de risco e comunicação de risco (Morgan et al., 2002;Skarlatidou et al., 2012;. Um modelo mental é "uma representação interna, cognitiva, do mundo externo e como o compreendemos" (Wood & Linkov, 2017, p. 31). ...
Full-text available
The present thesis aims at improving the knowledge and understanding of the genesis and evolution of radiation risk perception in Portugal. In this context, the research presented intends to promote the technical and scientific culture by studying the historical evolution of one of the most relevant and impactful areas on society, since the last years of the 19th century, nuclear sciences and technologies. This work also aims to promote better radiological risk communication. The object of study was the perception of radiological risk in different target audiences, from experts to professionals exposed to ionizing radiation, through the historical and scientific analysis of the narratives collected and documents consulted during the investigation. As a starting point, in parallel with the literature review on the impact of the discoveries linked to ionizing radiation, interviews with specialists were conducted and an expert model was developed from them. This model illustrates the state of the radiological risk science. Radiological risk perception in light of the state of the science was later studied in different target audiences, from firefighters and military personnel to former workers exposed to ionizing radiation, using the mental models methodology. This methodology allows portraying, inter alia, people's knowledge and perceptions regarding certain risks through semi-structured interviews. The results reveal an initial fascination with the discoveries linked to ionizing radiation that overlooked the perception of the associated risks. Instead, significant attention was given to other more pressing issues, such as morality in the case of X-rays or the extremely high commercial value of radioactive substances. The evolution of radiation risk perception in Portugal, according to the analysis of the Portuguese press during the first decades of the 20th century, would have been similar to the other Western countries. Likewise, the perception of radiological risk in the different areas studied through case studies (X-rays imaging, environmental radioactivity and uranium mining activity), since the 1970s, attests that the evolution of risk perception followed the development of specific scientific knowledge in tight connection with the legislative measures adopted. Despite risk perception being considered as a feeling according to some theories, the history of radiation risk perception reveals that the mastery of different scientific concepts is indispensable for making informed decisions and balance costs and benefits. In particular, as the risks arising from uncontrolled hazards become measurable and eventually preventable. A clear understanding of the concepts underlying radiation risk is also essential for nuclear or radiological emergency response. Moreover, it is evident from the set of results discussed here that the history of radiation risk perception is not a single narrative but several ones linked by the confluence of meanings that have been associated to ionizing radiation and its different applications.
... However, many of these studies take a non-critical approach and misleadingly present the scientific experts' perceptions as being "correct" and/or as a reference point for demonstrating how and in what directions lay publics' perceptions are "biased" (e.g. Mol et al., 2020;Siegrist and Gutscher, 2006;Skarlatidou et al., 2012). This particular use and interpretation of the scientific expert-public perceptions gap is troubling given the subjectivity and contextual nature of risk perceptions, which almost always involve much more than just technical and quantitative understandings of risk, and which often involve uncertainties that even technical expertise cannot confidently put bounds on (Hansson, 2010). ...
Full-text available
Scientific experts can play an important role in decision-making surrounding policy for technical and value-laden issues, often in contexts that directly affect lay publics. Yet little is known about what characterizes scientific experts who want lay public involvement in decision-making. In this study, we examine how synthetic biology experts' perceptions of risks, benefits, and ambivalence for synthetic biology relate to views of lay publics, deference to scientific authority, and regulations. We analyzed survey data of researchers in the United States, who published academic articles relating to synthetic biology from 2000 to 2015. Scientific experts who see less risk and are more deferent to scientific authority appear to favor a more closed system in which regulations are sufficient, citizens should not be involved, and scientists know best. Conversely, scientific experts who see more potential for risk and see the public as bringing a valuable perspective appear to favor a more open, inclusive system.
... If a large amount of nuclear waste was dumped into the Pacific Ocean, it would undoubtedly cause a fatal blow to the human-marine ecological environment [1][2][3]. It is well known that safe nuclear waste disposal is crucial for humans to avoid radioactive radiation [4][5][6]. To fill the gap in underground research and development platforms and equipment for high-level radioactive waste disposal technology, there are plans in China to construct an underground research laboratory (URL) for high-level radioactive waste disposal in Beishan, Gansu province [7][8][9]. ...
Full-text available
The application of fault-slip seismic sources is critical to the success of ground motion dynamic response analysis. Previous research established a finite seismic source to analyze stability in underground engineering. In this paper, a sophisticated numerical method based on the distinct element method (3DEC) is proposed to simulate the fault-slip seismic sources of an underground research laboratory (URL) exploration tunnel. Two indices, i.e., the peak ground velocity (PGV) and the strain energy density (SED), are used to analyze the sensitivity of the seismic source types, the seismic source radius, and the rupture velocities of the rock mass dynamic response. The simulation results indicate that a circular seismic source can be used so that the boundary produces a small singularity, with the seismic source having a remarkable influence on the PGV and SED. In addition, we consider that the rupture velocity is more suitable for engineering practices. A simulation method has been developed that allows the rock mass stability of a URL to be further explored.
... Specifically, the findings regarding novel interaction demonstrated that the affective processing of vaccine efficacy concerns was sensitive to information exposure on social media, and high exposure to vaccine information led to a greater effect of negative affect on risk perceptions of effectiveness. Because the pervasive use of social media without time and distance limitations often intensifies people's engagement in dealing with a risk (Guo & Li, 2018;Skarlatidou et al., 2012), the findings of this study imply that the influence of affect heuristics on perceived vaccine efficacy risk could be reinforced through a process of increasing public attention to the risk. Furthermore, the integration of theory developed in this study could inspire further studies on risk communication by clarifying the linkage between affect and cognition, as well as their dynamic effects during a global public health crisis. ...
This study aimed to explore whether and how information about COVID-19 vaccines on social media shapes older adults’ perceptions of and attitudes toward vaccinations. The analysis was conducted through the theoretical lens of the social amplification of risk and affect heuristics. A cross-sectional survey of 429 older adults based on a multistage cluster sampling method was conducted in China. Structural equation modeling was applied to examine the effects of information exposure and negative affect on older adults’ risk perceptions and attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccines. In contrast to the hypotheses, the findings indicated that information exposure had a significant negative effect on risk perceptions of vaccine efficacy. Furthermore, negative affect led to a significantly positive increase in older adults’ risk perceptions of vaccine efficacy and vaccine safety. Attitudes toward vaccination were associated with information exposure and risk perceptions of the efficacy of vaccines. The interaction effect suggested that information exposure moderated the effects of negative affect on the risk perception of vaccine efficacy. This study advances previous research on social media exposure and vaccine-related risk perceptions in the societal context of Mainland China. Based on the findings of this study, government agencies and media managers should apply appropriate strategies to promote COVID-19 vaccination among older Chinese adults.
... Against the background of the participatory procedure for HLW disposal in Germany that was launched in 2017, in this study, we analyze the data from a large survey among the German population. The literature on participatory processes (Krütli et al., 2015) shows how important trust building and fairness are in such a procedure (Andersson et al., 1998;Committee of Radioactive Waste Management, 2006;Skarlatidou et al., 2012). For instance, it could be conjectured that a region may be chosen due to its structural problems and low status (Jenkins et al., 2016), which would be perceived as unfair. ...
One of the lessons learned in various countries that have to deal with spent nuclear fuel is that finding a proper place and siting a repository for high‐level nuclear waste (HLW) cannot be achieved without public consent. After decades of obstruction, Germany recently launched a new, participatory, site‐selection process for the disposal of HLW in deep geological formations. Nonetheless, significant opposition is assumed. Therefore, citizens’ trust in the procedure and the agents involved may be paramount. We conducted an online survey (N ≈ 5000) in March/April 2020 to test a theoretical model on trust, perceived risks and benefits, and acceptance. We differentiated acceptance as a dependent variable according to distinct phases: the procedure, a possible decision on a disposal location, and the repository facility itself. The results show that trust is mainly important for explaining acceptance of the ongoing procedure and less so for the acceptance of the decision or the repository facility itself. Moreover, our investigation of the sample using a cluster analysis reveals characteristic patterns of trust, risk perception, and acceptance by three clusters: a cluster focusing on risk perception, an ambivalent cluster, and an indifferent cluster. Trust is lowest in the risk‐focused cluster and highest in the ambivalent cluster.
... From the perspective of risk amplification by media, some scholars have suggested that the Internet can significantly enhance people's risk perceptions and behavioral responses (Kasperson et al., 1988;Skarlatidou et al., 2012), while Morton and Duck (2001) found in their study of health risk information dissemination on risk perceptions of listeners that, for those who use traditional media to obtain risk information, traditional media directly affects their own risk perceptions, while interpersonal communication indirectly affects their own risk perceptions. Ramkissoon (2021b) mentioned that interpersonal communication directly affects people's assessment of the severity of risk and their own sense of efficacy in coping with it. ...
Full-text available
Whether risk events can be effectively controlled and mitigated is largely influenced by people’s perceptions of risk events and their behavioral cooperation. Therefore, this study used a web-based questionnaire ( N = 306) to investigate the specific factors influencing people’s risk perceptions and behaviors, and included a test for the difference in the effect of positive and negative emotions of the audiences. The results show that the overall model has good explanatory power ( R ² = 61%) for the behavioral variables, and (1) how people’s use of different media (especially TV and online media) significantly influenced their positive and negative emotions; (2) how people’s frequency of TV use significantly influenced their risk susceptibility and how online media use significantly influenced their risk severity (with some differences in people’s perceptions of efficacy between different media); (3) how people’s sense of efficacy for risky events is the strongest predictor of their risk control behavior; and (4) that there are different mediating effects of different emotions and risk severity and sense of efficacy between the frequency of media use and risk control behavior.
“Not In My Backyard” (NIMBY) conflict refers to public resistance to the government in delivering and operating NIMBY facilities. Although the antecedents of NIMBY conflicts are widely explored (e.g., negative externalities, public sensitivity, external triggers), there is rare literature systematically exploring their integrated effects on public resistance from the public social psychology perspective that considers the interplaying effects of public risk and emotion perception. Besides, to reflect the nonlinear change of public resistance (i.e., “emergency” and “discontinuity” features of NIMBY conflict), we originally integrate the catastrophe theory into the system dynamic method to establish an SD-Catastrophe model to simulate the evolution process of public resistance behavior. The effect of governmental response on NIMBY conflicts is especially examined in the simulation model, and the catastrophe characteristics of public resistance behavior in NIMBY conflict are verified. The result shows that governmental response contributes to eliminating NIMBY conflicts in four aspects: 1)Different facilities, different urgency; 2) The faster, the better; 3) The higher intensity, the better; and 4) Existing effect lag. Based on the nonlinear change of public resistance, two governance strategies, including the internal strategy (i.e., optimizing public psychological states) and the external strategy (i.e., controlling project external triggers), are formulated to help the government eliminate the risk of NIMBY conflict.
Traditionally reliant on fossil fuels, Southeast Asian countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore – plan to introduce cleaner energy (e.g., renewable energy) into their energy mix. To gauge public support, an understanding of their risk and benefit perceptions of energy technologies is necessary. In the absence of technical knowledge, lay people may form these perceptions based on existing mental models – these are individuals' internal representations of the external world that can affect how they perceive various issues. Using the mental models approach, the current study examines and compares the public's and energy experts' mental models in an attempt to understand how risks and benefits of energy technologies are perceived, as well as gaps in the public's understanding and information needs. We conducted online focus group discussions in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore with 78 members of the public and 26 energy experts. The public and energy experts were found to have broadly similar considerations about energy security, economic and environmental impacts, and safety of energy technologies, but they differed in how they thought about them. While energy experts had relied on their topical expertise and existing evidence to form risk and benefit perceptions, the public had relied on other contextual factors to do so, such as their place-identities, religious beliefs, and personal values. Misleading analogies were also found to have played a role. The findings' implications on public policies and communication strategies are discussed.
People today must make decisions about many health, safety, and environmental risks. Nuclear power, HIV/AIDS, radon, vaccines, climate change, and emerging infectious diseases are just some issues that may face them in the news media, ballot box, or doctor's office. In order to make sound choices they need to get good information. Because their time is limited, that information has to be carefully selected and clearly presented. This book provides a systematic approach for risk communicators and technical experts, hoping to serve the public by providing information about risks. The procedure uses approaches from risk and decision analysis to identify the most relevant information; it uses approaches from psychology and communication theory to ensure that it is understood. This book is written in nontechnical terms, designed to make the approach feasible for anyone willing to try it. It is illustrated with successful communications, on a variety of topics.
The “deficit model” of public attitudes towards science has led to controversy over the role of scientific knowledge in explaining lay people’s attitudes towards science. In this paper we challenge the de facto orthodoxy that has connected the deficit model and contextualist perspectives with quantitative and qualitative research methods respectively. We simultaneously test hypotheses from both theoretical approaches using quantitative methodology. The results point to the clear importance of knowledge as a determinant of attitudes toward science. However, in contrast to the rather simplistic deficit model that has traditionally characterized discussions of this relationship, this analysis highlights the complex and interacting nature of the knowledge— attitude interface.
Explores fundamental issues concerned with impact assessment, identifies current strengths and weaknesses, and suggests what changes are needed. Chapter 1 deals with the need for redefinition of impact assessment. Chapter 2 examines impact assessment methods and methodology. Chapter 3 discusses the institutional arrangements for impact assessment. Chapter 4 deals with public policy and interest representation. Chapter 5 considers planning and the role of impact assessment. Chapter 6 impact assessment redefined presents an integrative framework for sustainable resource management. The utility of the new conceptualisation is illustrated through case studies: in chapter 7 for frontier developments (Canadian Arctic oil and gas, large hydro, and regional development projects), in chapter 8 for linear facilities, chapter 9 for waste management (municipal, hazardous, landfill remediation in the US). The final chapter presents concluding observations and suggested directions for future research. Case study material covers: USA, Canada, UK, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Brazil. -C.J.Barrow
The significant economic and social benefits of modern biotechnology may not be realized if consumer acceptance issues are not adequately addressed (Stenholm and Waggoner, 1992). Public reaction is a crucial factor in developing and introducing biotechnology (Cantley, 1987; De Flines, 1987). The issue of consumer confidence in novel products, whether from the point of view of safety or perceptions of quality, must be answered within the wider social context in which the technology is embedded. The exploitation of biotechnology to its full extent is likely to depend on public acceptance of a range of issues including perceptions of ethical and socio-economic impacts, as well as food safety. Cross-cultural differences in acceptance are likely to exist, as well as individual differences within specific populations.
Public access to environmental information is now a common requirement by national, international and European Union legislation. It is widely recognized that web-based GIS can enhance access to environmental information and can support public participation in environmental decision-making. Yet when these systems are used by non-experts might be challenging because of the GIS complexity. Considerations about data accuracy and errors during the analysis further increase the elements of risk, complexity and uncertainty, which are preconditions of trust. Many lay users are partially aware of the technicalities related to spatial data handling. Thus, the issue of trust in such systems, and how user's trust is built is an important consideration. Online trust has been repeatedly identified as a major concept for online information systems and its value recognised, especially in the context of e-commerce, as it influences the intentions to engage, the use and acceptance of online systems and the overall User Experience. However, there is very limited, if at all, knowledge about how trust is constructed in web-mapping systems. To improve knowledge in this domain, this paper describes the concept of online trust and its characteristics and models developed in different fields. The UK Environment Agency 'What's In You Back Yard' (WIYBY) website is examined using techniques derived from the Human-Computer Interaction field. A Heuristic Evaluation and a Cognitive Walkthrough were undertaken by three evaluators, to identify what influences trust and how perceived trustworthiness can be enhanced through interface design. Trust cues suggested in the literature were also considered for their applicability and relevance in web-mapping. Based on the findings a set of guidelines is presented which covers the dimensions of graphic, content, structure, map functionality and trust-cue design.
The chapter examines public testimony in U.S. nuclear waste siting hearings that were held during the 1980s as the U.S. Nuclear Waste Policy Act was implemented. Using content analysis of public hearings held around the nation, the chapter provides a detailed examination of public attitudes toward nuclear waste, toward the U.S. Department of Energy, and citizens' views of the challenges associated with siting of a high-level nuclear waste repository. It also illustrates how data about public views can be extracted from such hearings to shed light on the bases of citizen support and opposition for such a policy action.
European Commission, Directorate General for Energy and Transport Unit Nuclear Energy and Radioactive Waste 2 Summary The Eurobarometer is a major policy instrument that enables citizens' views to be taken into account in the framing of Community policies and initiatives. The 2005 survey on radioactive waste highlighted the central importance of taking decisions and finding more acceptable management solutions, especially in order for nuclear energy to be a real option for the public. The survey underlined the relatively low level of knowledge on this issue and highlighted major gaps in the perception of risk. Citizens also wanted to be involved in decisions and acknowledged the role to be played by the EU in this field.